Where do you start?

Have you ever had the stark realisation that you’re not in the best shape of your life?

Maybe the realisation materialises as subtle hints in the first instance…perhaps you’re puffing when you go up the stairs; maybe getting up in the morning is less like springing out of bed and more like unpeeling a stiff, heavy version of yourself off the indents in your memory foam…maybe you’ve come back to running after some time out and you’re not quite a quick as you remember being!? Maybe it’s a minor health worry…or maybe it’s a series of symptoms that have recently shown themselves.

Perhaps you’ve been tidily sweeping the signs underneath the carpet… And perhaps one thing in particular has acted like a trigger – a gentle, coercive slap in the face that you now need to address the situation. Change is usually instigated this way.

So the question is, no matter what the particulars of the scenario – where do you start?

Start from where you are*

You have to start from where you are.

You have to – there’s no way to will yourself to any other place! There’s no way to be any faster than you are right now (even if you were in the past); there’s no way to magic your aching joints into becoming more limber limbs…

Accepting where you are right now will enable you to make visible or tangible improvements. Maybe a realistic assessment of where you are right now is required first of all – mapping what input are you giving your mind and body.

How are you feeding yourself? What nutrition are you supplying your body?

What exercise are you doing? Cardio, strengthening, stretching, resting…How much sleep are you getting?

Are you looking after yourself in other supportive ways? Are you having a massage regularly, or acupuncture or some other therapy?

Are you taking time out to have quiet space to allow to flow…and consequently your creativity to rise up? To breathe, to relax, to have a bath, to connect…?

*Pema Chodron coined this phrase with the book of the same name.

Marking the map

When you’ve got a benchmark of the ‘what is’ right now…then decide what outcome you want? Specifically, what are you aiming for? Perhaps it’s a race-goal, perhaps it’s a health objective, perhaps it’s a creative project.

When you know what you’re after, you’re in a better position to go after it.

And give it a time-frame. It might not all happen by next week…but then again you don’t have to project out to 3 years down the line! Maybe 6 months hence is far enough away to make the steps to getting there achievable, but close enough to keep it alive…?

So if you have a baseline measure of where you are (A), and you have a plan of where you want to go (B), you have the basis of a map to be able to get between the two.

Now you need to work out the route how to get from A to B…

Working out what steps we need to put in place is a part of the personal journey. We all have different ties to our time and our mental space…but we all have the capacity to organise life so that we can unfold the things that are truly important. We can put the markers on the map and aim for each in incremental turn as we head towards B…

My objective is about regaining my former racing speed.

The harsh reality for me is that fitness wanes if it’s neglected! : ( And I have a nice little benchmark of ‘where I’m really at’ from a recent race. It’s not a pretty benchmark, compared to where I have been and so this is what I’m eager to improve again.

And so, I have a series of events in mind that I wish to target to a) improve my fitness for and b) use as a way to increase my fitness. Accepting that it’s all a process is a toughie for me – I have a tendency of wanting Rome to have been built in a day! I’m adamant that it’s never too late to change a behaviour though.. ; )

So this is my map (although there is specific geography to my A & B locations!).

Route planning

And so to marking the map, and putting in place the stop-offs that are needed to complete the journey (like going to the petrol station and loo stops en route, or detouring via a friend’s house for afternoon tea…you know – essentials. )

I know that I want some companions for my journey (ie, help to get me where I want to go…which hopefully will be mutually beneficial to my travel chums as well though!), and so the steps that I need in place to get on the road look like this:

–        Organise a running buddy for my 3 different weekly runs.

–        Increase the distance of my long run.

–        Work out a progressive schedule for speed sessions.

–        Get on the mat, every day.

–        Build up my strength training.

–        Arrange a regular massage, and do what I can myself, in between times.

–        Fit in some meditation and breathing practice, again, every day.

There will be some areas of life which will already be ‘squared-away’ for you, and that you don’t need to address! You might be sorted out as far as food and nutrition goes… You might have no challenges to getting out for your run, come what may… Play to your skills!

In addition, we only have so much mental space with which we can make changes, and at any one time. I prefer to think about the process as a series of amendments, rather than full-blown about-turns… Incremental changes have a greater chance of sticking (unless you’re one of those types who has to make a full-on big shift in order to start a new regime?! You know yourself best…)

No white knuckle rides required

Once you have your starting position, your end destination and key markers as ‘vehicle support’, let go of the outcome.

I don’t mean forget about your target (not after all of the planning!). I don’t even mean take your eye off the target. I mean, release your grip on how it pans out… Give your plan a little space to breathe… You see there might be endless detours, and ones that you hadn’t expected. Ultimately, these detours may take you to a much better place in some way shape or form, who knows?! Hopefully you will reach your target, and just as you intended it to unfold, but you might just find that if you release your grip on it a little bit, it might even happen a little easier than expected…?

You can’t get it wrong!

There may be times when you feel slightly lost, or perhaps on such a big detour that you are seriously questioning why?! But know that you cannot get it wrong.

We have to reconnoitre the route. Treading on unchartered territory requires that we sometimes have to ‘go there’ to find out what is or isn’t the route for us! I’m a big fan of not giving yourself a hard time if it doesn’t all happen quite as expected! (Although easier said than done, granted…) This is also a part of the process though – if you have a goal in mind, being open to the twists and turns as to how it unfolds gifts us unknown opportunities to be surprised, to learn new skills and to meet multitudes of people that you may otherwise not have done… And all this can happen when you keep your eye on the target, but loosen the reins on how it ‘ought to be’.

No matter where you are on your journey, you are where you’re supposed to be…you can’t get it wrong and you’ll meet the things that you’re supposed to meet in order to grow how you need to grow… And we are allowed to enjoy the exploration along the way!

Mini celebrations on your mini adventure

So if you’ve got your map and you’ve got your route marked out, and you’re venturing forth towards your destination…the only other thing to do is to tick off your achievements along the way!

Acknowledgement is such a huge step towards fulfilment and satisfaction, and celebrating the mini goals gives us an idea how to celebrate reaching the big goal in the end! And of course, we all know what happens when we keep practising something…we just might become rather good at it! ; )