Sunday, June 23, 2013

Inch by Inch

Lately I've been experiencing what you could lightly call "Anxiety" around the thought of getting back to my usual activity levels.  "What if I get heat stroke?  What if I get lightheaded?  Oh dear god I'm going to be sore."  It makes my mind go in circles and then I inevitably get depressed and feel like a failure.

Friday after a long talk with my mom I decided I'd had enough of self-pity and pulled my bike out and went for the shortest ride ever - 2 miles.  I had twinges in my chest, but nothing so horrific I had to stop pedaling.  Yesterday I went back to the gym for the first time and swam a whopping 500 meters at a very relaxed pace.  This morning I went for another bike ride, and added another mile for a blazing total of 3 miles.

Getting over the fear of working out is proving to be more difficult than the actual exercise. And so it goes with most things, really. The head-game is so much harder than everything else and that's the birth of procrastination. How I get around comes from my background in dog training - it's called a behavior chain.  

Here's how it works - when you train a dog to do something really complex, like say, searching for a object by odor detection (called "nosework") you don't just slap the dog down in a room full of stuff and expect them to get it on their own. You start with something very small (in the case of a dog, showing interest in an object) and slowly build from very simple steps into a chain of behaviors that leads to your eventual goal.  So it goes for me and exercise.  First you put on whatever clothes you need for this activity.  Find your shoes.  Get your phone, keys, and so on together.  Check your tires. Make sure your lights have batteries. Before you know it you've wheeled the bike out the door and are pedaling around the block. It makes it easy for me personally to get around anxiety and procrastination because rather than focusing on the big scary idea, it lets me focus on the next tiny step. It's the inch-by-inch approach.

So now I'm feeling better about myself because I'm taking proactive steps towards a return to normalcy. 3 miles isn't much, but it's more than I was doing a couple weeks ago, and it's a necessary step to getting back to 40 miles rides. So begins my next opportunity to build something brick by brick.


  1. On days I don't feel like running, I take a similar approach to what you described: focus on putting on running clothes, find my watch, drink some water, stretch, and then by the time I think about running, I think to myself "You've already gone through this much trouble, don't wimp out NOW." It's made the difference sometimes.

    1. It's funny how even when I'm cycling or swimming I adopt this approach. If I'm climbing a hill I start a count of 8, and just focus on completing each count of 8. Before long, I've gotten up the hill and it's done. If you break things down into the smaller steps, the big thing gets done as a consequence of all the small parts.