Fitness Journeys and Destinations

Last year I was very diligent about tracking my progress on monthly goals. It fed my brain to think about all the things that I had accomplished the previous month and gave me great pleasure to carve out a (mostly) manageable list of things I wanted to accomplish that following month. For the most part, I loved the entire process. I don’t know if it was amazing blog fodder, but since I do use this space for personal reflection I kept it up all year long.

At the beginning of this year I purposefully decided to stop doing that. The part of my brain that enjoyed that itch being scratched was a little bit afraid about quitting that regular check in. How would I get anything done? But I had come to realize, at the end of last year, that the process had become less brain scratching, and more ego feeding. It wasn’t that I was puffing myself up with accomplishments and patting myself on the back, but rather the act of making plans and then checking things off lists all month was a crutch that I used to help me feel in control. And my ego reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally wanted to be in control. If I had a list and I used it, all would be ok.

The problem was that despite the process being the same, the results were mixed. Sometimes my brilliant little plans worked and I felt that all was right in the world. Other times I would put forth the same amount of planning and effort and things wouldn’t come to fruition. Over time it would wear on me — the Trying Hard but Not Achieving. If I wanted to wrap this up in a neat little bow, I’d say that focused too much on the destination and not enough of the journey. I decided this year that I wanted to focus on being flexible and being less attached to “My Plans.” I figured I’d ease into that shift, but practically the second I made the decision, The Universe showed up with this new professional opportunity that seemed to be The Flexibility Fast Lane. How’s that for manifesting? 🙂

I’ve been struggling with this situation for months, but now that I can see it through the lens of — Hey, I asked for this — I actually feel a little bit grateful that my hand was forced, or I may still be “easing in.” One of the major shifts for me — me, being a proudly obsessive list-maker (the “proud” part should have been the first tip off that this was an ego-feeding situation, ha!) — has been to stop setting specific goals. OMG THE HORROR! This goes against every piece of goal advice you’ll ever here, but I’ve found it more conducive to flexibility to just focus on an idea or theme. I’m looking at the root of a situation that I want to change, instead of trying to micromanage all of the outcomes.

For example I used to set a goal to workout a certain number of days per week. If I set it for 5 and only worked out 4, it was very easy for me to feel like I had missed the mark instead of just saying “Rock and Roll — 4 days was all you could give this week.” So I tried something a bit different in July:


I started the month with a blank calendar and the intention to switch up my fitness routine. I didn’t want to give myself a numeric goal, I wanted to workout because it would help me feel better, which I though called for different fitness options on different days. My hypothesis was that if I focused on a few varied options, instead of just trying to get into the CrossFit box on an arbitrary number of days, I would have more overall success and enjoyment.

Because I do still like to track data (I just don’t want to have preconceived notions of what that data should look like) I started to write down each day what I did for physical activity — and I purposely gave “Rest” it’s own label and color because I wanted to look at rest as a choice and not as “being lazy.” I also I added a weekly tracking roundup on the blog because I wanted to be conscious of what I was getting out of each workout. I knew if I had to itemize it in writing later, it would help me be more “In the Moment” while I was doing it, rather than just checking off a line item.

So far it has worked swimmingly, and last night when I counted everything up I realized that I had worked out a ton:

*CrossFit: 9 Days
*Spin/Miscellaneous: 4 Days
*Yoga: 8 Days
*Rest: 7 Days
And all of that included 4 days on the road, which I didn’t really count at all since it was so willy nilly.

If I wanted to puff my chest out about accomplishments, it would be warranted! This is a good looking month! But what I feel more excited about was that these results came specifically from focusing on the journey portion or fitness, rather than the preconceived destinations. And I feel really excited about that! I think that I am a data oriented person, so I do enjoy being able to quantify — but there is a difference between understanding the overall vibe of what you eat and counting calories, right? And this, for me, has been my way of giving the finger to that calorie counting type ideology that I seemed to have let overtake many areas of my life. And I’m surprised to say that letting go and being a bit more flexible actually feels really good.

Baby Steps?

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5 Responses to Fitness Journeys and Destinations

  1. Mariah B says:

    I love this post, Holly! Taking purposeful rest days has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s good to set goals, but sometimes we just need to relax and enjoy the ride. Kudos to finding your focus on the journey rather than the destination.

  2. Erin says:

    Right after I posted my blog today, I printed off a blank August calendar in order to track my plank/squat challenge and get myself accountable. I am glad this method works for you because it gives me hope that I will stop making excuses and accomplish some goals this month!

  3. Alex says:

    I really love the idea of a blank calendar! As a nursing student who works 20+ hours a week during school it’s easy for me to be really hard on myself for what I’m lacking in fitness/diet areas. I recently got my boyfriend to team up with me on eating paleo and I’ve been great minus a few glasses of wine, but I’ve developed a bad habit of weighing myself incessantly. I know this shouldn’t be my focus and I truly FEEL BETTER when I work out which is what should be important…so here’s to less worry about what our body looks like and patting ourselves on the back for making it FEEL GOOD.

  4. Rose-Anne says:

    What a great, thoughtful post, Holly. The idea of being flexible reminds me a bit of Gretchen Rubin’s idea about doing something EVERY DAY versus doing it a few days a week or her idea about moderators versus abstainers. Being an EVERY DAY person means you give up flexibility, but it also means you simplify your decision-making because in theory, there is no decision to make. Maybe it’s empowering to give yourself flexibility because every work-out is a choice?

    (Did that make any sense? I feel like I’m thinking out loud here.)