Every year since starting Roller Derby Athletics, I’ve done burpees on my birthday – one for each year.
This year, for the first time, I actually felt like I had to train for the event (LOL… so many candles on that cake! That’s a LOT of burpees…), and it made me think a lot more about why I’m doing this.
Here are 9 practical lessons I learned about pursuing a (somewhat arbitrary) goal, in the first 20 days of September:
1. Find the deeper motivation that drives you. “Post a video of yourself completing 39 burpees” is not motivating. “Present an example I can be proud of to my athletes” (e.g., someone who follows through, someone who makes fitness an integral part of her life, etc.) motivates me infinitely more. A good way to drill down to your true motivations in pursuing a goal is to ask yourself, “Why?” 5 times in a row. Write down the answers – you might surprise yourself!
2. Plan ahead. I realized in late August that I was not feeling prepared to just rock up on the 20th and bust out 39 burpees, so I set out to solve that problem. Put a timeline on your goal (mine was rudely imposed by the calendar, with no wiggle room), and figure out your daily or weekly work-back plan.
3. Break down your plan, and even your goal, into manageable chunks. You’ll see below that I broke out my training into a daily increasing count of burpees. But, I knew from the start that trying to do 39 in a row without breaks was not a realistic (or important) expectation. So in the video you’ll see that I broke it out into 15, 15, and 9. Not every goal or achievement can be obviously divisible in this way. But what if you DO decide your goal is to perfect just the take-off of an apex jump in game play (and worry about the landing next time?). Could be just the thing you need to make the goal itself approachable!
4. “If you’ve got to eat a frog, better eat it first thing in the morning.” This is a variant of a quote that’s been misattributed to Mark Twain but whoever said it was a smart cookie. I got that frog eaten before breakfast on all but one day (except the ones where I was injured – see #5). If it’s important to you, make it a non-negotiable part of your routine. This kind of consistency is so much easier said than done – and I want to acknowledge that I benefit greatly here from controlling my own work schedule and not having any children to care for. However, I did also get up at 5:30am every weekday this month (both to exercise and to study for an exam). Sometimes you need to figure out what price you’re willing to pay to achieve the goal you’ve set for yourself in return. Then get it done before anything else in your day can get in the way.
5. When shit goes sideways, keep your eyes on the prize. I tweaked something towards the end of the first week of the month (not doing burpees!), and ended up with debilitating hip / sciatic pain that lasted another week. It would have been easy to backflip off the wagon with gusto and wave at my goal from the couch for the rest of the month. But, with my motivation as my guide, I focussed on getting well, listening to my body, and getting back to it as soon as I could. As you can see in my notebook, I kept logging even the “nope” days, and I adjusted my scheduled rep increases along the way. Picking up the pen and the log every single day, even when I couldn’t do the work, was critical to keeping my goal in sight.
6. Anticipate obstacles and know how you’ll handle them. What are the threats that could keep you from your goal? Is it a sick child, overtime at work, a planned vacation, social obligations? It’s no secret that life is definitely going to throw you some curves that will make it harder for you to stick to your program. Anticipating them, and having a plan to handle them, goes a long way. My example? I’ve been on the road 12 of the 20 days this month. I knew it would be a) compelling to cancel my 5:30am weekday wake-up plan while on a mini-vacation this week and b) harder to find a good spot and time to do my training the rest of the time. So I made sure to mentally prepare myself for those harder times, and promise myself to stick with it. That small effort actually helped me a lot! But your situation will be different – you might need to research a gym you can drop in to on your family vacation, or figure out a go-to plan for having to stay late at work, for example.
7. Have a point-of-no-return trigger. Sometimes when I was standing there staring down my mat, catching my breath before my last set of 5 or 10 burpees, it would be really REALLY tempting to just keep standing there. You’ll see in the video that before each set I start with my hands overhead. That was my “start button.” If I got my hands up there, I had to start right away. It became almost like my “ready, set, go” moment. Tons of research on habit building lately suggests this method for overcoming your resistance to doing the things you know you should but don’t really want to do in the moment. Say it’s flossing – agree to floss just one tooth. Say it’s exercising – agree to just get into your workout clothes. The idea is that if you can make the first step so small as to be unavoidably easy, the rest of the habit you’re hoping to form just cascades from there. Putting my hands over my head in front of my mat was my trigger to Just. Start. Burpee-ing.
8. Be “flexibly rigid” with your training. I tried to stick very closely to that daily schedule I had outlined at the outset. Doing so meant that by the 19th, the day before the big day, I felt confident in skipping my training to go surfing on my vacation instead. (Real talk: I could have and should have done both, but this was one of the few days that for whatever reason I didn’t get them done before breakfast and then…. Whomp-whomp). If you’re following your plan and feeling strong, then a little flexibility can help to keep things fun and avoid drudgery.
9. Don’t forget to enjoy the process. I learned some things about myself along the way, and I got to celebrate a lot of small victories as I gained and gained! Yes, there were setbacks, and “nope” days. But then I got to enjoy the opportunity to get back on track. Use every challenge as an opportunity to learn something about yourself.
Here’s the proof :) See you back here in 364 days for 40 more!
So what’s the goal YOU’re working towards right now? How are you breaking it down and planning out how to follow through? Let us hear it in the comments!
xo Booty Quake