Well, what a great way to start the new year. By that, I don’t mean the heavy cold that started on 26 December and has long outstayed its welcome. No, I mean the exercise challenge I set myself early in December.
By pure chance I began my December 30 day challenge at just at the point when I would finish it on 1 January. And I managed to complete it – so that was four and a bit weeks when I achieved 3 x 30 minute sessions on the rower.
I did it when I really wanted to, and I listened to something interesting on the radio while I did so (usually an edition of From Our Own Correspondent – sometimes sad and distressing, sometimes amusing, but always interesting and informative).
I did it when I really didn’t want to, when I really had to force myself. Because I was tired, or starting a cold, or just plain lazy. I listened to the radio, I did my 30 minutes rowing, I felt better for it. And I certainly felt better for having done what I promised myself I would do.
I did it when I was brewing a cold, when I was struggling with insomnia, when I was just out of sorts.
What I learnt was:
- feeling lazy is just that: feeling lazy. Not actually a note excusing me from taking part
- no harm came to me from doing exercise when I just didn’t fancy it
- after each and every session (every single one), no matter how I felt when I started, by the end I felt much better
- plus I felt proud of myself for having forced myself to do it when I didn’t want to
- sometimes in life, you really can do the things you either don’t believe you can do, or you just don’t want to do
Of course, I already knew all of that. But it does no harm to remind myself of it again from time to time.
And I do recall that when life was tough at different times for different reasons, I went back to those moments when I had taken on earlier challenges, and reminded myself that I had done what at the time felt impossible. And I carried on, and I survived it.
At times that meant adjusting to a new reality – when what at first looked like a sprint turned into a middle distance, and ended up being not just a marathon but more like an iron-man, we had to change the support we could offer accordingly, just to be able to survive it. But survive it we did.
Of course, what counts as a challenge will be something different for each of us. I am fit and healthy, and my challenges are a world away from the challenges of someone who is ill and struggles simply to get through the day. But a challenge is a challenge, for all that, and the lessons are there to be had.
You don’t run a marathon by just getting out there and doing it. You train long and hard for it, and even then struggle to complete it. The most important thing I’ve learnt through taking on physical challenges is that in life as in sport, you can build your own resilience and ability to endure.