Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.

– Newton’s First Law of Motion, translated from the Principia’s Latin

In plainer English, the above has usually been simplified this way. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest.

I am not sure where I found the necessary force to impress upon my rest state, but it has been a surprise to even me. I set out with an assumption that it would take me over 16 weeks just to be able to finish a 3.1 mile run. Somehow I found it in me to finish SnowFest, I finished slowly to be sure, but I finished. That was in under 11 weeks. In that time I’ve also gone from swimming 300 yards max to 1200. This is all great news, and I am really thankful for all the support I have been getting from so many people.

Even so, today I am scared. I’m scared of inertia. I’m scared to rest today, because I have a history of getting to a short term goal, then just quitting before a long term goal is close to being in sight. Over the years I’ve done a lot of self-analysis, which is a lot like the person who is their own lawyer: s/he has a fool for a client. I may not be the best one to figure out my own inner workings, but I’m arrogant enough to proceed as if I am. So far I can say I have observed this about myself: I quit so I don’t have to risk failure. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s definitely been part of my problems. So if I’m going to take this seriously, I can’t only hit the road, the pool and the weights, I have to take on the mental weakness too.

Ten years ago, I was part of an online support community called LeanandStrong. The piece of advice I got that has stuck with me since, came from SteveL, who told me “put down the Luther and pick up SunTzu.” – Here’s a selection from the Art of War.

Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

Good news for me. I am all about the calculations.

So here are the two tactical plans that I am employing to not make the same mistakes as before.

#1 – Continue detailed logs.

The last time I wrote down everything I ate, I stopped after about 4 weeks. That was not enough time to establish new good habits. It wasn’t long after I stopped logging, that I completely abandoned any effort in controlling eating.

#2 – Keep setting short and long term goals, and evaluate them constantly.

This is so key right now. The best effort I had in my life prior to this point, was the Body-for-Life challenge. In 2000 I lost about 50 pounds, focusing on weight training. I never ran. My cardio workouts were on my bicycle fixed on a trainer. My own private spinning class in the garage. At that time, I could see changes, but they were insufficient to motivate. Unlike the people in the promotional ads who made huge transformations in 12 weeks, I knew it would be a solid year before I could see that image looking back at me. And I allowed that to frustrate me, and I quit.

The approach I have now is totally different. Of course, I eventually want to take up less space, be stronger, and put some dangerous arms on me. But it’s hard to measure short term progress like that. I was never sure if what I lifted was enough, even when I was so fatigued it was hard to wash my hair in the shower.

With endurance sports as a focus, I have much more concrete goals, with clear progression available. Build from 5k to 10k, to 1/2 marathon, and so on. Swim x yards, then y yards, and so on. There is always room for growth and improvement. It’s not that weight training alone didn’t have that, I just couldn’t see it, and I wasn’t motivated by it. No one awards finisher medals for 20th place in a body building competition. But I have a tangible reminder of SnowFest sitting on my shelf.

To re-evaluate these goals is vital. I will definitely be able to run the Night Flight and the Robbins 5K in April. The old lazy Andy would take that as an excuse to slack off from now until then, stop recording food, skip a few days a week. That would be a recipe for failure and disaster.

So I am changing up some goals.

New short term goal: finish night flight in under an hour. I know that sounds ridiculous for a race where the winner finishes in 19 minutes and I’ll get lapped by the 10k leaders. But it’s still progress for me.

New short term goal #2 – finish the Robbins 5K in 45 minutes. This one is necessary, since our kids will be doing the fun run at 10am, and I cannot miss their start.

New mid-term goal: instead of entering the Lewisburg Triathlon on a relay team in 2011, I want to solo it. It’s 6 months away. If I continue pushing the way I have been, there’s no reason I won’t be more than ready for 300 yard swim, 14 mile bike, and 3.25 mile run, on August 20, 2011. (Our 17th wedding anniversary.)

These are ambitious, but realistic. Inertia works. Keep moving.

Food tip for the day: HALF of a SMALL stromboli at Larry’s in Mifflinburg is still a pretty huge amount of food.


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