The treadmills at our local gym overlook the swimming pool. Most often as I run, a lot of my energy is spent deliberating over whether I am going to complete the full workout that I set out to do or quit early. As my mind and body have a stand-off, I look down on the pool and watch the swimmers.
There is one man, built like a bulldozer, who never misses a session. He is a retired policeman, and he swims with fierce determination, length after length, cutting through the water with visible force. When he pulls himself out the pool, his bulging arms are bigger than most men’s thighs. Also, he has no legs. He lost them in a work-related accident. I don’t feel pity for him... he inspires only admiration. His routined commitment to building his strength is awesome. But I do sometimes wonder how hard it was for him the first day he came to the gym after his accident. I think about the massive obstacles he faced... emotionally... physically... mentally. And when I think of the hill I’m trying to climb - mentally, not physically... lol, my treadmill is set on zero gradient - his presence gives me courage to keep pushing forward. If he could manoeuvre himself into the pool that first day and keep going to build himself into that, then I can keep going each week, running myself towards a stronger future.
Which inevitably means I decide to fully complete my planned workout!
In this season of my life, as I look forward to turning forty in fifteen months time, I am ready to take active strides into my preferred future. Project-40 is an invitation to look at the goals you and I have for our lives, and to begin to journal them so we can keep track of our progress, and catch ourselves where we have allowed goals to fall off of our radar and get lost in the busyness.
This week is the last of our areas of assessment as we look at physical strength. If you‘ve just joined us, feel free to catch up on the following links:
My Project-40 journal has four sections - Spirit, Soul, Mind and Strength. Each section starts off with the vision I have for myself in that area, followed by a plan for outworking that vision, and then is revisited periodically so I can make notes on my progress. My hope in sharing this is for you to start your own journal, with your own vision for each area. But here are a few excerpts from mine to give you some ideas.
My Body - The Vision
My body is the seat of a soul made in the image of God. It is the interface between myself and the world: the most visible part of who I am; the first part the world encounters. It is the vessel which carries my soul through this age, and its health determines the length of the journey. Its strength undergirds my productivity, and its weakness will determine my limitations.
If I neglect my health I will lose it. I want my body to ‘give legs’ to my purpose and dreams, not to hold me back from them.
I choose to be the healthiest version of myself. I choose to eat in a way that sustains long term health, and promotes energy supplies. I choose to severely limit carcinogenic poisons such as sugar and refined flour. I want to remain hydrated and keep salt intake to a minimum.
I WANT TO BE STRONG! I want to have a body that is capable and ready to serve me when I need it most.
I want to be fit. I want to be able to have active fun without being limited by my fitness levels. I want to set achievable but challenging goals and see myself keep going to achieve them.
I want to get my appetite for ‘fine-dining’ under control. I choose not to be controlled by my appetite. I choose not to be led by my tastes. Wine, fancy foods and delicacies will be luxuries and not staples. Treats will be enjoyed as such, without gluttony for more.
I choose to build a body that can carry me into my future, without sickness, weakness, injury or dependency. My body will be my cared-for and faithful servant, and not my master.
My Body - The Plan
When it comes to setting goals that are going to require serious willpower, it’s usually a good idea to build up slowly. Willpower is a muscle that needs to be exercised to grow in strength. To be honest, where I am now in my plan for strengthening my body is probably more than a year down the road from when I started to take my health seriously. And still it’s nothing to put on a billboard yet. I started with an exercise plan. A personal trainer seemed awfully expensive, but I found a super-cool app that serves as a personal trainer, Weight Loss Running by Verv Inc. My cyber-trainer’s name is Eric. He keeps telling me I’m doing great, and looking great, too! He tells me when to run and when to walk and how often to train. It’s fantastic. Every now and then I want to punch him, because he asks me if I’ve lost a few pounds when it’s obvious I haven’t. But seriously, this app has taken me to a whole new level of commitment to strength training. You are able to say what fitness level you’re starting from and what you want to achieve and they build you a program. They have a similar app for home exercises as well, which I also use.
As I say, it’s taken a year of putting that into my routine before I have felt ready to tackle my eating habits. But my success in one area of willpower has motivated and encouraged me to take control over other areas.
My Body - A Few Steps In
Going back to record how I'm doing in my journal has been so helpful to me. It helps me to see where I have gained ground and be careful not to lose it. It also helps me to realise that being out of routine due to sickness or travelling doesn't mean all is lost. It helps me to see the bigger picture and to make sure that, overall, I am making progress. I have included a few random excerpts from selected journal entries so you can see what I mean:
Week 3: Been an okay start for the first two weeks. Have only managed to exercise twice a week. Had a lovely run today. I feel so free and happy when I get to run outdoors. I'm proud of how I push myself and feel a great sense of accomplishment even though the exercise itself is minimal - but I think it is the right start.
Week 4: I'd like to find out more abut a natural diet without refined substrates. What is the affordability and simplicity?
Week 5: Been running well - 5km 3x week. I'm enjoying that and have been very consistent. What a shocking weekend of eating though, with two kids' parties! I have noticed that I eat without thinking about it. But writing about it brings it into the 'decision-making' part of my brain, which feels consequential. Hopefully that will be helpful.
Week 10: I have had terrible flu and shingles for a month. I am starting again slowly with my exercise. Just walked for the last few days, and managed a little "wog" (walk-jog) today.
You get the picture. Being mindful and intentional means progress is more likely.
Project-40 - Let’s Do It
When I’m on the treadmill, and I just want to quit, I think all the way back to the day when I was trying to rescue Tyden from the sea. I imagine I’m running through the waves towards the shore with him in my arms, trying to run him to safety, only this time I’m strong enough to manage. Or I picture people in my life who I want to be able to help, and I imagine that I am doing resistance training by dragging them along behind me. If I am strong, I can pull others. I can make room for them to come this way. It helps me keep going.
Project-40 began with a question I asked myself: Will I settle into a complacent acceptance of being beyond my twenties and early thirties, where health was a given and strength was inherent? Or will I start a new fight, a fight for the kind of strength and endurance that will carry me though into a graceful old age?
I realised that I was not ready to accept that I was not physically able to do what was necessary to snatch my son from the sea. My battles are nowhere near done - I have countless battles yet to win. It was time for me to kick into training - to train for the long race, to start training for the kind of grownup life I wanted to live. And so Project-40 was born.