Finish line void

How to keep fitness a priority without a big race on the horizon

Footrace finish line, 1925

The desert heat didn’t used to phase me.

Three years ago, in my first triathlon blog post, I talked about staying motivated to conquer the pivotal battles that ensue on the sun-induced pre-dawn training path.

A year after that article, upon registering for my first Ironman triathlon, I went on to write about how Keanu taught me the importance of showing up.

Back then, with Ironman Arizona in my sights, I had no problem navigating the heat, waking up early for workouts, rushing to the gym after work, and squeezing in late-evening runs.

Now, about nine months after crossing the Ironman Arizona finish line, I’m singing a different tune.

I hit the snooze button in the mornings, crank up the AC in the afternoons and crack open a few IPAs for a nice Netflix binge in the evenings after another long day at the office – because I deserve some quality couch time.

What happened to you, mang?

A big component of winning those morning battles and Soup Nazi-ing my daily morning workouts (No sleep for you!), was envisioning the glory of crossing that finish line and become an Ironman.

When I compared that sense of accomplishment, along with inspiration from friends and family, to the fleeting calls from the snooze button, it was easy to attack my Crossfit Endurance Ironman training plan.

But since IMAZ, my fitness goals have been trumped by career goals. I was accepted to the Evening MBA program at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business. Classes started last week, which means homework, group projects and classes will be eating up most of the free time I previously dedicated to triathlon training.

Complacency is contagious

I still want to stay in shape and make fitness a priority. Complacency is contagious and I know that exercising not only makes me a stronger athlete, but a better worker, student, colleague and teammate.

To accomplish this balancing act, I’ll need to be smart about my schedule, and once again get in the habit of squeezing in workouts at awkward hours to accommodate work, classes and homework.

Cecily recently wrote about not letting a race define her existence, and I can fill my life with other stuff (like biz school) to stay motivated right? Yeah. Definitely.

Yeah, definitely.

Then she signed up for another Ironman race.

Still, a happy medium can be achieved with a new approach to our fitness goals. Here’s my plan to keep fitness a priority without signing up for a big race.

Get weird with your goals. Wouldn’t a few goals easily solve the problem? Well, yeah – kinda. But boring goals don’t get me in bed by 9:30pm and out of bed at 4:45am. Effective goals excite and inspire in a personal way. They keep you engaged and focused on improving; checkpoints on a never-ending, uneven path to glorious, epic, awesome awesomeness. For me, the goals need to be specific and a bit weird.

Recently, my fitness goals (as part of my second annual Awesome Bucket) skewed vague and bland: do a handstand, improve weight-lifting, complete a daily routine of push-ups, squats and burpees. Yeah, it’s great to develop a healthy routine, but it’s tough to maintain if it doesn’t stoke the fire.

Fabricate glory. Sign up for races, events and competitions when you can squeeze them in. It doesn’t have to be an Ironman. These challenges give you something tangible to work toward.

Reward strategically. TV, IPA, vinyl, gadgets. These are a few of my favorite things, and they will be leveraged to accomplish my goals. No TV before bed if I chose to skip a workout that day. No IPA if I hit the snooze button that week. No new stereo system until I complete three (barefoot?) races.

Run barefoot for a healthy three miles and settle the foot fight once and for all.

Hit the trails at a 7-minute mile pace. Trail-running opened my eyes to a completely different form of running. I like it because it gets you out in “nature” and away from cars, and the varied terrain keeps you engaged and focused on every step. Plus, as my high-school coach used to say, “Hills build strength.”

Swim once a week and improve 1,000m pace. Sign up for splash-n-dashes as motivation.

Volunteer as a running guide for Achilles International. Not only will this goal help someone else out, but it’ll keep me accountable and give me a good excuse to sign up for races when I can.

I know I’m not the first person on Earth to have trouble finding this kind of a balance. But this is the first time I’ve been faced with the challenge in a while, and I need a few reminders how to be smart about the process.

If you find yourself in the same boat as me, I hope this post gives you ideas to help right the ship too.

– Live every day –