After choosing a new healthful habit to replace a harmful one, people sometimes make another mistake in the quest for better health–attempting too much too quickly. For example, trying to go from hardly ever exercising to walking several miles a day can be too much of a shock emotionally and physically. It’s analogous to trying to start a car moving by starting out in fifth gear. There’s too much strain on the engine if you start in fifth gear; so the engine sputters, the car moves a few inches. Then the engine dies. If you start the car in first gear, the car starts slowly but there’s no strain on the engine. Then after the car begins to move, you shift into second gear, and then third until finally the car’s moving at 65 miles per hour and the engine never strained. The same inertia, which kills the car engine in the physical world, kills the emotional stamina of most people in the emotional world.
By keeping the goal much smaller than that which you’re capable, it becomes easy to start. After starting, then the momentum makes it easy to shift into second gear and then third–doing a little more than planned.
Here’s the goal I’ve had since I was 19 years old: to walk one mile per day and to do 50 push ups. Even though since I was 19 I’ve done marathons, triathlons, and generally lead a very active life, the underlying goal that got me started many days was to go 1 mile per day and do 50 push ups. Most days, after starting, I would feel like doing more. But, when things seemed impossibly busy, or if I felt fatigue, or emotional upheaval, or whatever might stop me from exercise, the goal was always to walk 1 mile per day and do 50 push ups (about 20 minutes of walking at the usual pace of someone walking through a shopping mall).
The 10-Minute Rule
Another first-gear goal that keeps me going is to just go to the YMCA 6 days per week, and do anything for 10 minutes. Occasionally (maybe once every two months), I’ll go to the YMCA and start exercising; then, after 10 minutes, I still don’t want to be there. When that happens, I give myself permission to shower and leave. Most of the time, if I arrive not really wanting to be there, after 10 minutes, I feel refreshed and in tune with the spirit of the place and start a vigorous workout. But the goal, when I go to the YMCA, is always to just exercise for 10 minutes.
While I was walking recently, two women approached from behind. Both were about 40 pounds over weight and about a foot shorter than I but were walking faster. I said hello and thought as they passed that they may not continue to walk every day because their goal was to go too fast and too hard and would result in discomfort. Most people won’t keep doing activities that cause discomfort. Their goal, in my opinion involved walking at a speed that was driving in 5th gear when their obese body wanted to be in 1st gear.
Forget, “No pain, no gain.”
Remember, “Pain will cause you to refrain.”
Consistency wins the prize of good health. The proverbial “baby steps” are easy so you come back the next day and the next.
I hope to offer you one baby step per day with these daily lessons.
Week 1: Day 3
_____Read Genesis: Chapters 15-21
_____Walk 3 miles: Actual miles walked
_____Eat 5 fruits or vegetables
_____Virtue: Temperance-eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
Peace & health,
Charles Runels, MD
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