I have a secret…and a small dilemma. Next week, I turn 29. OK, that part isn't really a secret, but it's relevant. After I turn 29, I'll be "almost 30." That doesn't bother me, but I've always had an image in my mind about what it might be like to ring in my third decade on this planet. My secret is a goal that I've never shared with anyone: to be in best shape of my life when I turn 30.
Now comes the problem: What exactly does it mean to be in the best shape of one's life? How does that look or feel? And what will it take to get there?
When I celebrate my 29th birthday next week, I'll do so fully knowing that I’m fitter than I've ever been in my life. I've reached some amazing fitness goals that I am really proud of, from completing two half marathons this year to running the 200-mile Hood To Coast relay, to returning to a regular yoga practice recently and actually enjoying it (even though I used to hate it). I've gotten faster, leaner, and stronger. I've developed better balance and core strength. Life in general feels easier for me in this fitter body, and I feel more confident than ever (a major feat for me). I know that by almost anyone's definition, I'm "fit." So why not stop there? Why not just maintain where I'm at?
Somehow, I want to do more and be better. I define "the best shape of my life" as simply "more" than where I am right now. But beyond that, I don't know what else to do. Exercising regularly—often daily—takes up a large part of my life, but I'm not sure that I have it in me to put more time into it or to give up other things (even I need some downtime) to reach this vague goal.
So what then? Do I have to run a marathon? Complete an ironman? Start doing Crossfit? Complete the "100 pushup challenge"? Start power lifting? Climb a mountain? Do I need to look leaner or more sculpted? Or do I measure my fitness in pounds lifted, miles run, or pull-ups achieved?
My dilemma in defining what fitness should look like or feel like for me might seem irrelevant to your own struggles to make exercise a habit. But in reality, we all have our own ideas of what fitness means, and where we think we fall on that scale. We all have to define what "fit" means to us and how far we're willing to go to achieve it.
My own idea of fitness always seems to be out of reach from where I am at the moment. It's always more toned than me, more dedicated than me, stronger or faster than me. When I achieve a new goal, like running my first half marathon this past spring, my first reaction is, "What can I do next?"
I never feel satisfied with where I am right now (I'm your classic Type A perfectionist). On one side of the coin, I'm sure this tendency to want to achieve more and more keeps me motivated to keep exercising to get fitter. But on the flipside, the feeling that no matter what I achieve, there's always something better or harder or bigger out there can be demoralizing. If my definition of fitness is always out of reach, what's the point? After all, I'm only human and I can only do so much.
I've been thinking about what's next for me since the status quo just doesn't keep me motivated. But I'm at a loss. Short of rearranging my whole lifestyle to do more exercise (and honestly, that just isn't appealing to me) or giving up other pursuits I enjoy so I can do different workouts, what more can I do while still maintaining sanity and balance in my lifestyle? I'm afraid of accepting the idea that maybe this life—this body, this routine, this level of fitness—is all I can realistically hope to achieve. Maybe in lieu of trying to be in even better shape a year from now, I can instead strive to relax and enjoy the ride more. And to be grateful and proud of what I've achieved so far. And to accept that while I could always be fitter or stronger or faster, being fit enough is nothing to scoff at.
What do you think? How do you define "fitness" or know when you've finally achieved it? Do you think it's about always reaching farther, or is it OK to simply maintain?
More From SparkPeople