glow notes

Friday, April 22, 2005

Incredible life challenge

Today my very small Pit Bull, Raisin, and I competed in a silly media event for the Incredible Dog Challenge. It was a swim race with teams of dogs and owners in the bay near our San Diego home. There were seven dog/owner teams, most of them male humans with large Labrador retriever dogs. The event was all in good fun, and footage will be used pretty much to advertise Purina pet foods. The event may make the footage of the IDC that will come out some time this summer, and I'll get a video. I was invited because of Raisin's Dock Jumping experiences.

So, we were to run towards the bay, jump in, swim about 150 feet around two buoys, then jump out and run over a finish line. OK, sounds like fun.

Imagine my surprise when I got competitive. I jumped in with the dog and we started to book. I could see by Raisin's determined little face that she knew this was a race, confirmed by the fact that she ignored her toy, which I had thrown ahead to entice her, and concentrated on swimming after me as fast as she could, deltoids and traps bulging as she dog paddled her little heart out. I stayed toward the inside and was pushing Labradors out of my way as I swim sprinted toward that finish line. I was panting - I'm not a swimmer, and cardio training is somewhat sport specific. When I got to land, the sand was soft and running was hard because my muscles were cold from the 62 degree water. I slogged to the finish line and Raisin was close behind me.

We came in second! Wowza!

Nobody cared who won. It was an event designed to get some footage for an advertisement, an adjunct to the main event. But man it felt good to use my body for a challenge and have it confirmed to me that what I am doing is working. I am strong, I am fast, I am tough, and I can prove it.

Maybe that's not a revelation to anybody who has played competitive sports or even been involved in music or drama or what have you. But it's something of a revelation to me, who never believed until recently that I was athletic, much less a competitor. Much less a winner. Or almost a winner, anyhow.

This got me thinking about metrics - the measurements of change that we use to determine our progress. So many women use only one or, at most, three metrics to determine progress in a fitness program: weight, perhaps inches (or clothing size), and perhaps body fat. Weight, especially, is easy to measure. It's a useful tool, but it doesn't tell the whole story, even when combined with inches and body fat. What if I were very muscular and lean but threw my back out when I tried to carry a 5 gallon bottle of water in from the car? What if I were very thin but couldn't run to save my dog from getting hit by a car?

My thinking is that the reason I chose to lose weight and get fit is so that I can live life more fully, more functionally, more freely, and with more joy. So, while weighing myself once a week is fine, and while the number does tell me that I'm making progress, it's a passive metric. I think that it would be more useful to have active goals, goals that are related to me in motion, not just to the space I take up on the planet.

Active goals for me could look like:
* be able to do five pull-ups and ten chin-ups without assistance
* run three days a week for three miles without hip pain
* run a 5k!
* be able to do 45 minutes on the Jacobs Ladder at 70-80 rotations per minute
* mountain bike the entire trail at Lake Hodges without getting off of my bike on purpose (falling is ok)

There are a ton more possible active goals for now and the future, and I could probably categorize them into categories, but this is a start. It would be a good idea to look at my life goals and see how my active fitness goals feed those.

These active goals, especially when related to my life goals, have more meat than "weigh 120." They are more personal, more mine. They matter to me even when I've had a bad day. They feed my spirit, not just my body.

What are your active goals?

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