Is aiming for a big goal a good thing — or am I kidding myself?
Yesterday afternoon, I stepped onto the treadmill we keep in our basement, put my AirPods in, and pressed “Start.” It was raining outside — cats and dogs, actually, thanks to a big storm that blew through — so if I wanted to get a run in, my treadmill was my only option.
I’ve gone through this routine a thousand times before, probably, or at least enough times so that I go through the motions without thinking, like lacing up my shoes or tying a necktie. It’s all automatic.
Once I got going, I started to feel loose and feel the energy flowing into my legs; those first few paces on a treadmill, which are always the toughest, sailed quickly past me. The song I was listening to started to hit a crescendo, which got me running a little bit faster, and then…
It wasn’t so subtle as a single italicized word might suggest, though. It was loud enough that I could hear it, like a witch’s fingernails scraping across a chalkboard, over the music being piped into my ears through my headphones. It felt strange, as I’d thought (irrationally, obviously) that this machine was more or less indestructible.
After I stepped off the belt and popped open the hood that covers the treadmill’s motor and circuit board, I caught a whiff of an odd metallic smell. I looked inside, trying to figure out what was wrong. Coming up with nothing, I started it up again, so I could watch the motor turn — triggering the same “screeeaaak” all over again.
You may be asking yourself right about now, “why is he telling me all this about a machine in his basement?” Well, let me take a step back for a second.
At the start of the year, I was thinking to myself about goals I’d like to reach for, things I wanted to pursue. Not just a goal I might arbitrarily pick out of the air, but one that felt meaningful.
If you’ve read this newsletter for a while, you know what a hero Kara Goucher has been for me (and for many of you too, probably). Each year, she starts off January 1 with a goal to run same number of miles as the numerals in the year — so, this year, she’s aiming to run 2,023 miles, which works out to just over 5 1/2 miles per day.
That’s a little too ambitious for me — way too ambitious, actually — as I have a full-time job plus I often have to shuttle our kids around, to and from school and weekend activities. Fitting in five and a half miles a day, every day without fail, simply isn’t in the cards.
But, I thought to myself, maybe half that is? A little over 1,000 miles for the year works out to just over 2.7 miles per day. That’s doable — if everything goes right. When I tossed it around in my mind, the more I was drawn to it; running a thousand miles would center me around a daily ritual, a practice that would keep me focused. And, it’s clear as crystal — you get there or you don’t; there’s no gray area.
Our treadmill was a key piece of making that happen. Maybe the key piece if you know Atlanta’s weather, which can drop into the single digits (like last week) or be sweltering hot, interspersed with storms and lightning or snow and ice, depending on the calendar. Sooner or later, you’re gonna have to run indoors here if you want to stay consistent.
Like a piece in a Jenga puzzle, our treadmill has been indispensable to making a fitness routine work with the rest of my life — to fit running into the cracks and crevices of my time. Without it, the rest of the puzzle often falls apart.
When I was younger, time felt so vast. It stretched on and on and on, like the horizon of the ocean. But when you measure it out in smaller increments, you see how finite it really is. On Monday, I had my birthday — I turned 52 — and my father’s birthday is tomorrow, when he turns 82. I feel so grateful that we’re both here and alive and well (obviously!). The digits in our ages, though, remind me there’s not as much left of our time together as there once was.
Is it silly, or selfish, for me to want this thing, this goal, for myself when I have so many other responsibilities I need to balance? We have a daughter who will start college this fall — shouldn’t we be saving every penny for that? Can we really spend money on luxuries?
I ask these questions not because I have answers to them, but because I know we all wrestle with them from time to time. (Let alone, can I accomplish this goal even if I can make it work with the rest of my life — can I stick to it?)
It’s the eternal question. Right now, this goal is like fresh snow without any tracks on it. I haven’t made a mess of it yet. Maybe we really can do this?
I hope so. It’s all contingent, it’s all day by day. Let’s see if we can make this happen 😃
What about you? What are your goals for the new year? I’d love to hear.