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Don’t let your fitness goals eclipse the process

Nurturing

BUILDING BLOCKS Each small goal reached makes achieving the bigger goals more possible.

Health

Andrew O'Brien

I had a birthday recently, not a significant one, but let’s say the significant one is now well above the horizon and approaching fast. A lot of people use the year leading up to such events to put pressures on themselves with a series of social-media friendly goals. ‘I need to buy a house before I turn 30’ or ‘I’m going to run a marathon before I’m 40’. Others just let it all hang out, a friend of mine is currently celebrating a big one on an island in the Pacific. It has left me a bit confused as to what to do for the next twelve months.
Given the chance, I’d buy an enormous motorbike and ride from Westport to my childhood home of Warren, New South Wales; ideally via Ecuador with a few weeks in Namibia. I could strap a swag on the back of the bike, invite a few old mates along and make a documentary series a-la Ewen McGregor and everything would be tickety-boo. Although if you look at a map, travelling to Australia via either Ecuador or Namibia isn’t that direct, and doing both would be something of a logistical nightmare. Throw in my lack of clout with any TV production company types and my plan falters. Oh, and I kind of have a family and a few bills to worry about. No round-the-world epic for me this year, then.
What should I do to mark such an occasion? Do we really need an enormous ‘thing’ to keep us interested distracted from the fact we’re getting older? Now, maybe I do have a big plan brewing, but it might have to stay in my head for now; I’d best at least casually mention it to my wife before I put it in the paper. But instead, maybe I should go for something easily achievable rather than some outward, visible, social media friendly challenges.
What if I resolved to do an extra ten minutes of exercise every day? Or eat an extra piece of fruit? Why not play tennis once a week? Or go exploring around the bay near home with our son? I could read a research paper every week, or a book per month. Maybe I’ll go to bed earlier. Things that are easily achievable, but will have significant long-term benefits.
What relevance does my navel gazing have to the readers of The Mayo News? Probably not much, but it might make you think. At least once a week I have to have The Talk. The one where I ask a runner if she really thinks missing this week’s track session will actually kill her. Where I remind a triathlete that the purpose of a training programme is to get them to the start line in one piece. The conversation in which I suggest to a footballer that taking a week off training when there’s no match for the next three might help their shoulder pain settle. For so many people, the obsession with an end goal above all else can hamper the potential benefits of, dare I say it, the ‘process’.
I’m not against huge dreams and goals, I love the saying ‘bite off more than you can chew, then chew like hell’. But sometimes I wonder if the one-upmanship of the social-media age is belittling the small goals, despite the fact that these small goals make big ones more achievable.
Ten minutes of exercise every day will get you almost half the recommended weekly minimum. Tennis players have been shown to live longer lives. I’ve mentioned in these pages before that more sleep can improve athletic performance, and as Dr Seuss said ‘the more that you read, the more things you will know’.
There you have it then, an hour at the laptop and I’ve planned my next twelve months and it all seems very boring and healthy. Maybe I should just call the travel agent!

Andrew O’Brien is a chartered physiotherapist and the owner of Wannarun Physiotherapy and Running Clinic at Westport Leisure Park. He can be contacted on 083 1593200 or at www.wannarun.ie.

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