This past week I was jokingly set a challenge by my sister in law. We often joke about who has ran more or done more exercise between us. As I type this, it sounds a bit weird lol. You kind of have to be there. Trust me its funny! Over May she had ran 100km and said I should give it a go to see if I had it in me. There was only one catch, I only had 8 more days of May remaining. Luckily I had taken to running a fair bit during the Covid lockdown so I had managed 52.6km already this month. This meant 48.4km remained.
I’ll have to thank my sister in law because this challenge has actually changed my life and I’m hoping it can change yours too. It actually has nothing to do with running either. It’s how I approach life and set goals.
Goal setting usually requires planning a long term end point and then breaking that down into bitesized chunks to get there. The end goal was to run 48.4km but what I didn’t know was how I was going to achieve this goal.
Due to only 8 days remaining in the month I had to plan it. I had lots of options but here’s the 3 I thought best suited me.
Goal 1 – run everyday
If I broke 48.4km into 8 daily segments the goal was to only run 6.05km per day. Now this might seem a lot to some people but the distance is irrelevant because it is relative. To me that’s a pretty manageable goal and a nice distance and should only take 25-30minutes.
This creates a scenario where the task is actually very manageable but it needs to done everyday.
Goal 2 – Run every other day
Spreading out the running over 4 days obviously doubles the distance required with each run. Now the goal is to run 12.1km but I get a day off in between to do whatever I like.
Now 12.1km is a fair distance. It’s probably approaching the upper limit of how I’d like to spend my time. I like seeing my fitness improve and the benefits you get from running but I do not like running itself per se.
Goal 3 – Do it one day
Another way of doing this is to do nothing for 7 days. Chill out and have all that time to myself. However, the caveat is you then have to run the entire 48.4km in one day.
Unless you’re anything short of an ultra marathon runner, this wouldn’t be fun for most people. I have in fact ran an ultra marathon and it hurt. I was on crutches for 2 weeks afterwards.
This approach is daunting. No doubt as the day approached I would be dreading doing it. Overlooking the fact I would likely be incapable of running the entire distance in one go currently, psychologically I am not going to like this. In fact, I probably would have just conceded the challenge entirely.
Setting goals & executing them
Isn’t this an interesting dilemma though. This really got me tuning in to how I approach life and tasks. All 3 options achieve the same outcome but how I view them is very different. Usually I am the kind of guy that chooses the 48.4km approach. I take Spanish lessons and each week I find myself doing a 2 hour stint trying to finish all my home work in time. I dread it and it feels like work. However, if I want to speak Spanish, it needs to be done.
With these blogs, I’ll frequently choose one day a month and film and write as many as possible. I really enjoy doing this and trying to help people but ultimately it’s still work. It’s not sailing in the Costa Del Sol (I told you I was doing Spanish). So I end up dreading it. Sometimes I’ll get called by a friend and a more appealing offer is made or it might be sunny and suddenly a day sat inside doesn’t appeal to me. I then find myself playing catch up each week.
Since embarking on this challenge I’ve changed my whole approach. This week I’ve attempted to do just 20-30 minutes of Spanish each morning. So I actually also end up doing more Spanish each week in total too. I’ve also come home from work and filmed blogs and worked on the website in bitesized chunks using the little and often approach.
Suddenly it’s not felt like work. Instead it’s been quite enjoyable and manageable. It’s much more like the 6.05km approach. By being consistent with regular behaviours designed to move me towards my goals I have been able to have one of my most productive weeks ever.
With the running too, I get much more out of running 6.05km because I can achieve a higher intensity without burning out. The 48.4km day would require some severe pacing and wouldn’t actually improve my fitness overall. It’s been the same with my work. I am getting more out of it because I’m not suffering mental fatigue or burn out.
Applying this to lifestyle change
The same principle can be applied to lifestyle change and diabetes management. I see people trying to take on too much all the time. They try to go to the gym 3 times per week for 90 minutes. That’s only 270 minutes out of 10,080 minutes per week yet it certainly doesn’t feel like it. My patients often dread it.
However, if they broke it down to 30 minute chunks every day it would feel much more manageable and isn’t far off the same total exercise time at 210 minutes. It’s also highly likely they will be much more productive in that 30 minutes because mental fatigue doesn’t kick in once they start to get bored.
You could also do this with cooking. Try to make one healthy item each day that can be used later in the week. Spend 30 minutes doing some meal prep. In fairness, because with meal prepping you often get more than one portion you may be better off doing the 12.1km approach of every other day. However, hopefully you see the principle here.
You can really apply this to anything in your life. Perhaps you’re happy to spend longer than 20-30minutes each day. There’s no rule here.
For diabetes, I find the people that do best are the ones who are organised and consistent with their behaviours and lifestyle. Getting good daily habits can really make a difference and it’s how I will be approaching life going forwards.
I challenge you to write down your healthy living goals. Then break those down into daily behaviours needed to get there. Then start to execute them and see how you get on. I’d be interested to hear how it’s going so comment on the video or Facebook page which you can find here!
On a final note if you’re wondering whether I achieved it or not? I actually pulled my calf muscle on the first run when only 2.5km in. Typical! Oh well, maybe June will be different!
Need more help
If you need more help, click through to our programme page (here) and our 1:1 consultancy pages (here). Like this post, these get you thinking about how to change your habits and approach lifestyle change. They are also step by step guides to get you from point A to B to C. Check it out if you want further support.