For the last few years I’ve been participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Not that I need to be challenged to read, as I usually enjoy it, but after a multi-year spell of not doing much reading other than for graduate school & dissertation work, it was fun to do in order to get back on the bike and I guess I’ve just kept doing it out of habit.
Back in January I set a goal of reading 30 books in 2018. Seemed a bit of a lofty number, but after handily blowing past my 2016 and 2017 goals of 12 and 15 books (respectively), I thought it appropriate to set the bar a bit higher. Additionally, I decided to set a modest goal of running 300 miles in 2018. I’d done it before, but in the ensuing years my running had really fallen off as I focused my fitness regimen more on weightlifting. I figured this would be the impetus I needed to get back into it and better balance my approach to physical fitness.
So How’d I Do?
So let’s start with the good news: the reading challenge went well, aided undoubtedly by the hours I spend commuting and my Audible subscription and multiple library memberships. As of now, I have completed 53 books in 2018, and I am on track to finish at least one more in the next day or so. I always say I’m going to do a post about my favorite books of the year and I never do; I plan to change that this year and hopefully get a New Year’s Day post up about that.
The running challenge was not quite as successful, but at the risk of soft-peddling it, I will say that I gained some valuable insight from my failure to reach that goal. As of today I have 195 miles under my belt in 2018 and with a week left, I will definitely top 200 – still well short of my original goal. I realized something, though, sometime in the early fall: from the start of the year, I had aimed to run 3.1 miles (5K) twice per week, but for some reason, I just wasn’t able to fit that into my week along with after work commitments and my lifting schedule. As a result, I only ran once per week for most of the first eight months of the year.
Once school started in September, I reassessed my goals for running – why do I run at all? For me, it’s not about training to go longer distances, but really just as cardio for healthier living and to support my weightlifting. I used 3.1 miles as a convenient way to think about how much I wanted to run, but since mileage wasn’t really a specific training goal, did it really matter if I ran 3.1 miles every time I ran?
I got the bright idea that instead of focusing on mileage, I was going to focus on time – after all, I was not trying to increase mileage for marathon training, I just wanted to burn some more calories. I started limiting my runs to 30 minutes, and however far I ran, that’s how far I ran. To my great surprise, I found myself much more committed to maintaining that twice weekly running schedule alongside my lifting, and my monthly mileage jumped as a result! January-June I was doing 12-15 miles/month. July I totally fell off (the less said about that, the better), I had a slight increase in August (taking advantage of treadmills in the air-conditioned gym on our cruise ship), and from September on I have been closer to 24-25 miles per month.
Call it purely psychological, call it wimping out from running the full 5K twice per week, I don’t care. I may have fallen short of the goal this year, but I learned something valuable about myself and how I best work toward this particular goal. If I keep this pace up, I will have no problem hitting 300 miles in 2019, but more importantly, I’m seeing the health and aesthetic benefits I was really looking for all along (looking leaner, lower resting heart rate). It’s not necessarily the number of miles I ran in a single session that mattered, but the overall volume of work done, and if I had to ‘chunk’ it to smaller individual doses to do more overall, then so be it.
I hate sounding like a cliche or a bumper sticker, but my failure to hit this particular goal by doing things the way I used to do them really did result in me learning more about myself, my purpose, and what works for me, and subsequently, how to better achieve the results I wanted. In this instance, I really was able to ‘fail forward’.