I’ve successfully achieved my daily exercise so far in the month of December. Okay, that’s only 4 days, but that is four days in a row that I’ve done at least 10 minutes of exercise! And I didn’t even count the 3+ hours at the sanctuary of raking and hauling sh the ‘after effects of eating’ and schlepping the 20lb buckets of water and the throwing of pumpkins into the pig yard. Nope, I didn’t count that! I went for a walk afterwards as my exercise. Granted, the 10 minute walk was nothing compared to the work at the sanctuary, but this goal of exercising every day in December is not about fitness (yet) it is about forming the habit.

And that is why it was important for me (I had decided well in advance) to not count the work at the sanctuary.

I’m in pretty bad shape for me at the moment, but I’ve at various times been on daily five mile running schedules, and I’ve gotten halfway through marathon training (halted by IT Band problems), and so my point is that I’m no stranger to getting in shape. I have learned the hard and painful way of the consequences of jumping in too fast. Still, I could physically handle a lot more than I’m doing.

That’s why I chose 10 minutes as my minimum instead of 5 minutes! This is about the habit of exercise. I’ve really enjoyed how easy it is to do 10 minutes of exercise, and for once in my life I am not competing with myself. I’m wallowing in the decadence of being able to check off a daily goal by a measly 10 minutes of not huge effort!

Oh, that’s the other thing. Really, I’m a runner. Well, I’m a runner who struggles a lot with IT Band problems, and that has grounded me a lot in the past couple years. But for this month, I’m not even trying to run. I’m just walking for those 10 minutes. I’m not even putting on a sports bra, just lots of layers, gloves, and a hat. (I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold!)

My virtual workout buddy is on track so far, but mentally he’s been the opposite of me. Right from the start, it was like someone shot off a starting gun, and he was keeping track of how far he’d walked the day before, and how fast, and was excusing himself (it was slippery out from the freezing rain!) for not going as far as fast as the day before. And so I had to tell him – stop it! Stop competing with yourself, this is not the month of fitness, it is the month of the habit of exercise.

It is a fine difference, but an important one. After I nagged him a bit, he admitted that he had given himself a goal of increasing his walk time one minute every day so that on Dec 31 he’d go for a 41 minute walk.

Well, it isn’t outside the realm of the possible, in fact I’m quite sure he could go outside right now and manage a 41 minute walk. I mean, it isn’t like doing the empire state building race on your first day out! But it does obscure the point of this month, that it is about the habit. Once you’re in the habit, you have this strong base to work from, and when you fall back on that base, you’re falling back on maybe just a 10 minute walk, but you’re not falling back to the couch and transforming back to a potato.

As I walked my ten minutes tonight, inwardly gleeful that I only had to do 10 minutes for it to “count”, I thought about that. About the easily reached goals. As it happens, I’m a competitive person, as long as I only have to compete against myself. I don’t have to worry that I’ll never want to do more than 10 minutes of exercise per day, but I’m learning an important lesson already…I need to commit to myself that 10 minutes, or some other easily achievable amount of exercise, “counts”. That’s going to be the difference in the long term that will help me avoid the month long lazy slumps that I go through when my IT Band frustration gets the best of me. It is hard to go from a 40 minute run to a 10 or 20 minute walk and feel like you’ve done anything. But doing nothing at all is so much worse in so many more ways. That’s what I have to keep in mind.

I’m pretty sure my baseline, my future “fitness minimum”, is going to be a 20 minute minimum for 6 days a week. I’ll think more about that. For December, I need only do 10 minutes a day, and I’m enjoying myself.

Tomorrow I will have an hour and fifteen minute yoga class. It isn’t really that I’ll do only 10 minutes each day. It is just that all I need to do in order for it to count is 10 minutes.

yellow leaves on tree