Sometimes I really love my runs in Central Park, but too often I don’t. It’s delightful to speed along on a perfect, clear, not humid, fairly cool day, especially when I feel well rested. But in the summer it gets humid and hot, and in the winter, it’s tough to run on very cold days, especially when it’s also windy. But I do! My body doesn’t cut me slack and burn extra calories for me when the weather isn’t good.

To stay in shape, you should be in it for the long haul, not just when conditions are perfect!

One morning I went out without enthusiasm. It was the third day in a row that I ran. I was tired from getting up early and rushing out so I wouldn’t cut too much off of work time, but the next few days would be rainy, so I needed to get my run in. I’d also done an hour of weight training yesterday, so my legs were tired. I began to give myself reasons for why I should cut my run short, just like I sometimes look for reasons not to get my work done, or do personal chores, if I’m not in the mood. So I thought about how I get myself to do other activities I don’t want to do.

I set small incremental goals and take baby steps to achieve them.

I’d never thought about applying that to something like running, but I tried. First I set the goal of running up the hill to get into Central Park. If I didn’t feel up to more, I’d turn around and go home. With that small step as my first goal, I got there easily and decided I could do a little more. I have a few spots that I stop at for a minute, to stretch and drink some water. Each became a baby step. Each leg was a goal in itself, instead of thinking in terms of doing the whole route. One leg (to a landmark along the route) felt doable when I didn’t think about the whole thing.

Pushing yourself a lot can feel overwhelming and tough. Breaking everything you must do into very small goals makes each little one feel less of a burden.
An important part of this process is to cheer yourself on to motivate more. I make each goal leg I reach an accomplishment and say, “Good Girl” or “You go girl!” It acknowledges that I appreciate that I’m making an effort, even if I don’t go as far as usual. Waiting for the bigger goals to be met deprives you of taking pleasure in each step.

Self-appreciation for completed increments feels so much better than being angry at yourself for not going the full distance!

As I struggled to keep going, I took baby stepping to a smaller, more motivating level. When I run, I always looked way ahead. If I was going up a hill, seeing how far I still had to go would make me more tired and the run seemed harder, especially on hot days. I realized I could baby step the whole route. So I stopped looking ahead beyond a few yards.

Now I look sort of down and ahead just enough to see the next tree or lamp or crosswalk or whatever was coming up next.

Focusing on what’s just ahead of me keeps me a zone that my mind never went to when I looked all the way down the road. I lost track of distance. It was almost like a meditation state. I just knew when I’d reach the next tree or other goal. Each one motivated a “yay!” from me. There were lots of them, since my increments were so small. That felt encouraging instead of running with a wish to be finished. The run goes so much faster and it’s easier.

When I reach the top of a hill or another landmark indicating another big leg is done, it still amazes me how quickly it seems to come, instead of feeling like I’m on an interminable run.

You can do this with anything. For example, I do a lot of laundry by hand. It’s not normally a big deal but I was busy over the last few weeks and it piled up. I still had enough clean clothes to wear but whenever I saw the pile, it annoyed me. Because there was so much, I just couldn’t get it started. That caused the pile to grow even more! Then I thought about how baby stepping helps keep me running. I decided what I wanted washed first and put the rest away. That made it so much easier to actually fill the sink with soapy water and make a dent.

Washing one thing motivated doing another small batch. I keep the pile in a hamper and only take out what I can do at that moment. The pile got done in record time, one small batch at a time.

Now I’m tackling my refrigerator, which has gotten out of control with stuff that needs to be thrown out and stains and spills that need to be scrubbed. I’ve been trying to get to it for a while. But, whenever I look at it, it seems like a huge job, and I choose to wait until I have more time. Now that I’ve been consciously practicing baby stepping, I decided to do it on my fridge. The best way to start any unpleasant task is to begin with the easiest part, in as small a dose as you can.

I began with the fridge door—the top part only! I put the containers I had there on another shelf and washed and dried that section. It sparkled and I congratulated myself. Each time I opened the fridge, I grinned looking at that section. That night, I did the bottom part of the door. The next day I went through the top shelf to get rid of anything I wasn’t going to use. I cleared stuff from the middle shelf on another day. Each little thing I did brought big self-congratulations. Last night I was motivated to take out everything from the top shelf. I washed the shelf in the sink and then scrubbed the sides and back.

My fridge is still a work in progress but every day I try to do a little something and it’s getting done.

Find your own way to baby step to your bigger goals. Be a cheerleader as you finish a step. I’ve actually increased my running since I implemented goals. You can tackle almost anything and reach goals if you break everything down into baby steps, take one small one at a time, and rejoice in every step taken.

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