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Balance and baby steps

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

When I first started to work out, several years ago, reaching my feet to tie my shoes was a real struggle. I couldn't stand on one foot for even a second without falling over. And as I've struggled along, trying to get exercise and improve my health, consistency and balancing my life have remained challenging.

We all know what we need to do to be healthier: Eat good, whole food. Get plenty of exercise. Don't be too stressed out. Seems simple enough, but for me, and for many other people, this simple solution is almost impossible to implement as life intrudes on our well-laid plans.


Another change I made some years back was to stop beating myself up. I was a champ at beating myself up, on the general theme of “You're not doing it right.” While I've gotten much better at not beating myself up, or at least of stopping it quickly when I notice I'm doing it, my current idea, training for a triathlon, has left me vulnerable to that very thing once again.

That's because I actually have no idea how to train for a triathlon, how to “track my macros” so I eat the right foods at the right time for training, or even really how to swim. It's all new and I'm the newest newbie. I don't know how to do any of it.

But I have learned a few things over the years, and one has been standing out to me recently even more than usual, and that's the gigantic effect that baby steps can have.

Because my balance was so bad, after learning a balancing yoga pose several years ago (which I couldn't do at all), I kept on practicing it.

I used to do it on my deadline night at the newspaper, as the files were grinding through the computer as I waited to ship them off to the printer. I'd balance (as much as I was able) one one leg, then the other. I did it as a way to pass the time—but I also did it because I was disgusted that I couldn't balance on one leg even for a moment.

I still do this move, although now I've moved it into my morning exercise routine, and I try to practice it daily. I can now balance on both legs this way for a short period of time.

It seems like a small victory when this past few days I've slacked almost totally on triathlon training.

And yet, I feel this as a huge accomplishment, and a testament to the power of a baby step. When I started trying this move I couldn't do it at all. It brought me to tears of frustration more than once.

A few days ago when I made this recording, it brought me to tears of joy, remembering how long it took me to get there, and how frustrated I was by my inability to balance. At that time, I couldn't put on pants by balancing on one foot and then the other. I now make it a point to put my pants on this way every day, just because I can.

I've set myself an audacious goal—in fact a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal—to finish a sprint triathlon on June 13. Baby steps will get me there.

My larger goal of good health and physical fitness will require a Herculean act of balancing my demanding job, my own tendency to prefer being a couch potato, my family life, my volunteer life, my chores, and the 18 things I forgot while writing this list.

Over and over and over, I go back to start. And oh, so slowly, things are changing. For years, I could never imagine having a solid morning routine, but I have established one. It helps immensely that my kids are grown and moved out. Now I have a routine set that includes exercise, music, time for contemplation, breakfast, tidying up my bedroom, and more. That would have been inconceivable to me 10 years ago and merely a pipe dream 5 years ago, but today it is a reality that I keep building. Balance and baby steps. Not sexy, not exciting, not instant gratification—but effective.

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