by Carole Carson, AARP Bulletin, October 14, 2008
Athletes use the expression "personal best" after competing in an event where they improve on their prior records. For a basketball player, that may mean scoring more points in a game than ever before. For a football player, it may mean more interceptions for the season. For a runner, it may mean recording his or her fastest time ever for a set distance.
Whatever the context, the meaning is clear—the person has moved to a higher level of performance as the result of focus, practice, and determination over an extended period of time.
Dr. George Sheehan, one of the foremost philosophers of fitness, argues that we were meant to function at our personal best, yet most of us settle for "normal" performance, which is about 10 percent of our potential.
I was not aware of Dr. Sheehan's book, "Personal Best" until after I'd started my quest for fitness, yet I was intuitively following his advice. Through focus, practice, and determination over an extended period of time, I've been working my way toward my personal best, whether it involves my tennis game or increased flexibility during my morning exercise routine. Since I'm competing solely with myself, the fact that I'm over 60 doesn't deter me.
Although I've made progress, I need to add more aerobic exercise to my routine. I also want to continue experimenting with cooking and eating, especially finding ways to manage my craving for sugar.
Lest you think these efforts require a high level of discipline, I hasten to add that I continue in a lighthearted way. "Grim" is a forbidden four-letter word. I much prefer to have fun.
Fun, though, has different dimensions. There's the creative fun I find in cooking delicious foods in ways to shave calories so weight doesn't creep back on. There's also the joy of improving my future by deciding how much I want to weigh, what exercises I'll engage in, and how I'll measure my progress.
I love the pleasure of achievement. Giving myself a caloric budget and eating well each day while staying within my budget is rewarding. I feel as if I've achieved a little victory.
Learning is also a source of joy. Whether it's doing resistance training or finding a new food (my current favorite is Irish steel-cut oatmeal), new experiences keep life fresh. Discovering a critical insight about appetite management in a health-promotion magazine delights me because I can both use it myself and share it with others.
Fun, in all its dimensions, keeps me on track and moving toward my personal goals. Will this strategy work for you?
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