You Got the Medal, Now What?

We’ve reached the last week of the January series on building a fitness (or any) routine here on Bright Star. The focus for this week is how do you sustain the gains after you’ve reached your goal.

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I’m writing this from the United States of America and in my country, we love the pursuit. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are written into the very foundational documents of our country. Now, happiness is not a thing or some static state you can “achieve” and hold on to for life but that doesn’t stop us for thinking that way, does it? We think that once we reach that goal weight or after we finish that marathon or buy that new house, we will be somehow better for it. Some part of us believes that everything will change once we hit our goal. As we get a bit older and actually start to achieve the things we once only dreamed about, we start to realize that the achievement is often just the beginning of the story.

After you reach a goal – especially a big one that you’ve been working towards for months or even years – there is often strange feeling of “emptiness” after the celebrations end. The marathon is over, you got your finishers medal and t-shirt, you posted your pictures on social media but now you’re just sitting on the couch watching Netflix again. It’s all over; the training is over, the event is done. You can react to this feeling by immediately signing up for the next big event. Personally, I have found that method doesn’t quite work for me. Maybe because I’ve taken this type of thing too far in my past, I have learned that I need to take a different path.

In some ways, things get harder after you’ve reached your goal. When you’re working towards a goal and you have a solid plan, things are simpler: stick to the plan, don’t give up and you will get there eventually. What happens after the goal is often less clear. Back in 2009, after I reached my weight loss goal, I felt lost. I’d followed a calorie restricted diet to help me reach my goal, once I saw the number on the scale that I wanted, I didn’t know what to do. I did trust myself to make healthy choices without the structure of the diet, I felt afraid that I’d gain all the weight back. It took me a long time to find a healthy lifestyle that I could sustain for the long run. That is what I’ve found: after reaching your goal things become less “sexy” and much more routine mundane. You are no longer posting progress pictures, you are simply living a healthier life, having learned what foods nourish your body and which foods you’re better off avoiding. My exercise routine is that way too; I used to need some big event or group to motivate me work out but not so much anymore. Nowadays, I train because I know that my days are better when I’m exercising regularly. My mood is better, my health numbers are improved and I just feel more like myself.

To me, living healthy has become a practice. I no longer need to exercise or eat right to attain something. Instead, the daily practice of healthy choices has simply become the way I live my life. Do I still enjoy the challenge of training for events? Sure, I have a stack of medals to prove it but I no longer need those things to push me. Instead I have found a more internal motivation, one driven by my own understanding of what feeds my inner light.

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