Taking the stairs

Many years ago I spent most of my out of work hours with my triathlon buddies in the pool, on the bike or pounding the pavement.  One afternoon, instead of a scheduled training session we went to see Ironman triathlete Cameron Brown speak (it was actually set up as an interview which was a great format for the talk).

As a side note: for those of you who aren’t familiar with Ironman Triathlons, they begin with a 3.8km (about 2.4 mile) swim, followed by a 180km (about 112 mile) bike ride and are topped off with a marathon length (42 km / 26 mile) run.  Cameron has won New Zealand Ironman 10 times, the other two times he’s competed in the event he has placed 2nd.  He completes the mammoth event in about 8 hours and 20 to 30 minutes.

Cameron crossing the line in first place at the New Zealand Ironman in Taupo last year.

Anyway, back to Cameron’s talk.  So the guy interviewing him asked him, “What do you think about when you are in the middle of a race?”  Cameron’s reply will be with me for the rest of my life.  He explained that he never thought about the finishing line.  Instead he concentrated on the moment he was in.  He thought about every stroke and kick in the water.  On his bike he thought about his cadence, the push and pull on the pedal and his position in the pack.  He thought about when to put the pressure on and make the break on the run.  He concentrated on the steps to his goal, not the goal itself.

The reason why this comment has stayed with me long after my wetsuit has disintegrated and my bike shoes are covered in cobwebs is his technique is so relevant in so many areas of life.

I’m not kidding about the cobwebs on my cycling shoes. It’s been so long since I’ve worn them they’ve been overtaken by spiders.

Whatever our reasons are for eating a healthier diet whether it is to be at a specific weight or not suffering from a specific ailment our goals can feel elusive and distant.  So elusive, in fact, that it’s easy to get discouraged.  It’s disheartening when we wake up in the morning, thinking we were “so good” the day before, and then we weigh ourselves only to find that we’re heavier than the day before.  Or that we still feel run down and bloated when we thought we’d be feeling like a new person by now.

Instead of being so focussed on the goal think more about the journey.  After all, it’s the combination of all the small steps on that journey that will get us to where we want to be.  It’s every Friday night we choose to eat a nutritious home cooked meal instead of getting takeout.  It’s every trip to the supermarket where we come home with only real food and nothing processed in our bags and it’s every social occasion where we don’t act like we’re never going to see dessert again.

If you think there aren’t any challenges along the 226km Ironman route then you’d be mistaken (admittedly pros like Cameron make less race day errors than the rest of us  – it’s why they are pros) but when things don’t go to plan and there’s a step back then that’s ok.  The next step can still be a forward motion.  Just keep thinking about taking another step forward, another step forward, another step forward.

Even if our steps aren’t always in quite the right direction, we need to just keep coming back to taking another step forward.

Cameron’s image from his own website, stairs image from here.

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6 Responses to Taking the stairs

  1. You are a great encourager, Leaping Zucchini! What I particularly like about one step at a time is that you can give yourself a pat on the back for each good decision made. The theory is that success breeds success. When discouraged by lack of progress it is pretty easy to think that you’ll just flag the whole effort and indulge. At times like this, when it all seems quite bad enough, it’s worth stopping to think how awful the situation would be if you made no effort at all. Giving yourself top marks for effort is a good step on the way to being able to give yourself top marks for results.

  2. frequent airport dweller says:

    This is perhaps the first time I see an approach to healthy eating without hard labels and rules. Love your blog.

  3. I would love to know how frequent airport dweller works out a good diet while travelling. Leaping Zucchini challenged me to get from Portland, Oregon to Hamilton, New Zealand without eating sugar. My first choice was something that looked like a cheese scone (US terminology – cheese biscuit). A savoury! As we say in New Zealand – “Yeah! Right!” It was so full of sugar that I had failed before I even stepped foot on an aeroplane! There’s another topic for you, Leaping Zucchini!

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