The Tortoise and the Hare - Wellness Edition
Updated: Aug 13, 2019
Most of us are familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise, who makes slow and steady progress comes out ahead, whereas the hare, who moves in fits and starts, finds himself in last place. Let's talk about this analogy as it relates to your wellness journey.
Something has motivated you to take action - and that's great. Maybe it's a nudge from a loved one, or you're exhausted when you get home from work and don't have energy to play with your kids, you find yourself short tempered and impatient at the end of the day, your clothes aren't fitting quite right, or you've had to adjust your belt another notch. Whatever it is, the good news is that you want to take action. And in our culture of quick fixes and instant gratification, you may be tempted to treat this like a race. Just hurry up and get it over with. But before you launch head first, pause and consider taking a smaller step instead. You'll be more likely to succeed and you'll gain confidence along the way.
Let's play out the scenario like that hare using the example of exercise. You're all fired up and decide that you are going to hit the gym every day this week. Monday - you go hard, reciting the mantra "no pain no gain". You leave the gym feeling great, having crushed your workout. (Ok, maybe it's more like totally sweaty and spent and realizing that you are in even worse shape than you thought). Tuesday - you wake up and as you climb out of bed you notice some stiffness in your legs. As you move about, getting ready for work, the stiffness is more noticeable. You discover a searing pain in your quads as you walk downstairs. You hold your breath, lean on the rail and slowly and cautiously descend. You avoid taking the stairs for the rest of the day. You are committed and motivated so you go to the gym - taking it a bit easier and with gritted teeth finish your planned workout. Wednesday - every single muscle in your body hurts - even the ones you didn't know you had. You wisely decide to take a rest day. Thursday - you're still pretty sore, even sitting is uncomfortable. You tell yourself you have a lot of work to do and work through your lunch to catch up. Friday - finally - a friend invites you to lunch and you eagerly accept the invitation, after all it would be rude not to! :) Best case, the following Monday rolls around and you start the pattern over again - fits and starts. Worst case, you abandon the plan telling yourself that maybe it's not that important to you after all.
Now let's see how the tortoise might approach the same scenario. You decide you want to increase your activity. It's been a while since you've been to the gym so you find a beginner workout and plan to work out 3 times in the coming week. Monday you get in a good workout. The motivating mantra is a more measured "use it or lose it". Tuesday you notice you're a bit stiff, but nothing crazy. Wednesday it's back to the gym and because you're a bit sore, you back off a bit, not wanting to risk injury. Thursday you notice that Wednesday's workout actually helped to loosen things up a bit and you don't feel so bad. Friday you're invited to lunch and although you'd planned to work out, you really want to go. You decide to go and suggest walking to the restaurant, which is 10 minutes away. You order a salad with your burger instead of fries and then walk back to the office with the satisfaction of knowing that while you may not executed your plan perfectly, you still moved forward.
Which is better: fits and starts - go hard then do nothing because you are spent? Or take it a bit slower, build up your skills, confidence and ability. Are you more likely to act like the hare or the tortoise? Which would you prefer to act like?
Slow is the way. Small steps lead to Long-term change On your way to Wellness.
Trivia fact: the average lifespan of a hare is 5 to 7 years. The average lifespan of a giant tortoise is 100 years. Coincidence? Maybe, or maybe slow is the way...