Just do SOMETHING!

I did NOT feel like working out yesterday. I’d been on a nice little streak of consistently fitting in my thrice-weekly weight lifting sessions in my basement, but Thursday we stayed up a little too late watching the second-to-last ever episode of “Lost” on Tivo, and when the morning rolled around, the idea of shoving heavy weights around before work just held no appeal.

“Well, you have to go downstairs and do SOMETHING,” I told myself as I lay all snug in my bed. So, I grudgingly changed into workout clothes and clomped down to the basement. I usually do three circuits of four exercises, two or three sets of each (i.e., 12 different exercises and 28 to 32 sets). On this day, I did two rounds of the first circuit, then one round each of the final two. So 16 sets total.

What did that get me? I worked every muscle in my body, got synapses firing, blood flowing, and I maintained my commitment to lifting weights on a regular schedule. I felt much better, and got my day off to a healthy start.

If this kind of shortcut ideal? No. Is it better than just punching the snooze button and going back to sleep? Heck yeah!

Health and fitness is not an all-or-nothing deal. It’s a continuum. Your overall health, and your level of fitness, sits somewhere on a scale of 1 to 10 right at this moment. A 1 might be someone battling a terminal illness, a 2 might be someone who is dealing poorly with a multiple chronic health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity. A 10 would be someone who is lean and fit, has loads of energy, a positive outlook, and eats a variety of healthy, nutritious foods at least 90 percent of the time.

A 10 is not something that everyone needs to aspire to. 10 is for people who want to look like a fitness model, and go about getting there in a healthy way (because it is possible to get that look in an unhealthy way).

But if you want optimal health, you should aim for somewhere on the upper end of the continuum. Achieving a level of health where you have a healthy weight, get 30 minutes of “formal” exercise each day plus other general activity (like gardening, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.), eat reasonable portions of healthy food most of the time, and rarely feel that you don’t have the energy or stamina to do your daily activities well probably means you’ve reached a 7 or 8.

Your number on the continuum is, in most cases, the sum of the daily choices you make. Each day is it’s own continuum (and each week, each month…). Where will you place today? When I chose to shorten my workout, I knew I was allowing myself to slide a bit on that day’s continuum…but not as far as I would have had I skipped the workout all together. And since I went for a brisk 50-minute walk later in the day, by most measures, I exceeded the average exercise requirement.

Every choice you make will move you one direction or another on the continuum. That’s why you shouldn’t just throw in the towel because you’ve “ruined” your day by eating a donut. It’s also why you shouldn’t put off making healthy changes until you reach some magical point in your life when you have the time/money/lack of stress to really lose weight/get in shape/focus on your health.

Maybe you can’t do “everything” you need to do for optimal health right now, but you can do something. Every step, every bite, every breath…it all counts.