In the recent London Olympics, we observed many examples of excellence in individuals from around the world devoting their entire lives to an athletic goal. These acclaimed athletes are a great inspiration for us all. We don’t need to be categorized as athletes in our day-to-day lives to have athletic pursuits. Each of us has some internal craving and desire to do something physical. In the last Desert Health issue, I discussed beat-the-heat options for enjoying physical activity throughout our summer months. From hiking at the tram to swimming laps at your local center, there are alternatives. The biggest feat is training your mind and creating a fitness plan with attainable goals. There is a fitness goal waiting to be manifested inside each of us. And these goals provide direction, motivation and a way to measure our progress.

An ancient term in the world of sailing called “kedging” refers to a sturdy row boat that can withstand high winds and tows the line of the sailboat anchor as far as it can go. This pulling technique can mean the difference between the rowboat losing the sailboat or not. In approaching a hostile shore or with the likelihood of getting stuck, this technique was the trick before the invention of the steam engine. Just like the sailboat, each one of us has situations in our day-to-day struggle with wellness, where the journey towards our athletic goals gets stuck. Kedging was the answer in days past. “Kedging” involves climbing out of the ordinary, setting intention and working like crazy to get there.  Determine your goals, make a plan and stick to it. A plan puts a sail and rudder in your fitness ship.

Your fitness plan may be one of many things. It may be signing up for an adventure vacation–such as a bike trip, ski trip or a yoga retreat. These types of planned events are great fun and have an inspirational component to them. The memory lingers for months. Another plan to incentivize one in the right direction (believe it or not) is to invest in fitness gear; such as a high-end bike or ski equipment to give you a new lease on life! The investment will hopefully be the necessary nudge in the right direction. Another more straightforward goal is to sign-up for a near-future 5k or 10k run or walk (5k = 3.1 miles and a 10k = 6.2 miles). From there the sky is the limit! The surge of excitement, group participation, energy, and satisfaction of the accomplished event is the perfect kedge!

After determining your goal, start making progress in each area of training: Endurance (adapting to longer duration work), building (developing longer intervals), peaking (shorter and harder workouts) and tapering (reducing volume by 50% before the event). A support group, coach or personal trainer can help significantly with each of these concepts. If you go with a fitness professional, be sure to select someone with a good reputation and proven track record. Your trainer must have your best interest in mind and be certified and qualified for what they are teaching. This support will help set your compass and avoid common pitfalls — over training, under training, improper equipment, and an unrealistic goal.

No matter how small or grand the goal, an athletic pursuit in one’s life can foster a sense of achievement, allowing the discovery of freeing yourself of limitations, building abilities, and developing a new appreciation for life. This is what Olympians do each and every day, and it is within each of us to discover for ourselves.

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