Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Day After Mardi Gras

So the flip side of Mardi Gras is Ash Wednesday. I was raised Catholic, and I'll be the first to admit that for the longest time (possibly until last night, I don't know) I've kind of missed the point of Lent in general. I don't think we ever went to mass before school, so I never got to walk around with ashes on my forehead all day like some kids. My blood sugar never really let me fast (the crankiness that ends even a 6 hour fast is enough to make any priest start throwing holy water at me), and the concept of giving something up to get closer to God just never really sunk in.

Apparently Google Image search missed the point of Lent too.  
That's not to say that Lent serves no purpose - I know for some people it's a deeply spiritual time of year, and a lot of people find that their faith is deepened. It's just not that for me. (Disclaimer: This post is not meant as an attack on anyone's faith - it's all personal, and since this is my blog I get to write about how I feel about it. My views don't make yours any less valid and should not be interpreted as any kind of intentional offense.)

That said, I still like the concept and timing of Lent. It's perfectly timed so that just as we're running out of steam on our New Year resolutions, there's a new reason to keep up the good habits. 46 days is just over 2 habit-making cycles, so if you really wanted to, I guess you could even pick 2 habits to make/break. It's a great time to focus on making yourself better, even if the motivating factor isn't theological.

It's easy to shy away from this time of year if you're not totally committed to it - I've seen more than a couple "Lent get bent" posts on my facebook feed in the past 24 hours. I think that just goes to show that there's a pretty big point to be missed in all of it. If the purpose is to sacrifice to get closer to God, there's no reason we can't use that same principle to simply be better. Maybe quitting coffee isn't going to make you more religious, but if the purpose of being "closer to God" is just to live up to your own potential then the Lenten time is the perfect excuse to make that happen.

Anyway, all this to say that I'm going to put some kind of clever little calendar together to give out at class tonight, to challenge everyone to use Lent as an excuse to step up their fitness game. The challenge is simple and flexible - just do something different. It can be as simple as committing to adding 15 minutes to each of your regular workout times or taking a new type of class every week. There are just a few guidelines:
  • It has to be measurable so you'll know when you've succeeded
  • It has to be feasible. If you're running a 10 minute mile, running a marathon in 2 hours by Easter isn't likely to happen. 
  • It has to be habitual. Setting a goal of running a 5k by Easter is great, but the challenge should be to run 4 times a week (or whatever) -  not to run the 5k. The point is to make better habits, not just to achieve goals. 
That's it! Here are a few ideas: 
If the race is 10k or less and the weekend after Easter, I'll even run it with you (or at least cheer you on)...obviously that's only for the local (to me) races...sorry all you distance readers. :-) 

So then. How about you? What are you going to do to make sure another Lent doesn't go by unused?

Fitness and religion aren't mutually exclusive (goodness knows last night's class sounded vaguely like an exorcism...but that's another story), so this challenge can serve both purposes if you want it to. For the purposes of this blog and my classes though, I'm going to remove the religious part and stick with just the fitness aspect. 

I'll post tonight's profile and playlist later today. As soon as I come up with the clever booklet thing, I'll post that too. I may just end up going to Target to get $1 notebooks and bedazzle them before class. Who knows. 

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