Project Louise: What Gets In The Way

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

swimming pool

What kept Louise from getting in the pool? (Rufino Uribe via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, three out of four ain’t bad. For those keeping track at home, here’s how last week’s goals worked out:

• Work on “vision” for my life: I spent some real time on this, made a lot of notes and am looking forward to reviewing all this when I meet with my coach, Allison, this Thursday.

• Eat vegetables at lunch and dinner every day: Yes! (We will not dwell on the evening when the kids were out and the “vegetables” were sweet-potato chips. But I had a couple of cherry tomatoes, too.)

• Go for at least one 20-minute walk: I did two.

• Swim at least once: I did not. That’s why I did the second walk, but I still feel as if I failed.

“Fail” is a word I’m trying to banish, though, so let’s pull that one apart a bit. Why didn’t I get into the pool?

1. I realized I didn’t have a swimsuit I really liked and promised myself I’d go buy one, but I didn’t get around to that, what with school vacation week and all.

2. I couldn’t find my goggles. I planned to buy new ones, but … see No. 1.

3. I didn’t go last weekend because I had the whole week ahead of me, and besides, swimsuit, goggles, etc.

4. I didn’t go on Monday because it was going to be (I thought) the only non-holiday day all week that the kids were home and I wanted to hang out with them. Also, how often do I get to sleep in on a Monday?

5. Tuesday and Wednesday were holidays. Who exercises on holidays? Duh. (Please hold all catcalls until the end.)

6. Thursday and Friday were the days I’d planned to get down to work: The kids were going back to school, and I was taking two days of vacation time. Two blissful days all to myself, plenty of time to clean the house, catch up on laundry, cook a few meals to put in the freezer for later, read 10 books, see all my friends, completely reorganize my closet, catch up on those photo albums, swim for hours and hours if I felt like it, and, while I’m at it, fly to the moon. But then …

7. Thursday: I slept a bit late – hey, it’s my day off! – and meanwhile my husband decided that the kindergartner’s sniffles meant she really shouldn’t go to school. But of course he had to leave for the day. Would you like to hear all the verses of “The Wheels on the Bus,” including the ones I made up?

8. Friday: You will recall that it snowed. No school! Yay! Everyone’s so happy! Wait … where did my days off go?

9. Saturday: My long-scheduled haircut and color. Obviously I could not go swimming on the one day every six weeks when my hair is styled by a professional.

10. Sunday already? Yikes! I’d better do everything I meant to do all week, get ready for the workweek, etc. So I’ll go for that extra walk instead and feel just fine about it.

11. Until Monday morning, i.e. as I’m writing this, and I have to say that, with all that time, I never did go for a swim.

I could go on – the gym is near my work, not my house; I think I’m coming down with a cold; the dog ate my homework – but let’s stop here. Looking over my excuses (I mean, reasons), I see a couple of themes that are sadly familiar from my years of trying and failing to get in a groove of working out.

Procrastination: If I’d gone shopping last Saturday and then driven to the gym, the rest of the list wouldn’t exist. And putting things off for the sake of a holiday I don’t even like? Please.

Perfectionism: I do own a swimsuit. So what if it’s old and a little saggy? I have promised myself a new one, but I could have gone for one swim in this one. Also, I could have swum before the hair appointment, if I hadn’t been worried about smelling like chlorine when I got there.

Unrealistic planning: I knew I was overstuffing my imagined days off, but I just couldn’t stop thinking of all the things I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to feel restricted by a schedule, so I kept piling more things on. Even if it hadn’t snowed, I’m guessing, those days would have flown by without my quite getting to the gym.

Putting myself last: Maybe this one should come first. A lot of the other obstacles would melt away if I took my commitments to myself as seriously as I do those to other people.  I show up for work; I take care of my children. I think it’s time to start showing up for myself.

And also, just maybe, cut myself a little slack. I did meet my other goals. And I’m psyched to keep moving forward. Part of me worries that my goals are too small – but then I think about Kaizen and baby steps, and I remind myself that this is a yearlong project, not a January resolution that inevitably dies by March. Change is going to be slow, but I hope – no, I believe – that it’s that very slowness that will make it more likely to stick.

So, for this week, here’s my goal: Buy a swimsuit.

And for next week’s post, I pledge not just a swim but some hard-core fitness action as I move from taking one baby step at a time to toddling all the way across the room.

Readers, do these obstacles sound familiar? And have you found ways of getting past them? What else gets in your way?

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  • Whitney Davis

    Have you tried BJ Fogg’s tiny habits? I have done his weekly program for 2 weeks and though even the tiniest of habits are difficult for me, I have more hope about developing new behaviors than I did before.

  • Julie

    Louise, I credit you in part with getting me moving this week. I am proud of myself for getting up early every morning and riding 15 – 30 mins on exercise bike. On top of that started up again on my forsaken PT knee exercises. And I went on some indoor walks this week with work friend. However did get frustrated when there was no decrease on the scale. Hoping next week will show a little progress on that front. My goals for next week are to keep up the morning biking, continue with PT exercise & maybe try eating more veggies. Any tips you want to offer on how you (or others) add veggies to each meal?

  • Hilary

    Loving your blog and these conversations; we’re running (so to speak) on similar tracks. Looking forward to reading your pieces each week and getting inspired myself! My first baby-step: skip the elevators. A great idea that starts NOW.

  • On Health Coaching

    Great job Louise! The only thing “failing” does is make you learn a couple of things about yourself so you can try it a different way next time…so in a way a failure is a success :) You’ve learned (or remembered) that you sometimes procrastinate – so now you can anticipate that happening again going forward and make a plan for it. And maybe you’ll learn something then, too, and can gain some more information about yourself to apply forward…it’ a process. I would encourage you to make a Plan B, C and D. When looking at your week, how confident are you that you’re going to be able to purchase a swimsuit? What are some of the things that you can think of that might get in the way? Is there something you can do now to plan for that? Worst case scenario, if you haven’t purchased a swimsuit and there are only two days left in the week – what is something else you can do easily to get yourself moving and start feeling successful? What does that day look like so far – can you see any barriers on that day that might prevent you from some form of exercise? What are some things you can do now to make sure you have the free time/equipment you need then, so you can end the week with some success? Also, of course, spend a couple minutes mindfully visualizing what you’ll feel like when you check in with us again having purchased a swimsuit. What would you LOVE to be able to report about your progress, and what will writing about it feel like? What would finally having a swimsuit make possible for you going forward into the next week in terms of moving forward with your health goals? Go get em – I’m still cheering for you from Houston!

    • Louise Kennedy

      Thank you! And — spoiler alert — I bought a swimsuit this morning! I went to the gym (!!) to go on the treadmill, and then afterward I discovered that … my gym sells swimsuits, goggles and the required cap. Who knew? Doesn’t get much easier.
      So, tomorrow, into the pool. But thank you for suggesting plan B, C and D. Just in case. Because that is indeed how life works.
      More on all this next week!

  • eat_swim_read

    Order bathing suits online. Every possible body type, bra preference, fabric – available. Some online outlets have free returns or accept returns at stores of same name (Sears for Lands End, Eddie Bauer…)
    Swimming daily is narcotic. Try it, you will get hooked. {I never use goggles, you might not need them. Not a deal-breaker…}

    • Louise Kennedy

      Good to know about online — I di actually get one already, but if — I mean when — I get into this, I will need another, and I’ve always liked Lands End. Thanks for the reminder, and for the tip about goggles. I wear them because I don’t like taking out my contacts, but maybe it’s simpler just to do that and swim in a blur. Any votes out there?

      • eat_swim_read

        Oh, sheesh – ask your dr.!
        If you can’t see well, you might bonk your head at the end of a length, or not see your lap lane partner and crash.
        FYI – high cardio water aerobics and/or water walking classes are worth seeking out. You can really unleash, work hard and no impact.
        Don’t judge water exercise by super-slow therapy or seniors classes you may have glimpsed – that’s not what I mean.
        Worth seeking and trying a real water aerobics class, esp. in a pool with deep end.
        Don’t use the floater belt, and work with water bust high, not waist. More fun than laps, you can add weights if you want. Head not in the water the whole time. Gets your heart going much faster than endless laps..

        • Louise Kennedy

          I like the sound of that.
          And don’t worry — I can see something as large as another person! I just might not recognize the face from 20 feet away — not really an issue underwater.

  • Emily

    I could’ve written this!! I had two weeks off. I have a 9 month old who is still nursing and that necessitates a lot of sitting quietly, so that’s my excuse, haha, but seriously, 2 weeks off and I didn’t hit the treadmill that is in the spare bedroom once. I have zero excuse. I could go barefoot in pajamas except it gets chilly for my feet, and is walking barefoot really, truly all that great? (Yes, Internet, thank you, I know about barefoot marathons.) I’ve lost the baby weight, but when I got pregnant I was at the top of my range (due to an injury sustained while jogging without proper stretching/weight lifting)… oops, there’s another excuse.

    OK, so, I eat a lot of food and before pregnancy drank a few more beers than I should. But it’s mostly good, clean, homemade food… which is still a calorie overload. Time to start tracking again, although it’s tricky while nursing to figure out exactly what I need. I get faint if I don’t have those extra 500 calories they recommend, but I think sometimes I’m so tired I go over those 500 and end up overeating.

    Also, I’m having a time warp problem. Every time I turn around it’s later in the day/week/month/year than I thought it was. I have no idea where summer went. I have a lake around the corner from me. I have a baby, but I could’ve found moms in the area to swap childcare with while the moms went for a swim… but then it was September and time to go back to work. And today: holy carp, it’s Wednesday. What happened to Monday and Tuesday?

    • Louise Kennedy

      Emily, give yourself a break! You have a new baby, which means you have a new life — even if it’s not your first, this is a huge adjustment and you need time to settle in. That’s not an excuse, especially because you’ve already lost the baby weight. Also, as I dimly recall (my bio son is 16 and my 5-year-old daughter is adopted and was on bottles), you shouldn’t be trying to lose weight too fast while you’re still nursing. I’m NOT an expert, but it seems to me that if you just focus on eating good fresh food, sleeping whenever you can, and taking the baby out for a walk when it’s not so damn cold, you’ll be fine. Good luck — and congratulations!

  • Amy T

    How are you keeping track of how you’re doing against your goals? I’ve been looking for a way to track them — it seems like there should be a nice app out there — but I haven’t yet found something that works well for things like — 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 days this week. Any suggestions?

    • Sarah W. is a nice free tool to track progress.

      • Amy T

        Thanks for the tip, Sarah W.! I’ll check out joesgoals, as well.

    • Louise Kennedy

      Excellent question. I’ll check out “joesgoals” as Sarah W. mentions; meanwhile, I’ve just been doing it in my head — pretty easy with the small goals I have so far! — but clearly it would be helpful to have a tracking system. I’ll ask my coach tomorrow. Anyone else have tools that work well for you?

  • Amanda Nichols

    Here I was, moaning about finding excuses not to go to the gym when my husband- mister “I hate gyms” had an epiphany. My gym has a pool. He wants to swim. He went from “wants to swim” to doing it on a regular basis over the weekend. I fished out my swimsuit and said I’ll join him next week (seeing as I’ll have extra time). Having a buddy certainly helps (especially if that buddy is the one that makes the coffee in the morning).

    • Louise Kennedy

      That is excellent. Buddies are great!

      • Amanda Nichols

        Makes me feel a little less awkward about heading to the pool when the temperatures outside are so low!

  • DD

    I’ve been to this procrastination party and I liked it, for the most part.
    I mentally stuff my days off with so many things I need to do or want to do that last year I decided to make my “want/do list” only 3 items long, this way I ALWAYS finish it and usually get much more done or added to it. Hey, let’s face it, who doesn’t like to feel like an overachiever now and again?
    My new pedometer is great, for the most part… although sometimes I feel like it’s yelling at me…. “WHAT only 5000 steps today, you need to hit 10,000 to be considered active, MOVE IT.” It doesn’t actually talk (thankfully) but I do find myself obsessing about the #’s, which could be a temporary thing since it’s new. I do like that it motivates me to want to hit a number per day so I find myself taking extra steps:moving more while at my laptop, cooking, taking the stairs more at work, etc.
    This is how I am getting past my obstacles… and for the most part they are helping.

    I still struggle with procratination and I still think I have more time than I do (right now I should be giving my dog her sedation meds (crazy dog at the vet when getting nails clipped… CAH-RAY-ZEE!) and then getting ready BUT I’m not.

    Enjoy your swim!

    • Louise Kennedy

      Thanks DD — and hope the dog survives the nail clipping! I have a “3 things” list too — I keep it above my desk at work — and it does help me focus (when I remember to focus on it). When I do GTD (David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”), this also helps. But I think for those of us who like to do a lot of different things, focus will always be a challenge.

  • linda

    or maybe you just don’t really LIKE to swim. Perhaps walking is the way to go!

    • Louise Kennedy

      Hmm. Love the ocean, pool not so much. But it’s such good exercise, and I like it more than running…

  • Eneida

    Oh, just sounds so like me! When I realized( saturday)that No Way I could do all that I wanted to do … I did one thing ! I repaired a dool for my friend’s daughter( had promised long ago). Felt good about that and didn’t get mad at myself …
    Doing good with my veggies too!
    Stopped drinking coke all the time( had a few times)!
    No exercise…
    Louise, of course you NEED a new swimming suit!!
    You are doing great!
    By the way the beautiful pedicure inspired me to do the same!
    It’s all part of it, this little details.
    Thank you again for doing this

    • Louise Kennedy

      That is all awesome! And “just do one thing” is key, I think. It breaks the inertia – and look at you go!

  • Marie Burke Keyes

    You did get quite a bit done, regardless! The only way I am able to guarantee that I get my work out in is to make it happen before I start giving away little pieces of my day to other “more important” jobs, tasks, obligations, etc. I used to get up and go to the gym at 5:30 every day, and then head off to work. I haven’t done that in a long time, and 5:00 feels very early, but I am still getting up at 6 or 6:15 anyway, so the extra sleep I am getting is minimal at best. I think I have to make an adjustment to my “headset” so that I can view that early morning wake-up as a gift to myself; an hour just for me, before the rest of the the day starts nagging. Baby steps: set the alarm and maybe just get up at 5:00 every day for a week, then add in the trip to the gym the following week? Or add in a power walk around the ‘hood a few nights a week?

    • Louise Kennedy

      Yeah – I keep trying to get up early, but it is a struggle! I like the idea of making it a gift to myself. And hey – let’s go for a walk!

      • Marie Burke Keyes

        Yes, now that the deep freeze is over, let’s get out there!

  • Amy T

    I think there’s a lot to be said for what you *did* instead of what you intended to do. How great that you went for an extra walk! I love walking because it doesn’t have any of the set-up that other exercise requires.

    • Louise Kennedy

      Thank you! And that’s why I like it too. But I’m definitely going to have to step up my pace (and frequency) to get real benefits. Meanwhile, you’re right, I need to remind myself that I did, in fact, do most of what I said I’d do — and more than I’d done the week before.

      • Amy T

        Just make sure your walk includes lots of hills — that’ll up your heart rate! My husband’s trainer also reminded him that he can always do a little stair-stepping on real stairs, when he has a spare 10 minutes. (Personally, I like walking more)

        • Louise Kennedy

          That’s great — one babystep I’ve taken this week is to swear off the elevators at work — 2 floors in the garage, another 2 in the building itself. I felt lazy and “un-green” every time I took them, anyway, and it’s an easy way to add some steps.

  • Bella

    Funny that your goal isn’t “just go swimming in the old swim suit” but is another delaying tactic that threw you off last week.
    I am a big fan of baby steps. If I can’t get myself out for a walk, I’ll do push ups at the kitchen counter while waiting for water to boil, if I don’t make it to yoga, I’ll get on the floor before bed and stretch for a while. I try to at least do something.

    • Louise Kennedy

      Hmm, good point. So how about this: I’ll go swimming AND I’ll buy a new suit.
      And goggles.

  • David McKay Wilson

    I kept promising to ski over the weekend. There were freelance stories to write, clothes to wash, meals to cook for my boys. Then I was going to dance on SAturday night but decided to hang out in front of the fire with my boys. But here I am on Monday, feeling like a slug. Need to get out this week!

    • Louise Kennedy

      Me too! And I’m meeting my trainer tomorrow for a “fitness assessment.” Trying not to get anxious about that…
      And hello, you, by the way!