Motivational Poster: Your Days Are Numbered

A fond memory of watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with one of my best friends was that she’d pass along stuff from the internet fandom. On season two casualty Jenny Calendar: “Her days are numbered.” Ha. It’s funny because days on a calendar are numbered, and her time alive was limited. Humor!

Speaking of calendars and the relentless march of time toward the inevitable darkness of death despite all human machinations (be they best efforts or negligible effort), I made a motivational wall calendar for my workouts for the next 9 weeks out of a piece of art paper. I used the blank side of a large sheet of spendy art paper, on the other side of which I had drawn a dinosaur holding a tea party.

A crayon and ink drawing of a dinosaur holding a tea party.

Why I switched from an art major to a philosophy major in college is beyond me.

Why did I make a calendar? I needed a tool for positive reinforcement and accountability.

I wrote here recently about losing my motivation, the need to get back to the business of fitness, blah blah blah. My words rang hollow in my own ears as I sat at the computer night after night over the last two weeks, slowly mending from my cold, eating two helpings of my boyfriend’s excellent cooking on many nights, and doing my stretches less frequently than is good for me.

I had been adding comments every single day in Reddit’s 90 Days Goal daily threads, but my lack of work toward progress led me to miss a few days of valuable self accounting and community reinforcement. There were days I’d forget to post something, then have trouble coming up with anything to report in the thread.

I knew that not tracking my food and not holding my efforts up to scrutiny were not helpful, and not working out or stretching was not helping my shoulder heal. I knew I’d never add weightlifting back to my routine if I just kept going with the excuses, misremembering when I’d last worked out, and slipping back into a sedentary lifestyle. My shoulder’s condition could degrade if I don’t keep working on it; as much fun as it has been doing stretches twice a day and exercising several times a week since early August, I’d like to avoid needing to go through it again because of my own laziness.

A great reminder of how much work I’ve accomplished is my physical therapy workout notebook, which I keep in my home gym. Above the list of exercises that I check off one by one during my hour-long workouts, I always write the date. That helps to keep me honest about my slacking. It’s hard to ignore when the date is more than 3 days old the next time I use the notebook, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment to see the numbers so close together. I can thumb back through several pages and look back at what I’ve accomplished with a degree of pride.

Two pages of a notebook on which dated workouts are written and checked off

Workout notebook evolution: The musical! The...math problem?

The notebook inspired me to make a calendar, which would serve dual purpose of organizing my goals and providing positive reinforcement. Lamely, I took my sweet time getting it done, and meanwhile, I wound up taking nearly a week off physical activity with minimal stretching. I didn’t track my food much last week. While I usually ate sensibly during the day, that didn’t always carry over to the evenings. I tried not to go longer than 36 hours without doing a stretching routine, and even that level of effort was sometimes a struggle.

I’ve been very scrupulous about getting my own ass in gear since I made the calendar, however. Behold it in all its inspirational art-penned and highlighter-markered glory.

A wall calendar for November and December 2011 with workouts and reminders

Calendar of Motivation, Guilt and Positive Reinforcement.

On the blank, dinosaur-free side of the calendar, I wrote out a proposed workout routine that is meant to keep me busy for the rest of the year. I included reminders each week to weigh myself, measure myself, and photograph myself for Reddit’s 90 Days Goal Challenge. I hope to check off all my items and be able to proudly show off testaments of my progress to the internet during the last week of December.

Three physical therapy workouts every week, with pilates and outdoor walks sprinkled in for variety. In two weeks, I plan to return to the gym in my office building with my copy of the “New Rules of Lifting for Women” and a fresh spreadsheet. I hope to get through one weightlifting workout without wanting to die. It’s on the calendar; I have to at least try it, right?

I’ve done all my stretches, tracked my food, and worked out three times since I made the calendar three days ago. Like magic, it is. If it keeps me honest, this will be the way to go on subsequent challenges; I’m already mentally committed to signing up for the next round of 90 Days Goal. Even if I don’t wind up following through with that, I’ll make up another calendar to track my next two months of physical therapy workouts, which are not optional if I want to get better. I don’t have an end date to the therapy exercises, but I hope to be done with them, or have made enough progress on my shoulder, for my doctor to reevaluate my situation at my checkup in February and say, “Yep, you’re done.”

The only downside is that my next calendar likely won’t have a swank dinosaur on the back.

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One response to “Motivational Poster: Your Days Are Numbered

  1. Pingback: Accomplishment Ain’t the Finish Line | Treadmill of Sisyphus

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