I ended my last post with a saying: everyday better. Notice it doesn’t say “everyday best.” That’s an important distinction. Trying to be the best at something may be too much to bite off at once. I’m not saying that you should never try to be the best; but for most of us, being the best isn’t in the cards for us today, tomorrow, or even a year from now. But will you be better at the end of today? The end of tomorrow? A year from now? Damn straight.
When I was a kid growing up, all my friends used to skateboard and inline skate (I grew up in the 80s and 90s when rollerblading was cool), and while I did those things, I wasn’t very good at them. What it really came down to was the fact that I was scared of falling — I hated it. Who likes to wipe out on pavement? No one, that’s who. But there was this huge hill one street away from my parent’s house that was not just steep; it was STEEP (Queen Anne hill in Seattle steep). And all my friends could ride their boards from the top all the way down. I could not. I was too scared of falling off going that fast, and for good reason, as I was pretty sure I would die. I couldn’t even ride my skateboard down my own driveway, which wasn’t even half as steep. I was a total wimp.
One day my dad saw me all padded up (knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, shin guards, and helmet) standing at the top of the driveway, and he could see the look of determination in my eyes. He came over, grabbed my skateboard and walked me to the bottom of the driveway (12 inches from the bottom, to be exact) and asked, “Can you start here?” I thought it was a joke. “Of course,” I said and proceeded to show him. He made me do it five times from the exact same spot. Then he moved my skateboard up the hill 12 more inches. “How about here?” he asked. Once again he made me do it five times. And so went my afternoon; skateboarding down the driveway, 12 inches at a time. Within a few hours I was cruising down the entire driveway feeing completely comfortable. The next day I was so excited I decided to put the same theory into practice on the BIG hill. I told myself that I would move my skateboard up the hill 12 inches at a time and keep it at that height until I felt comfortable. Two weeks later I was bombing the hill with my friends.
That is what being “everyday better” is all about. It’s about focusing on the small things you can do right now. Don’t look at the top of the hill where things seem impossible, but start where you are comfortable and move up 12 inches at a time. When I started working out and attempted my run to the end of the block, I grabbed a stick and marked how far I got. Everyday my goal was to run farther than the stick and then move it to mark my new PR. Some days I didn’t make it to the stick, some days I only passed it by a foot or two, and some days I crushed it and would run 10 feet past the stick. But eventually that stick was really far away from where I started.
There are so many ways we can practice being everyday better. We can park farther away when we go grocery shopping, take the stairs instead of the escalator, grab a bag of nuts instead of chips when we’re at the convenience store, or try something new that we’re a little bit scared about. (It doesn’t apply to health and fitness alone. Have you been wanting to learn how to paint? Get your real estate license? Start a business? Twelve inches at a time. Everyday better.)
The fun part is that if you start making choices to improve yourself, it will absolutely rub off on your friends, your coworkers, your spouse, and even your kids. When it comes to your health, if you’re not practicing this already or you need help getting started, I am launching the Everyday Better Project.
(The Everyday Better Project is intended for people new to working out.)