Despite the inspirational words that come from motivational speakers and flashy Instagram quotes, sometimes you have to realize that certain fitness feats will never happen.
I accept, for example, that I will never be able to dunk a basketball, qualify for the Boston Marathon, or perform a king pigeon pose — no matter how much I want to or how much I try. I have too much baggage (mentally and posteriorly) to do so.
But where is the line between the possible and the impossible? How do you know what is just far enough out of reach that you think you can touch it, taste it and tackle it? When do you commit, engage and pursue something that both excites you and scares you?
After experiencing an equal-ish share of fitness failures and successes, I know that a journey toward a goal can go either way. So I am left wondering about my next quest. Could I conquer a previous defeat (I see you, Big Sur Marathon)? Could I make it through the 12.5-mile swim around Key West? Or could I, finally, be able to do one stinking chinup? Note: I can seamlessly perform dozens of chip-ups, especially when guac and/or queso is involved.
So when we think about fit and strong, we know that part of the equation is about preparing our muscles, our heart and our lungs. The other part, we all also know, is preparing our head, convincing ourselves that we can go somewhere we have never been and accepting that our bodies can be stronger than we believe — if we commit. If we take it one step at a time. If we cut back on the bourbon.
As we get older, perhaps our goals change, and we no longer need a symbolic Everest to climb. It is about living strong, with more energy, with more confidence and without feeling like a potato roll. And I think I am satisfied with that approach to fitness — trying to stay fit not to prepare for some arbitrary finish line, but to enjoy the stops along the way.
Still, I feel revved for another bigger test — perhaps one that seems impossible. I look at people around me — friends, people on my social media feed — redefining the impossible every day.
It has been a while since I have tasted that feeling, and I am ready to go back for another helping. That, I know, is something I can do pretty well.
Ted Spiker (@ProfSpiker) is the chair of the University of Florida department of journalism, as well as a health and fitness writer. He is the author of DOWN SIZE, a book about the science and soul of weight loss and dieting.