I surprised myself the other day while running on a treadmill. I have always thought of the treadmill as a metaphor for people who are stuck in the rut of working too hard and they can’t stop. It finally dawned on me: I can get on or off a treadmill any time AND I can choose how hard I work.
The treadmill is a wonderful metaphor for choice in our world. Whether thinking of the treadmill in the gym for humans, or the treadmill in the hampster cage, the same principles apply for physical fitness or my work/life fitness. They also apply to a community’s fitness:
- I choose how fast, slow or steep I go. If the going is too slow or too fast, I can adjust. I can slow to a walking pace to relax, or I can bump up the pace to meet the needs of the moment. I am not required go full tilt all the time. I am also not required to slack. The choice is mine.
- I choose how hard to work. I make decisions about how fast or how steep the work is, in alignment with my fitness goals. I recognize that if I work hard and fast all the time, I will not last as long as if I work hard and fast with breaks to slow down.
- I choose when to get on or off the treadmill. When I want a good workout, or even a steady pace, I get on the treadmill. When I have had enough, I choose to get off and go for a snack.
- I choose to seek feedback about myself. As I work, I can seek feedback about the toll the work is taking on me. I can take my pulse, or use the heart-rate monitor on the treadmill, to see if my work is too hard or too easy for my fitness goals. By welcoming feedback – especially from my own body – I will make better choices for me. If I don’t seek feedback, the treadmill may just throw me off.
- To make the right choices for me, I need to have goals in mind. How fast, how hard, how steep, and when to get on/off are all connected to my fitness goals. Is there a big event I am ramping up for that requires harder work for a length of time? Will I need to allow myself a break after that? Are there other things happening in life that mean I should slow down? My choices and feedback are intertwined – my goals will determine the feedback I will seek, and the feedback may alter my goals in turn.
- I choose the role a treadmill will play in my life. What are my fitness goals for my work life? What sort of workout do I need at this moment? How does this workout relate to by bigger goals further off in the distance – will it help me get there, or just tire me out?
- (Note: running faster on the treadmill will not get me off the treadmill.)
The bottom line is this – while on a treadmill, I have a choice about how hard and how long I work. I can also make choices aligned with my goals and intentions. These principles apply to anyone, any organization or community: intention around pace, intensity, feedback, goals.
It’s up to me to do what I need to do to suit myself.
It’s up to us to do what we need to do to suit ourselves.