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Work, life, balance

“Just do it,” or “Stick to it”?

By Regina Waldrep (Posted March 26, 2020)

Editor’s Note: Looking for inspiration and tips regarding healthy lifestyles and fitness? SynTerra employees might have a bit of advice. This is a series that highlights members of our own team who are mastering the work-life balance challenge. Like me, I hope you will enjoy learning how a few of our peers are enjoying their free time – or making time to stay fit.

“Just do it” may be a clever slogan that sells running shoes, but is it good advice when it comes to adopting a healthy lifestyle? Apparently, science does not support America’s collective notion that all we have to do is make up our minds and just do it.

For Wendy Wood, author of Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes that Stick, willpower alone is not the answer. After listening to her interview with Shankar Vendantam on the podcast Hidden Brain, I can see why.

According to Wood, starting a new regime is one thing, sticking to it is another. She says that we need to develop good habits, and that takes repetition. It also requires eliminating choices. So, if you don’t want to eat the cake in the refrigerator, don’t put it there in the first place (now I want cake!).

I started 2020 with all good intentions of walking five times (20 miles) a week, cutting out pasta, and watching my portions. I am not thrilled to report that my walks have dropped to an inconsistent two to three per week (8 to 12 miles total) and that, just today, I had two servings of leftover pasta for lunch. Clearly, I’m a backslider!

Wood says motivation might be the first step, but research shows “good habits” are the key to making change stick. She suggests that we have to create obstacles to bad behaviors and establish routines that promote good habits. For example, if you plan to work out on Friday evenings, don’t drive past your favorite watering hole on the way home from work. Take the rec center route instead.

The research makes sense to me. To get with the program, get inspired, and get tips on developing good habits, I turned to my fit and active fellow employees for advice. What I found was inspirational, validating, and helpful.

This is the first in a series of profiles that I hope you find as encouraging as I did.

Charlie Bishop, civil engineer and track athlete (Lexington, Ky.) 

After high school, Charlie took a 37-year hiatus from track and field. But that changed after his wife, Catherine, attended the Kentucky Bluegrass State Games (an Olympic-style competition for all ages) and stumbled upon a group of women doing the shot put. Catherine started competing the following year and later won the event for her age category. “That’s when the hook was set,” Charlie said. Soon after, he decided to dust off his high school track shoes (a metaphor, of course).

Today, Charlie competes in the same track events that he did at 17 – the middle distance races (800 meters and 1,500 meters), javelin, and pole vault. He discovered that, if you look around, you will find clubs and organizations open to all ages and levels of competition for almost any sport.

Together, Charlie and Catherine have combined sports with adventure and have traveled to 25 states over the past 17 years to compete in National Senior Games Association (NSGA) and USA Track and Field (USATF) events.

I must say, as an accomplished engineer and track athlete, Charlie’s story was a bit intimidating at first. Then I asked him about his workout routine and whether he could remember what it was like when all of this was new for him.

Charlie told me that he works out, on average, a minimum of 1 hour three times a week. Waitthat’s what I do! He also said that if it was not for his commitment and investment in those competitions, he might not work out at all. I get that. Charlie’s goal is to “get to the event, enjoy it, and not get hurt.”

Finally, Charlie told me that it took nearly two months before he was able to run 100 meters without stopping to catch his breath. It took another six months before he could run a 5K. However, he said, “If you maintain your workouts and track your progress, you improve over time.” Charlie is faster today than when he started 17 years ago — at a younger age.

According to the Good Habits, Bad Habits research, Wood says it takes two to three months to form a simple habit. Charlie committed to and invested in his goal — the competition. He had to make changes to get to that first race. He established a routine he could maintain, and he’s still at it many years later. It stuck.

Charlie and Catherine live in Versailles, Ky. They have two children and two grandchildren. Charlie continues to set goals and work out so that he can show up to compete, safely. For him, it is all about maintenance to avoid injury — and the fun of it.

Charlie’s story taught me it’s never too late, commitments make us accountable, and realistic routines can turn into good habits that stick. Getting started on a fitness routine or new sport might be tough at first, but perseverance and planning pays off.

Talking to Charlie also showed me we don’t have to go far at SynTerra to find encouragement or inspiration. Stay tuned for more inspiring stories and tips from fellow employees regarding fitness, sports, and healthy lifestyle goals. Make it stick.