Start with a Single Step… Then Take Another One

July 17, 2017

A few months ago I returned to working out after a long absence, double-foot surgery and a year in which I basically took my health and handed it back on a platter.  It’s as if I said “No thanks, I don’t want good health, let me have anxiety-induced insomnia, too many carbs and glasses of wine and a giant bowl of cortisol-laced stress and let’s just see what happens.”

It wasn’t pretty.

It didn’t feel good.

It was a poor plan for the long run, it turns out.

So I made some massive changes and came back to what was – essentially – starting all over again.  I returned to my Crossfit program to do what I could do.  My goal was to just keep moving.  Day by day.  Week by week.

Is it hard?

You bet.

Like, really, really hard.

I’m so sore kind of hard.

Want to quit kind of hard.

I have this problem when I work out that I often can’t get out of my head.  There’s that little voice stuck in there that says, “This is too hard! It hurts! Stop!” And another annoying voice that accompanies the first that says, “You’re so bad at this!  You’re so slow!  Why are you even here?”

I ask participants of my storytelling workshops, “Who’s your narrator?”  If your narrator is anything like this annoying voice, it’s time to get a new one.

And so, in order to ignore those awful, unhelpful inward voices, I turned my attention outwards.  I’d try to stop thinking of my fatigue when we’d run the mile by looking around me.

And that’s when I saw her.

No, not another member of the class striding by at full speed as most seem to do, but an elderly woman walking with the help of both a walker and a companion aide.  She looked fragile, slightly stooped over, yet she was methodically putting one foot in front of the other.  Maybe she was rehabilitating from a surgery.  Maybe she just needed help to walk.  But she was there, moving down the block, one step at a time.

And I thought, “What am I complaining about?  I’m here and physically capable of pushing myself through this workout.  She’s here and doing the same despite how hard it must be for her.”

And I silenced those voices in my head and just kept moving.  Day by day.  Week by week.

Then, a really great thing happened.

The following month I noticed the woman out there again, making her way down the block, using her walker and methodically putting one foot in front of the other.  Except, there was no companion aide assisting her.  She was on her own.  Just her and her walker.  Day by day.  Week by week.

I got a little faster.  A little stronger.  Apparently so did she.

Just last week, I saw her walking again.  Something was different.  Something missing.  It took a moment to figure it out.

She was without her walker.  Her stride looked a little more secure, a little more purposeful.

She’s not breaking any time records but she’s out there, now on her own, walking that walk.  Still moving.

I don’t know who she is or her story.  But one of these days I will pull my slowest mile ever because I’m going to stop running so I can walk beside and talk to her.  I want tell her she inspires me.  I want to find out what motivates her to be out there every day.

But I think I know.

She just wants to get a little bit better. A little faster.  A little stronger.  Day by day.  Week by week.

It’s what I’m doing too.  At times, the improvement is hard to see, the pace glacial.  But I’m sticking with it because I know where I want to be and every step gets me a little closer.

You can too.  Just keep moving, one foot in front of the other.

What about you?  What are you putting off because it seems too hard?  What can you do a little bit of, day by day and week by week, to accomplish your goals?  Email Valerie at to share your story.

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