I’m not very athletic. This doesn’t feel like a confession, because it’s pretty apparent. I’m not physically unhealthy, but I worked a desk job for seven years and never got enough exercise. That began to change in January of this year when I decided to swim daily. I wanted to lose a little weight (mostly gained between Halloween, Christmas and New Years), I really enjoy swimming and I had some time available during the day.
My enjoyment of swimming led me to start thinking about participating in a sprint class triathlon that my relatives have done in the past. The event includes a 500 metre swim, a 15 km bike ride and a 5 km run. I’m not sure why the triathlon appealed to me. I really enjoy swimming and I enjoy cycling, but I don’t like to run. Still, I can’t complete a triathlon without running.
When I was swimming for enjoyment, I worked on improving my form and my endurance. It became apparent that it would take quite a bit of work for me to reach my goals. At first, I could only swim one lap (25 m) before stopping to catch my breath. I soon extended that to 50 m and became comfortable with bilateral breathing. A few weeks ago, I was able to swim 275 m before I had to stop and rest. Now that I’ve been swimming for over four months, I am finally able to swim 500 m comfortably (in about 11 minutes).
I realized that the biking and running are going to take a more concerted effort. When I started running, I would run two laps (100 m), then walk one lap. After two weeks of that, I pushed on to alternating three laps of running with one lap of walking. However, my effort was inconsistent.
As the event approached, I found a 10 week training schedule that I adopted. The schedule began by alternating between activities (swim, run, bike) for increasing lengths of time. More recently, my training combines activities (swim then bike, bike then run, swim then run) for a few days, followed by a long bike and a long run. I surprised myself last weekend by being able to run for an hour (and cover 9 km). I’m beginning to feel confident that not only will I complete the triathlon, but finish in a time to be proud of.
The only reason I’m able to push myself to keep biking when I’m tired and it hurts, or to keep running when I’m bored and I’m not having fun, is because there is a definite end point and a specific time goal (1:20:00). I know that I need to be ready by June 2, which will arrive whether I train or not. It’s also clear that I’m now able to do things that I couldn’t before.
That’s the premise of having a financial plan. Most people would rather spend now, besides which saving money isn’t fun. But with an end date, the sacrifice won’t go on forever. The nearer the end date is, the more motivating. Life if full of surprises, which will impact a financial plan. But having a plan isn’t meant to regulate events, it’s meant to motivate. If your goal is meaningful to you, such as “be able to quit this lousy job,” “have much more leisure time,” or “devote more time to family, friends and community”, and if you can see the progress that you are making (little by little) toward your goal, it should motivate you to do whatever you need to (buy insurance, save, invest, look for other work) to make your financial plan successful.