Perseverance is not a long race;it is many short races, one right after another. Sir Walter Elliot

What can a nineteenth century naturalist say to present day people involved in fitness? Perhaps that our passion–fitness– should not be seen as one long interminable race, but rather a series of short ones. After all, Sir Walter did not become a distinguished naturalist by just staying at the same thing for his entire life.

One of the problems with Sir Walter is that he has a knighthood, That puts him in a different league–something egalitarians do not want to think about. Too often, when someone like this says anything, we wonder if he has any idea of what (we) commoners go through. But is this really fair?

We all know that fitness, like any thing else worthwhile, requires daily effort. That may seem much easier when it comes to someone like Sir Walter. After all, does a Knight of the Realm really know what it is like to commute, sit at a desk for eight to ten hours and get expected to do things which seem impossible, only return home to take care of the kids? Yet, he was distinguished in his field and that suggests the overcoming of obstacles. So, there must be some truth in what he says.Where might that be?

On the one hand, until we have been at fitness for quite some time, doing our daily workouts, never missing our supplements, always keeping with a gluten-free diet can feel like a fifty mile race with a finish line that keeps moving ahead of us. That can make most of us quit before we even start. Could Sir Walter be trying to spare us from something like that?

On the other hand, there is some merit in thinking of fitness as a long term proposition. Too many times, we get into merely attaining a particular goal. After that we can get back on with  our lives. This is one of the chief causes of the yo-yo phenomenon, which happens after doing what the doctor said–namely lose fifty pounds to avoid diabetes. Right after we are out of the danger zone, we think we can go back to being normal.Surely the distinguished naturalist cannot be leading us down a path like this.


Perhaps Sir Walter is ultimately saying that we need something more vital than mere long term goal orientation. To be sure, like he was committed to science, we need a life long commitment to fitness.  But he thought in terms of the day to day instead of merely hanging in there until retirement. That was how he became outstanding–how he remained fresh and relevant. This is why he talks about many short races.

That type of thinking has a much more enlivening effect during the short term. When each day is a race between our fitness self and our American good life self we have the opportunity of being victorious at doing the new right things. That is winning in spite of everything inside–everything (never excluding the adult and mature) which seems to be against us. It means getting to the club even though other things seem more pressing. It means buying those supplements even when times are hard. It means eating  healthy meals even when real food seems so much more socially appropriate.

A fitness lifestyle gets us feeling the way we want. This is the best reason for always staying at it.That is true whether we are unemployed, desperately looking for work, or retired. But it must be done everyday– the same as the brushing of our teeth.

Most of us know that this is true. That is why we go to the club, buy our vitamins and never deviate from a low fat low sugar diet.Yet,until we have been at this for a very long time, it is no easy matter. We feel we are always competing against the tried and true–that is, mom’s three square meals a day, crashing in front of the tube after a long day, and staying clear of the pills we are not supposed to need.

We simply must beat that competitor each day.There is no other answer. We simply cannot be beaten by an opponent who reminds us of an unfinished project when we should be putting out;  save the money instead of spending it on the supplements;  eat like everyone else to keep from appearing odd.

The alternative is succumbing, thereby losing the race to this internal American good life competitor. What is so bad about that? Nothing, really. American healthiness will probably get us through to our nineties. Furthermore, coming in second may even get us the dubious distinction of being a normal good Joe or Joanne. After all, that is the way all of our friends and relatives are; and they are important. But, it will never get us into a whole other league like Sir Walter.

The good news is that we always can win if only we work at it–if only we persevere. The better news is that it actually becomes far easier if we limit our focus to one daily race at a time.

For further  thought on fitness perseverance order my e-book  “Think and Grow Fit.”
Obese 45 years ago; state champion power lifter 1978; in better shape today at 61 than when on swim team in high schoolhttp://www.foreverfitness.info
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