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Janathon Day 12 Incrementalism

The streak may be over but the quest for marathon fitness continues.

I MAY get out for a short run today or to the gym. I already did 35 squats while watching Fareed Zakaria GPS. this morning. Now I just need 45 more, 40 lunges, 40 backward lunges and someplace in the house I can do 30 burpees. That one could be difficult.

Party time in Melrose, 02176

Last night The Melrose Running Club held their annual holiday party. We like to do it after the first of the year. Everyone is too busy in December and still adding miles to their yearly total. It’s also fun to have an excuse to party in January when everyone has the blahs.

We had the Knights of Columbus Hall, where MRC is based out of. We had the running DJ Mike Hartin playing a variety of tunes. None of which were wedding classics like Sinatra, Songs your Grandmother used to sing, or The Electric Slide. Across the parking lot the American Legion was having their own party with a live band. They were pretty good.

As I took items back to my car in the parking lot, I could hear the music from the two venues echoing off of the buildings. It was odd to be in a party environment like that in Melrose. New Orleans or Boston, maybe. Not Melrose.

I’ve been with the club for six years now. In 2011 I had the most PRs of any male runner in the club: Five. They gave me a nice trophy and I was totally shocked. We track all kinds of running stats for all of our members and post them on our website. I never really paid much attention to the numbers until I won the award in 2011.

It’s really just for fun, but people do compete and keep an eye on their ranking. In 2013 I was training for The Baystate Marathon. I managed a PR finish at 3:47. Along the way to Lowell, I racked up 7 other PRs and two 3rd in my age group finishes.

Achieving eight new PRs and the two 3rd place finishes just blew my mind. Where was this coming from? How was I doing this? Several people asked me this question throughout the year. I never had a good answer and often said “It’s the shoes” after I started running in the Newton “Sir Isaacs”.

In my “2103 in Review” post I recounted how a friend recently asked me the same question. What are you doing differently? Us old guys are supposed to be slowing down. As I told him “not much” and listed out the half-dozen or so things I changed in 2013 it dawned on me that I fell back on an old habit of mine.


I’m as lazy as the next guy or gal. Big changes are difficult for me and difficult to sustain. I avoid big changes. I’m an incrementalist. Spell check doesn’t like that word, so I guess I can TM it. Being an incrementalist means that I like to make change a little bit at a time. I make a small change here or there. I didn’t quit eating meat, but I did stop eating cold cuts. I ran more miles in 2013 but I did it by running more consistently. No Ultra Marathons for me. There were other small changes that were easy to make.

The reasons New Year’s resolution’s have such a high failure rate is that people often make grand gestures. Sometimes they make resolutions early in December when their commitment is weeks away. Sometimes they make these grand gestures with a drink in one hand and a cocktail shrimp in the other at a New Year’s Eve party. Ca-razy!

The other reason these resolutions fail is that humans are essentially lazy. Even you, my dear reader, are essentially a lazy ass. I’m the biggest lazy ass of them all. That’s why I do not make big resolutions.

Making incremental changes over the course of 2013 I was able to run faster. I was able to run faster relative to my peers, and that is what I find amazing. They don’t give out medals for moving from 60% to 40% in the brackets. If you get a PR doing it, than it is dooly noted. Otherwise, moving up in your age group is noticed by no one but your self.

The Male 40-45 or 40-50 is an incredibly competitive bracket. I have finished races in the top 20% overall but in the top third in my bracket, or lower. Even in this very competitive group I have managed to move into the top third in my bracket at most races.

Runners make small changes to their routines all the time. We try a new shoe and see how it works. We try a new food or drink and see how it works. We know not to change five things at the same time and we know not to make changes on race day. We runners are all incrementalists.

I’m an incrementalist, and so can you!

While runners can be incredibly focused and goal oriented, I think incrementalism can work for anyone pursuing a goal.

  • Did you resolve to exercise in 2014?
  • What can you do today or tomorrow at work to take a step in the right direction?
  • Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator?
  • Can you park your car at the far end of the lot?
  • Can you walk to the next bus stop, or get off the bus or train at an earlier stop?

If you resolved to lose weight, have you started a food journal? Go stick a little note-book in your bag or purse right now. Or download an app to your smart phone. Don’t quit eating pizza, just eat one slice less. Maybe throw away the left over pizza, or get plain cheese instead of double sausage.

Small change over time adds up to big results in the long run.

Run well my friends!


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