At this point, two-thirds of our February fitness challenge is in the rear-view mirror. Good work, everyone, for keeping up your efforts. We’re not quite at the finish line, but we’re definitely coming around the corner toward the home stretch.

Progress – at least, significant progress – usually requires moving toward a difficult or distant objective. Most of us can move a bit forward, or go a bit out of our comfort zone. Without some kind of long-term vision and commitment, though, the tendency is to stop our extra efforts and slide back to our baseline activity level. It’s easy! Because, over time, that baseline tends to move even lower.

This idea is sort of like the elusive perpetual-motion machine. Theoretically, once you’ve started a perpetual-motion machine, it continues to run without further input… forever. What we know is that a variety of factors impact all physical systems, and they gradually lose energy. Energy put into that system (or the machine) gets lost as some gets converted to things like heat or light and the motion cannot be maintained. Eventually, it will run down and stop.

I would argue that we function similarly to the machine, in that we tend to run down to a stop unless there is fresh energy put into us. Essentially, that energy is food. We are walking bio-chemistry experiments. Our bodies process the food we eat into a variety of components which provide, among other things, the energy we need to move. Our baseline food intake and activity level establish a sort of balance but, left to our own devices, we can easily become less and less active over time. As this happens, we start losing our agility, our strength, our endurance and even our coordination in small increments. The “use it or lose it” mantra comes to mind; an underutilized physical body loses functionality.

Try to stay aware of your activity level, relative to your typical activity level. If you are doing the same as (or less than) usual, you will probably experience some decline in your physical function. And if you maintain the same food intake as your activity level decreases – you can do the math: the excess energy will be nicely stored away in your “suitcase”.

My focus here is about keeping tabs on our activity level. For a fitness challenge like this one, I want us to become more aware of our physical wellness.  We should each think more about how active we are, how we might stretch ourselves and, ultimately, how we might actually reverse the natural trend toward reduced activity over time.

Reversing a natural tendency requires an investment of energy. It requires a restructuring of our daily routine, although this does not have to be drastic. Incremental changes and paying attention to our activity level can help us stay on track. Being more active at a level appropriate to our baseline physical condition should suspend or, hopefully, reverse our tendency toward system run-down.

Keep your chin up!  Only nine more days to go!