The post first appeared on my sister’s blog:


Each year for the past few years, when I visit my grandfather, he hands me a stack of calendars telling me to pick a few to take with me. Often this visit is the last of a series of stops on my winter holiday tour around the USA. The calendars advertise more or less obviously a smorgasbord of humanitarian and non-profit organizations to which my grandfather donates. Since he is very generous, there is always a large stack, and only some of them are very appealing. Nevertheless every year, I take some back with me. Not wanting to broadcast an affiliation to most of these organizations, I am always left with the challenge of finding a home for each one of them. I quickly learned that giving a calendar full of wolf pictures to my Valaisan (a swiss canton will lots of sheep herders) colleagues would result in them bringing their guns to work, so I had to think outside the norm.

A calendar where?

A calendar where?

A few years back (2012?), I hung one in my bathroom, right next to the toilet. The consequences of this were far greater than anything I could have ever predicted. I started out just writing what sports activity I had done that day. Then I developed a very simple point system corresponding to my different activities, and keeping a weekly tally. For example a yoga class is a half point, biking to Lausanne (400 m climb) is a quarter point, a one hour run is one point, climbing after work is one point, a hike is one point, a swim workout is one point, but a lazy swim is only half a point, an all day ski tour is two points, and mountaineering is two points per day (or about one point per 1000 m elevation gain). I do not count my daily bike ride or walking up the stairs, since that has been part of my lifestyle for a long time, but one could.

imageMy weekly sums started out at about 3 points and as I began to aspire to getting in shape, I increased them to 4, 5, and even 8 points per week. My goal was always to hold my weekly sum for a few weeks and then go up one point. Although, when I reached 8 points, I noticed that I needed a day of rest. I started noting “R” for rest days, so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about missing a day (and even required it), “S” for sick days, and “T” for travel days. When I was in the throes of dissertation writing, I started noting “L” for working late as a way to reward myself for all the extra hours that I was putting into finishing. Now that it is for the most part in my past, and I’m trying to heal my body and soul from the  full-time computer-time lifestyle, I have returned to a purely sports calendar with a few side notes for other things going on in my life.

I realize that there is a multitude of apps and techniques out there to help you quantify and track everything, specifically sports in your life, but here are some reasons why this system works well for me:

1. It allows me to translate all of my diverse activities in a single “currency”. Cross training, if you want to call it that, is so much more fun for me and leaves me less injured and more motivated than single sport training.  However, it can be frustrating because it makes it harder to observe progress in any one sport.

2. Weekly sums and a monthly overview are good timescales for improvement. When I focused on daily goals, I was getting injured more frequently and  beating myself up for missing any single day.  Both of which were discouraging, and it did not lead to long-term lifestyle change. On the other hand, seasonal or yearly goals are hard for me to maintain as a priority.

3. Writing down what I did as opposed to what I plan to do is an important distinction.  While there is a place for both in my goal setting, I feel much more satisfaction looking at a sketch of the former than the latter.

4. I can flip back and track my change over the last years, which is the best motivator of all.

5. Putting the calendar by my toilet made it unavoidable.

Maybe this technique will inspire one of you! Good luck!

– Natalie “big sis” Ceperley.

I am 33 and work as an ecohydrologist in Lausanne, Switzerland. I enjoy most mountain sports, water sports, and “transportation” sports and have occasionally been known to dabble in “mat” sports (yoga and capoeira). However, in contrast to my “lil’ sis”, I am not a big fan of ball, field, and goal sports of most varieties. My next post will be something like “intrepid to whom? – extreme adventure is in the eye of the beholder”.