Why Fitness is Like the Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail FitnessIn recent years people have been referring to their newfound passion for health and wellness as their “fitness journey.”  While I’m admittedly a chronic eye roller, that title elicited a full circle. However, upon further reflection, making health-related lifestyle changes is kind of like traveling the Oregon Trail. And I don’t mean like some modern day Facebook game with fancy graphics, I mean the gritty, pixelated, early 1990s big bulky PC game.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that I’ve lost my mind. I confess, this thought occurred to me during leg day and I was probably all kinds of delirious, but bear with me. I’ll explain.



You Need a Solid Starting Strategy

Before you start your cross-country pilgrimage, you need to plan for the journey ahead. You need to weigh the benefits of being a doctor or a banker. You need to allocate your funds and buy the right supplies. Do you really need two spare axles or should you buy some extra winter clothes, just in case? You can’t spend all your money on ammo and limit your amount of oxen. What’s the best combination of goods for a successful journey? Where should you invest your limited means?

You can apply the same mentality to fitness. Where should you invest your time and money? Which is the best strategy for your journey? Do you want to start running or powerlifting? Can you allocate your means to do a little of each? How much time can you dedicate each week? Which gym can you afford? What are the trade-offs you have to make to ensure success? How much healthy food is in your wagon? Starting out on the right foot can make or break your adventure. It can be completely overwhelming, just like when that little 2D shopkeeper is staring at you from your computer screen.


You Only Control Actions, not Outcomes

This is an important fact that we often overlook in goal-setting and planning, not only in fitness but all aspects of life. In The Oregon Trail, you can invest your money wisely, travel at an easy pace, and be seemingly prepared for anything the game will throw at you. Then, all of a sudden the wagon tips over in a river, Timmy catches pneumonia, and a band of robbers takes all your flour. You did everything you could to prepare, but the game throws you a curve ball.

You can see where I’m going with this right?

In fitness, you can train, you can eat well, you can be a textbook-following, apple-bringing, teacher’s pet of health and wellness. Then life happens. Your child stops sleeping through the night. You get sick or sustain an injury that sets you back just weeks before a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu tournament.

You fall off the wagon.

As frustrating as it seems, that’s just how the world works. You need to fight to get over your feeling of failure and get back on the wagon. Make it to the next settlement and regroup. Keep moving forward.


You can Circle the Wagons

Sometimes your little computerized pilgrims have a stroke of luck: they run into another band of travelers. They can choose to circle the wagons for a night, have a little party, and forget about the darkness around them. They might even find someone to barter with so they can get some more winter clothes for poor pneumonia-ridden Timmy (who also has dysentery now).

Find your people. Seek out your band of fellow travelers. Find a group of individuals on the same pilgrimage as you and circle your wagons against the night. Having a group of friends or support system with similar goals and interests can help make your journey a little smoother. You can decide who to add to your camp: an online interest group, friends at the gym, a nutrition coach, a sports physiotherapist, whoever you want. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone new and barter support.


Like Finishing the Oregon Trail, it’s Worth it in the End

There’s no feeling like reaching a goal. You look back behind you and see how far you’ve come and can’t help but feeling tremendously successful.  You’ll roll into Oregon City like a boss, get a nice patch of land and build on the goal you’ve just accomplished.

You may have struggled, and you may have felt like stopping. Timmy might have died of dysentery, but here you are!

Of course, the main difference between the Oregon Trail and real life fitness journeys is that you don’t have to stop at Oregon City. You can rest, reset and push on for Alaska if you so desire. That’s the only difference.

That and years of technological advancements I suppose.  Poor Timmy.