What are some activities (athletic or otherwise) that resemble the satisfying experience of training for a race?
September 12, 2012 7:08 AM   Subscribe

What are some activities (athletic or otherwise) that resemble the satisfying experience of training for a race?

I've been training for a 10K, and it's completely transformed how I think about exercise. Instead of slogging along for remote, slightly elusive reasons (heart-health, weight), my regular runs are meaningful because 1) they each contribute to the larger goal of being ready to race. I can visualize the event and the sensations of feeling strong and successful, and that helps motivate me through the discomfort of a given day's run. 2) I can see progress. I started early in the summer unable to run more than a mile, and now I can do upwards of four. Seeing measurable progress is exhilarating, and the process has been incremental and therefore manageable.

Now I'm curious. What other activities have you found that involve incremental steps where improvement is clear and measurable (and accessible to anyone who's willing to put in the time, not just those with special talent), and that culminate in some kind of rewarding ur-experience?

It can be anything (athletic, artistic, scholarly, domestic, technical, etc.). I'm looking for nitty gritty specifics, not just "learning to play the piano," since I can't visual the precise steps required to "learn the piano," nor what exactly qualifies as knowing how to play the piano.

Certain things leap to mind, like following a recipe, but I'm hoping for things that span some time. That said, I don't want to restrict the answers too much.

The important thing is that it involve fairly clear steps toward a rewarding finish.

Make sense? Thanks, guys.
posted by cymru_j to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I would think learning a new language would fit the bill.
Of course, my first thought was to learn how to play an instrument, but you already nixed that.

Here's a rough goal outline (which would probably differ a bit by language):

Step one: basic vocabulary
Step two: basic grammatical structure
Step three: basic reading ability
Step four: basic conversational ability
Step five: reading and conversational competency
Step six: writing ability
Goal: fluency
posted by phunniemee at 7:12 AM on September 12, 2012

Response by poster: Phunniemee, I'm definitely not opposed to learn an instrument. I'm just hoping for ideas that are extremely concrete. Your breakdown of language acquisition is thought-provoking--thanks!
posted by cymru_j at 7:21 AM on September 12, 2012

I may be rephrasing what you've already said, I think part of it is have a medium-term goal that you're committed to and explicitly tracking the steps and progress. In terms of a language, I guess it could be numbers of known words, but I suspect the steps there are less concrete than you might be looking for.

Learning a programming language for a specific project can be like this if you know what those intermediate accomplishments might be...although as I think about it, such things are never finished :-)
posted by idb at 7:57 AM on September 12, 2012

Best answer: I recently did something like this with baking. I took a basic quick bread recipe and cooked it a bunch of times, then started riffing on it with different grains, spices and flavorings. Now I have one solid recipe I can bake for any situation -- I can make it fancy (almond peach) or super fancy (triple almond) or unusual (cardamom peanut) or every day (banana bread) or cheap (fruit cocktail). I learned so much about what works and what doesn't work, in terms of the basics of baking (how things rise, how much I can vary the ratio of grain to leaven, what kinds of grains will work, how much salt is necessary, what kinds of liquids I can use, how different amounts of fat affect the crumb, etc.) and how flavors work together (the above cardamom peanut was an eye-opener).

As I worked through the variations, I could see real progress as I learned, some of the changes were incremental, and I had some break throughs.

I'm about to start the same thing with a basic cookie recipe.
posted by OrangeDisk at 8:24 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

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