Recently, the Atlantic featured an article on the notion of “pointless goals”– challenges that don’t seem to make sense. Their canonical case is the guy who decided to walk all the way from Los Angeles to New York– wearing a bear suit. Which he did.
Larios said he did it sort of on impulse, although he ended up raising money for charities. It was quite hot inside the suit. But he said he met a lot of very nice people.
People do variations on this theme all the time. While riding the NYC Century (I did the 75-mile route), there were folks riding it on single speed bikes, folding bikes and even unicycles. One guy did the New York City triathlon on a BMX bike. And for the annual Halloween bike ride in Boston, there’s always that person riding the route in wheelie position.
This got me thinking: maybe Larios is on to something here. We are definitely in a challenge-oriented epoch. Many challenges confer a semblance of purpose: write a novel in a month, or try one new recipe or yoga pose or language lesson or book chapter every day for a month.
There are also the infamous 30-day fitness challenges. They seem to be focused on some (possibly bogus or even downright unhealthy) so-called wellness or fitness goal. We’ve all seen the plank, squat, abs, strength and other challenges. They tend to come in graphic box form with teeny-weeny print.
In a way, lots of goals we set are pointless. After all, what does it matter if we visit every state or province, or climb all the 4000-foot peaks in New Hampshire (a popular one where I live)? Or (as my niece seems on her way to doing), collecting all of the Squishmallow stuffed animals? Warning: clicking on the link may make you want to buy one. They’re totally adorable.
And yet. It feels kind of cool and fun to set and complete a pointless goal. I once (accidentally, it wasn’t a planned goal) rode a rental bike on the beach at the Atlantic Ocean and also the Pacific Ocean (different bikes, obvs) in the same week. Yeah!
Now that I’m on sabbatical and have more time to be out and about and also travel some, I’m shopping around for pointless fitness challenges. Here are some I have in mind:
1. Swim (or at least immerse myself) in all of the Great Lakes this fall. The hard ones are Superior and Michigan, but I *could* do the drive to Mackinaw, Michigan, and then up to Sault St. Marie. Why? Who knows. It just seems like a fun thing to do.
Uh oh. I just found this site by swimmers who dipped in all five great lakes in 24 hours. See? Once you get started, you have no sense of where to stop, and before you know it, you’re walking in a bear suit outside Iowa City, looking for a gas station restroom.
Maybe there’s a way to do this in a controlled manner. How about this pointless fitness goal., which I actually want to do:
2. Ride all of the Rail Trails in the Rail Trail Hall of Fame. Yes, this seems like a lot of fun. I’ve already ridden five of them. Only 31 to go. Honestly, some of these trails I’ve been salivating over for a while.
I’m in no hurry to complete this pointless goal; it seems too nice a goal to rush. And I want to include as many of my friends on bikes as possible on my quest.
3. Another swimming goal that lots of folks have done, but I haven’t (yet): swim in open water (fresh or salty) outside in nature every month starting, well, now (August). During the pandemic, loads of folks started wild swimming. Yes, some of our bloggers have been swimming wild and swimming cold for a long time. But it’s okay to come late to the party, right? The reason is simple: use this pointless act as a way to get me out in nature, really immersed in it (no pun intended).
By the way, I’m going to count January ocean swimming in South Carolina or Florida as having fulfilled that month’s immersion quota. Consider yourself notified.
Readers: I’m in need of inspirational suggestions. What sorts of pointless fitness goals are you actively involved in, or tried and completed, or want to do, or rejected after one day? I’d love to hear from you.