A few days ago I wrote a post for my wife's and my 31st anniversary; thanks for all the kind remarks on Facebook. Dorothy liked it too, though I forgot to print it out for her; it counts as a card. Lame, yeah. Plus she pointed out a couple things I missed, including the fact that the first backpacking trip I took her on had us hiking 28 miles over several mountains.

I've done that sort of over-reaching a lot to her and the kids. A couple years ago, when she wanted to firm up her belly, I suggested she start doing Beachbody's Slim in Six workout. "And after you do that," I said, "you'll be ready for RevAbs." That's another Beachbody workout. "And then you can work up to Insanity."

The Slim in Six DVDs gathered dust for weeks after they came. I had failed to ratchet.

Ratchets are among my favorite goal-setting tools. I'm basically going to ratchet my way up Mount Moosilauke this summer. You know what a ratchet is, right? (I'm not talking about the street slang "ratchet" or Nurse Ratched. Focus, people!) A ratchet is a gear with teeth and a finger that keeps the thing from moving backward. The thing only goes forward. 

The ratchet way to train or lose weight means doing something new, then resting a bit, then moving forward. Ratchet and click. Ratchet and click.

Let's look at a few kinds of ratchets. Some may seem familiar if you've been reading about the Tortoise Method.

Goals Ratchet: Spend five days figuring out what you want your body to do in the next six months. (Ratchet.) Then write it down and spend two days not thinking about it. (Click.) This gives your mind time to reset without getting freaked out.

Time Ratchet: Eliminate an hour of television for a week. (Ratchet.) Do some sort of quiet relaxation instead. (Click). Next week, go to bed an hour early. The week after that, start getting up an hour early. (Ratchet, ratchet, ratchet.) Don't work out at first. Read or go for a walk. (Click.)

Food Ratchet: Drink a highly nutritious smoothie for breakfast. I do Shakeology, which is the best easy nutrition I've found. (Non-disclaimer: I don't make money hawking it, but can get you a steep discount if you contact me.) That's a great ratchet because you can start losing weight on Shakeology alone, before you start working out. Next ratchet: dial in your nutrition for lunch and making it your big meal of the day. Next ratchet: smoothie or fruit or dinner. Clicks: good snacking. I'm a big fan of figs. They taste like Fig Newtons and are packed with calcium and potassium. I also like dried mangoes: vitamin C and an almost alarming amount of fiber. Future posts will talk more about snack ratcheting. (Snack Ratchet would also make an excellent band name.)

Exercise Ratchet: First order a your workouts and get the proper shoes and gear. No running shoes for indoor workouts. They'll injure you. Get Cross-Fit or aerobic style shoes without too much padding. Then admire your purchases for a few days to a week. (Click.) Now, using that early morning hour, get up, load the DVD, and push play. Do your best, as P90X guru Tony Horton says, and forget the rest. (Click.) An indoor workout makes an excellent ratchet even if you're already an athlete. I used P90X and Insanity to prepare me to run. The intensity of those workouts make my running seem less intense. What used to seem hard seems easy. And now when I push hard I do better. Click, ratchet.

If you're someone like Dorothy, you can ratchet your way through the workouts. She finally started doing Slim in Six, then worked her way up to Rev Abs and, yes, Insanity. And she still plays outside and goes on hikes. She's a monster on the trail.

Ratchets can help you reset your whole attitude. A small piece of dark chocolate seems seem like a big treat to me. Fitting the size pants I wore in college seem normal. And mountains are starting to seem like hills.

Right, Dorothy?