For most of us, choosing to be fit is more a test of will than a one time decision. Being “fit” covers a change in our lifestyle much more than just embarking upon a new exercise or diet program. For me, the choice came about 15 years ago. I was about 24 years old when friends of mine convinced me to start going to the gym as a group. At that time, I knew I didn’t really like the way I looked, so i thought it would be a good idea. How hard could it be? Well, it didn’t take long before I knew the answer to that question. And to tell you the truth, at that time my workouts were not that difficult. But getting up at 5am to be at the gym by 5: 30, certainly was, Also, since there were 4 of us and only 1 really knew what he was doing, the workouts were Very long. Too long when you mix in the water cooler talk that often took over some workouts.
So, after trying this approach for about 3 fitness facility weeks I still wasn’t motivated nor did I look forward to working out and was about to quit. As luck would have it for me, 2 guys in the group beat me to it, leaving just myself and the only person who knew anything about working out correctly at that time. That changed everything.
With just 2 of us now, we were much more focused and I got some really good coaching on the basics. After a month of 1-1 time, we started increasing the intensity of the workouts and mixing in some really fun cycle classes. Somewhere within the next month, I saw a change. Not just in my appearance, but my outlook and attitude were all effected. At that point, I was hooked. I worked out consistently at the gym 5 times a week incorporating cardio, running and weights. I looked and felt good thinking this would always be my way of life.
And it was, until about 5 years ago. In 2007, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and turned my life upside down. I quickly lost interest in many of my normal activities including fitness. During the next 2 years, I really let myself go and didn’t much care to get back into the swing of things. A major life changing event will do this to a person, and I was no exception. My wife became really concerned about my decline in fitness and began encouraging me to get back into it. I tried but absolutely could not get motivated. After much research and a hard look in the mirror, I was able to pull back the self discipline I once had. It was not easy, and it took a lot of planning and hard work. So, today, I want to share what helped me conquer my fitness demons. Hope these help you.
The reason I’m giving so much background of my personal fitness experience is to show that each of us will struggle in different ways with choosing fit. Lifetime fitness really isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. We all have different situations that initiate our interest of getting in shape, keeping us motivated and sustaining the lifestyle for the long term. However, I do believe there are some common practices we can all adopt to help us overcome obstacles at any of these stages and become an improved, healthier and fit person.
Aim for some quick results. Everyone wants this, but it is key to see some quick results early on so that the momentum of starting the program does not dwindle. Losing a pound or two, dropping a pant size, completing a workout without stopping, whatever makes you feel good. Be realistic about this, but have something you shoot for so you can taste success and drive you to continue.
Read about being fit. This is truly a big motivator as it shows you success stories and gives a lot of ideas about achieving goals. So take the time to read a magazine or internet article about your favorite exercise, or healthy food. You’ll be surprised how engaged you may quickly become.
Get the sweat flowing. For me, a workout that doesn’t do this leaves me somewhat empty. Getting your heart rate up (and sweating) activates all of the key things that makes exercise so effective. It burns calories, strengthen the heart and cardio system, and releases endorphins in the brain that make you feel great. You’ll see!
Never settle – Set, Reset and Reset your PB (Personal Best). Constantly challenging your last record is an awesome way to stay in the game. Run that mile faster, go longer, extra reps, extra sets, higher jumps, deeper lunges, better form. The list can go on and on. You can be your best competition and there’s nothing like competition to motivate the heart and soul. So kick your own butt! You’ll enjoy it.
Do what you can! We all have limits and quite often use them as excuses that interfere with our fitness routines. Time, stress, aches, and tiredness all contribute to our justification to digress or completely stop a program. Don’t let that happen. If you find yourself giving in to one of these temptations, try to at least do something. Convince yourself you can at least do 1/2 or even 1/3 of a workout. (10 minutes? Don’t go as intense or fast. Give yourself a break, without actually giving yourself a break. You may be surprised by convincing yourself to at least get started, you’ll be more willing to push harder during the workout.
Don’t tempt yourself or give in to food junkies. Everyone I know encounters this during their fitness journey. It involves either being introduced to a food situation that makes it difficult to say no, or being encouraged by others to “cheat” even when they know how you feel about staying on track. By giving in to either, you will likely feel guilty afterwards, which oddly enough increases your chances to continue cheating. The negative feeling of guilt are powerful and can actually begin a vicious cycle of continuing the pattern, so don’t let this happen. The first of these is actually easier to deal with by simply planning around it, or modifying the portions of food you have available so they at least meet some of the standards of your diet. For the second, if you find yourself in this situation often, have a gameplan. Either be ready to defend your stance on cheating or plan to deal with it in another way. Maybe use it as your cheat meal, compensate for it on the next day or week, or modify the portions so you can at least control the damage.
This part can seem a little easier once you achieve your goals, but the long term approach to fitness is actually one that must always be top of mind. While this stage is a practice of discipline, even an “iron will” can be bent when the lifestyle is too far from what a person enjoys. So how can you force yourself to embrace a long term lifestyle that doesn’t match who you are? Well, actually you can’t. I think people are amazing and capable of just about anything. But not allowing yourself to be YOU jeopardizes your character and simply said, is not right for anyone.