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 simply embarking on a new exercise program or diet. For me, the choice was 15 years ago. I was about 24 when friends convinced me to start going to the gym as a group. At that point, I knew I didn’t like the way he looked at me, so I thought it would be a good idea. How hard can it be? Well, it wasn’t long before I knew the answer to that question. And to tell you the truth, at the time my workouts weren’t so difficult. But getting up at 5 a.m. to be in the gym at 5:30 certainly was. Also, since there were four of us and only one really knew what he was doing, the workouts were VERY long. Too much time when mixing in the water cooler talk we often took over some workouts.
So, after trying this approach for about 3 weeks, I still wasn’t motivated or in the mood to exercise and was about to quit. Luckily for me, two guys in the group beat me to it, leaving only me and the only person who knew anything about how to do things right at the time. That changed everything.
With just two of us now, we were much more focused and I got a good workout on the basics. After a month of 1-1 time, we started to increase the intensity of the workouts and mix in some really fun classes. Sometime the following month, I saw a change. Not only in my appearance, but also in my perspective and attitude. At that point, I was hooked. I was constantly exercising in the gym 5 times a week incorporating cardio, running, and weights. I looked at myself and felt good thinking that 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 my life changed radically. I quickly lost interest in many of my normal activities, including physical conditioning. For the next two years, I really got carried away and didn’t mind getting back into the rhythm of things. A big event that will change a person’s life will do this to them, and I was no exception. My wife was very concerned about my physical condition and started encouraging me to do it again. I tried, but I couldn’t motivate myself. After much research and a hard look in the mirror, I was able to withdraw the self-discipline I once had. It wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of planning and a lot of work. So, today, I want to share what helped me conquer my fitness demons. I hope this helps you.
The reason I’m giving so much background from my personal fitness experience is to show that each of us will struggle in different ways with the choice of fit. Lifelong fitness isn’t really a “one size fits all” approach. We all have different situations that initiate our interest in getting in shape, staying motivated, and maintaining a long-term lifestyle. However, I believe there are some common practices that we can all adopt to help us overcome obstacles at any of these stages and become a better, healthier, fitter person.
1. Initiate – This may be the easiest of the 3 stages because it only requires us to decide to get in shape, but not to do anything. That said, don’t underestimate the importance and key factors you should use to begin your fitness journey. The main things to remember here are these:
Do this for yourself! Make sure you don’t give in to pressure from others. You need to be willing to take this step and feeling good is the right approach for you.
Start with the end in mind. Set goals and imagine what you want your body and health to reflect during the journey. Losing 25 pounds, tearing, lowering cholesterol, feeling better, keeping up with kids.
Choose the right program – The right program for you is very important and will vary depending on the starting point of your physical condition. Choosing one that’s too hard, or doesn’t produce results fast enough will quickly discourage you and you run the risk of bailing out too quickly. Find the balance of an enjoyable exercise that challenges you enough to reach your initial goals. Don’t dismiss the power of proven favorites like walking, jogging, and bicycling to get you started. These can help your body begin to enter into a routine that will be a foundation for future adoption. Just try to exercise at the same time every day so your internal clock knows what to expect.