The year was 2009, a few years removed from college, and I was ready to take on the world. I had this shiny degree in Exercise Science and passed my personal training course. I was ready to change lives. I was young and knew it all, or so I thought. Fast forward to 2019, I have been on this journey for ten years, and more importantly, I have combined life experiences of my own and those I have helped over the years with field experience. Here are the my top nine keys to success on your fitness journey. Some of these things you already know, but hearing it from someone else just confirms your truth.
Knowing and doing are two different things
Knowledge is only potential power, the real power comes from the discipline of following through and taking action on what you learned.
We know that we should fill our plates with leafy greens, because of parents and doctors told us to, but do you do it? We know water is the key to life, and most juices, sodas and beer are empty calories, but do we get a minimum half our bodyweight in ounces daily? We know preparing our food at home makes us less susceptible to making poor choices while out of the house, but do we do it? Are you setting yourself up to win or are you making excuses?
Deadlines and External motivation can help a lot
Every working class american knows the importance of April 15th. It is the deadline to get your taxes done. Failure to do so will leave you on Uncle Sam’s naughty list, and you don’t want to be there. So, you find every reason to get your paperwork collected, and get it done before then.
You can use this same type of external motivation or deadlines to reach wellness goals. Not sure if you can finish that 5k you promised yourself you would do? Sign up anyway and figure it out from there. Its amazing what you can get done when you take action first, and figure it out with a deadline in mind. Where there is a will, there is a way.
It’s not a chore
Taking care of yourself is not a chore, its a priority. Your body is not a car. You can’t trade it in when something is wrong with you, so you owe it to yourself to take care of the only place you have to live. The goal is to live well into your nineties and beyond, so you must have a proactive mindset towards your longevity. Since gradual muscle loss begins in adults between 25-30, and flexibility decreases as you age, consistent weight training and stretching are essential for mobility into your older years. The saying goes, “a body in motion, stays in motion”, so keep your body primed to move through all stages of your life.
Be willing to abandon strategies, but be rigid on your desired result
I forgot which book I read that phrase in, but it resonated with me so much I wrote it in my journal. We all have a end result we desire to obtain, we make a plan to get there and then we start working on that plan. Sometimes the plan might not be the best or most effective for us, or after a few months you may not be getting the desired results, Does that mean you should scrap the whole goal? No, don’t let that stagnant moment stop you from reaching for that end goal. Go back to the drawing board, and scrap “The plan”, but don’t quit reaching for that desired outcome.
Not drastic, but slight changes consistently are key
When you are driving with your navigation system, the automated voice usually tells you to prepare for your turn a mile or two ahead of time. This is so you can ease in to the turn, and not make a sharp ninety degree, last minute turn. Same goes for you as you travel to you destination.You see the big picture, it is your job to not be impatient about how long it takes to get there. Whatever change is necessary, put your blinker on a few hundred feet ahead of time, and ease into that turn.
Start with one specific focus and ease you way into that until it is a habit, then add another and start the process over again.
The rule of 80/20 (Pareto Principle) is a good guide to build around
Life is all about balance. What fun would a life full of vegetables be without the chicken and pineapple pizza (don’t judge me until you had it). Now these numbers are not written in stone for everything, but as it pertains to your health, it is a good starting point to aim for. The saying goes, you wear 20 percent of the clothes in your closet 80 percent of the time, I believe that to be true, but how does this rule apply to our health.
In terms of body composition, 80 to 20 percent ratio of muscle to body fat is an acceptable starting point for maintaining health. Now for a bodybuilder trying to get on stage, 20% body fat won’t get them the trophy they are shooting for, but for the average American who is trying to live a healthier life, that is a good spot to aim for. Anything over that 25-30% range and your are putting yourself in jeopardy of some health issues.
From the nutrition side of things, we all like to go out and eat with our significant other, but we all know that shouldn’t be a everyday thing. Eighty percent meal planning and healthy food choices versus 20 percent of freedom, snacking and eating out is a good balance. More importantly, 80/20 is sustainable.
Now when you are extra motivated to make some more noticeable changes, maybe for a wedding, High school reunion, or just to be summer time fine, you can tighten up that 20%. You can always drop to 90/10 or 95/5 depending on the timeframe and your desired results.
Listen to your body
A few years ago (two year ago to be exact), I took a swing at some physique competitions. I am always down for a new challenge. Once an avid weekend warrior, who was normally doing a 5k, 10k’s, triathlons and obstacle races, the physique competition was something that I saw potential in, and I thought this was something I could dive deep into. I would work out five to six times a week for months to get on stage, walk for three minutes in swim trunks and let the judges give me a score. After my second show in April 2016, the common thread amongst most judges was to put on some more muscle. I was normally about 170lbs, but for the sake of the upcoming show, I took a few months to pack on the pounds. After about four months of force feeding myself five big meals a day, I got my weight up to 190lbs. I got back on stage that September and looked great on the outside, and end up placing second, but at what cost? After the momentary high of the trophy wore off, I started being more present in my body. I noticed I was always bloated and tired from eating so much. I also noticed while I was physically stronger, my cardiovascular endurance suffered. Once a avid runner, now short sprints and basketball took way more energy then normal. I also had a lot more lingering injuries because I was working out almost everyday without letting my body rest. My body was not used to carrying that much weight around. End result, I slowed down on the eating and made a workout schedule that is more manageable, and I feel great.
I bring that story up to say that your body talks to you all the time. Are you listening? Maybe you are trying a new diet fad. Is it helpful or harmful to your body? Certain food you eat can cause inflammation in the body. Are you eating those foods and ignoring that signals of your body is giving you? Do you feel lighter and more active when you eat a certain way? Are you continuing to eat that way?
Effort is transferable
The same focus and energy you use to reach deadlines at work, is the same energy you can use to reach your ideal weight. Put the same pressure on yourself as your boss would. Remember that your health and well being is more important than everything else on your plate.
It’s a marathon not a sprint
Those who have worked out with me know I love sprints. They elevate your heart rate, great for burning fat, but they are quick, ten or twenty seconds and its over. There is something about a marathon that is similar to every journey you will have in life. I have never run a marathon before, but as you read earlier, I have done my fair share of running. The reason I fell in love with running many moons ago (its a Love/hate relationship now) is because it is you versus you. All you have is the voice in your head, your will to succeed, and the miles in front of you. Your road to a healthier you is the same way. Whatever event you sign up for, the goal is to not stop until you are done, so you have to strategically set yourself up for success. You have to pace yourself to complete the mission. If you start off too fast, the back end of the race will be painful. If you start off to slow, then you are trying to make up for lost time towards the end of the race. You’ve got to find that sweet spot in the middle that is sustainable for you.
The same is true for any new health or fitness endeavor you are taking on, you have to pace yourself. Want to lose 10 pounds? There are many ways to do it, but what is the best way to get it off and keep it off? Every New Year, someone starts their marathon sprinting, and gives up by mile two. Remember to pace yourself and stay on course no matter if your marathon takes two months, or two years. Run your race and finish it.
Take these lessons I’ve learned, apply them to your life, and see where they can take you.