Raise your hand if you’ve said to yourself, “I’m going to exercise, eat better, lose weight and be healthy.” I would wager that the vast majority of you reading this right now would raise your hand.
“You have to be healthy, slim, beautiful, fast, swift, chiseled, ripped or toned to be beautiful and happy” is the uncontested message global (that’s right, not just American) media propagates to the world. “If you’re not just like this model, you have a lot of work to do.” Who’s been there? I have.
Marathons are all smiles when you’re no longer running them.
I would bet even MORE money that those of you who initially raised your hand would also raise our hand if I asked, “Who among you has QUIT a fitness/health program?” It’s sad, but true. Statistics show that more than half the people who begin a fitness program will quit within the first three months. There are many reasons why they quit. They:
Don’t see results
Go too hard, too fast and burn out
Set unrealistic goals or expectations
Restrict too heavily and become ill
Aren’t interested in/excited by what they’re doing
Don’t celebrate small wins
The list could go on. But I’m not here to tell you why you quit; I’m here to give you some advice so you don’t quit next time! See me, I’m one of you. Or I was. Four and a half years ago, I made the commitment to NOT quit. To not fall victim to excuses or apathy. I committed, with a reasonable plan, to become healthy. And you know what? After dozens of 5ks, a handful of half-marathons, a triathlon, several obstacle course races and two full marathons later, I’ve stuck with that plan. Here’s why it worked:
I set reasonable goals. I had 70ish pounds to lose. I didn’t expect them to come off right away, and I was prepared for setbacks. I set goals that were DOABLE. Things I could fit into my lifestyle. I started slowly – 45 minutes of exercise three times a week. Cut my calorie intake by 500 a day. Hope to lose 1 – 1.5 pounds a week. I didn’t expect to fit in my skinny jeans by Christmas, so I wasn’t disappointed when I didn’t.
I found exercise that was enjoyable. While I love running now, I didn’t when I started…so I didn’t run. Simple as that. The elliptical was easy (and allowed me time to indulge in novels I won’t admit to reading (cough Twilight cough). I also started taking Zumba classes and different group exercise classes. After weeks with the same people, I found a fitness community. Which leads me to…
I found a fitness community. My old Zumba instructor and I are friends on Facebook, no joke. I actually found her class through a friend, who happened to be on her own fitness journey. Find people with whom you can relate! Find people who will hold you accountable, celebrate your wins, support you in your set backs, and overall, who will make your journey fun.
I’m flexible. This, I believe, is the most important factor that will determine your fitness success – be flexible. I have a plan that I generally stick to, but if something comes up, I work around it. I don’t give up and slam a box of cookies down my throat because I missed my Tuesday morning spin class, I run on the treadmill and do bodyweight circuits instead. I ate that piece of cake and went over my “calorie goal” for the day? Well, there’s tomorrow’s goal, which I’ll work even harder to reach.
So really, the long and short of it is this: a journey has many paths. There are many roads to take – many twists and turns you might not have count on. But that’s the beauty of it. Health isn’t about the size of your pants or the number of reps you complete. It’s about living a long, fulfilling life, full of experiences that are ENJOYED, not labored.
So as we enter the holiday season (and soon, Resolution Season), bare in mind who you are, what you value, and what you want for and from you life. Maybe that, and not these tips, is what you need to succeed.