My journey to fitness has been a fairly long and winding road and I’ve learned a few things about what does and what doesn’t work (at least for me). I’ll go into more detail in another article about how I got where I am today and the methods I’ve used. In this one I want to cover specifically the not so secret secrets to succeeding in your fitness goals. In all my time looking into various fitness instructions it’s been my experience that they always tell you what exactly to do to get in shape or eat right. But they never really tell you how to succeed beyond “If you can think it you can do it!” style motivation. Here is my realistic system that has proven to work for me.
I’m not talking about a picture of cat hanging from a tree branch telling you to hang in there. I don’t know that anyone has ever actually been motivated by simple slogans over staged photos. What you need to find is your true motivation, the reason you are taking steps to get fit. For an example there are a lot of success stories out there of people who are extremely overweight that manage to lose hundreds of pounds. You know what a lot of them share as motivation? Their doctors told them if they didn’t lose weight they were on their way to an early death. Now that’s a pretty extreme example, but if you had the thought in the back of your head that this next scoop of ice cream or handful of french fries could be your death you’d probably be pretty motivated to put them down and take a walk instead.
For other people who aren’t in such extreme situations the motivations may not be as dire but they should be just as motivating. My personal motivation was the realization that in all of the books, video games, movies and shows I enjoyed I always put myself in the role of the heroic protagonist running around fighting evil and generally performing daring deeds. All the while sitting around eating junk food and being entirely unable to pull myself up from the edge of a cliff if my life depended on it. I wasn’t the protagonist, I was the comic relief. The mental image of who I thought I was and the reality of who I actually was weren’t even close.
So what’s your motivation? Because if your motivation is just “I don’t like the number on the scale” or “I wish I looked more like an actor/model/fictional character” you are setting yourself up for failure. Because the moment things get hard you’ll start to question if the thing you thought you cared about so much was really worth the sweat, pain, time, and inconvenience.
Sticking With It
What’s the difference between sticking with it and motivation? Well sometimes you are motivated but life has other plans. You get injured or sick, work/school/activity is taking up your workout time, or you are otherwise prevented from working out and eating right. Right about now is where other people are going to shout in big bold letters “That’s no excuse! Find a way to do it anyway!” I’m not going to do that. Life happens and if you set yourself to an impossible standard you are more likely to fail and the more you fail the less likely you are to try again.
The “It” in Sticking With It is health and/or fitness. Not running, biking, pushups, lifting, boxing, paleo, atkins, weight watchers, etc. It isn’t a specific method. I’ve been down so many paths trying to find something that works for me but when I didn’t like something or couldn’t keep doing that particular thing I moved on to another one. And you know what? I made progress each time. I gained strength and lost weight with everything I did. Will you make better progress by sticking with one thing? Probably. Will you get better at that one thing? Definitley. But if you limit your view of success to one specific method you have a higher chance of failure. Leave yourself open to trying new things. The hope or goal is that you will find something that fits you but in the meantime you will keep trying rather than giving up.
Fitness Is Life
This was a hard truth for me to swallow. Health and fitness isn’t a project like painting a wall, where you have the clearly defined end goal of having that wall painted. It’s more like having the job of being a painter. Every day a new wall and you never run out of walls that need to be painted. Simply put, fitness needs to become a part of your day to day life. You can’t think of it as “Oh I just need to lose X pounds” or something like that. Say you do lose those pounds, good for you, then you say “I made it, glad that’s over” and go back to your old ways. Where do you think those pounds came from?
This goes along with Sticking With It. You need to find something that’s going to work for you. Something you are excited about or engaged with that will keep it part of your life. My way was by LARPing and doing Heavy Combat in full armor. Sure I could do those things being less fit, but they sure are easier and more enjoyable when I have the strength and endurance for them. So how are you going to incorporate fitness into your life? Basically any kind of fitness program you can think of will have a club, group, or gym where you can make friends and be invested in the experience. Can’t find one near you? Start one or find an online group. Don’t want to deal with other people? Find ways to make it interesting for you. One guy started walking/running and to stay motivated he decided he would cumulatively walk the distance that Frodo and Sam traveled in the Lord of the Rings to get to Mount Doom. Not a nerd? That’s fine, I guess. Adopt a dog and go on walks. Make it fun. Make it your life.
To Sum It Up
If you want to succeed you need to be Motivated, you need to Stick With It no matter what, and you need to make it part of Life. It may sound like I’m listing those as “Here are 3 easy steps to success,” but I’ll fully admit these aren’t easy. I STILL struggle with them and likely always will. These things aren’t even secrets. They are just hard truths that not everyone realizes or considers. So get out there and be the person you picture yourself being.