By: Taylor Douglas (General Fitness Enthusiast)
I want to start this with a confession. I am not a fitness professional, nor am I a nutrition specialist. However, I do have seven years of religious lifting experience. I lifted for baseball in college, dabbled in bodybuilding and powerlifting after, and for the last year and half have begun the harsh trek of competing (VERY LOCALLY) in CrossFit. Over those seven years, I’ve been very consistent, and due to that and a metabolism that would make the Energizer Bunny jealous, I look like somebody who knows what’s going on in the gym. I promise I don’t say that to toot my own horn in any way, shape, or form (pinky swear!). Rather, I say that because over the years I have had quite a few people ask me for advice on both workouts and nutrition. Those people are who this article is about, because one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that the answers they are asking me for aren’t necessarily the ones that they need, at least not from me. There are a ton of different workouts that will make you more fit. There are numerous nutrition plans that will help you be healthier. The healthiest people I know come from all sorts of backgrounds. My girlfriend runs and is a vegetarian. One of my best friends bodybuilds and counts macros. A lot of people at my gym are seeing results from CrossFit and incorporating elements of Paleo and Keto in their diets. There’s High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Olympic Lifting, MMA/Kickboxing workouts, and many more workouts that if you consistently follow them absolutely work in helping you achieve your goals. With that being said, those are the domains of the fitness professionals and nutrition specialists. If you’re interested in any of those things, I recommend you reach out to one of those people in your community and get to work! But, that’s not what this article is about.
Instead, I want to tell you about the things I’ve learned that don’t change depending on what movements you’re doing or food you’re eating. As much as fitness is about improving your physical health, it starts with mentality. Yes, workouts can be hard. Healthy food can be gross (I’m looking at you carrots). But, the most difficult part of achieving your fitness goals isn’t the gym or putting the right foods on the dinner table. The biggest hurdle is mentally deciding to make a change in your life, form new habits, and continue to practice them for the rest of your life. That hurdle is not cleared with an online workout program from a fitness celebrity that promises you results in six weeks. But, I promise you that you can do it. You can be healthier. You can be stronger. You can make that change. And here are three truths to help you begin to move in that direction.
1. You Need to Critically Evaluate What Your Fitness Goals Are and What You Are Willing to Give Up to Achieve Them.
I debated whether this or #2 should come first, but considering I’ve just had to read Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits, I think this is appropriate. Now, you may be thinking, “Duh, obviously I need to set goals,” but stick with me. Yes, this statement essentially comes down to setting those goals, but there’s a lot more to it than just putting the pen to the paper. I think there’s a stigma (which I hate) that healthy people look like the Instagram models on social and the athletes we see on TV. Those people are definitely killing it, but to say that their appearance and lifestyle needs to be the ultimate goal couldn’t be any further from the truth. The fact of the matter is, any progress you can make and keep is going to benefit your health. With that in mind, let’s break down what I mean with this truth.
You are going to come from a background that is unique to you. Maybe you’re a parent who works 40 hours a week and has to take kids to different activities. Maybe you’re a college student with classes and a part time job. Do you need six pack abs and big biceps? Do you need to bench 300 pounds? Do you need to sacrifice your priorities in life to achieve a dramatic change in your health? Do you even want to? I would argue the answer to one or more of these questions is a hard no, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a change to do significantly (or at least a little bit!) better with your health. This is why you have to critically evaluate what you want you want to achieve and the sacrifices you’re willing to make to do so, because your goals and your sacrifices need to be in balance with YOUR priorities. Otherwise, it’s going to be hard to stick with anything you begin. For example, let’s say that you do want six pack abs. Are you willing to go to the gym 4-5 times a week and sweat and suffer over years to make that happen? If you don’t have the time and don’t enjoy that kind of workout, then probably not, but that’s okay. You don’t have to achieve some outrageous goal that society has pushed as “fitness”. You can go into the gym a few times a week and work on squatting a few more pounds and stretching to get a little stronger and more limber. You can walk or run a little a few days a week to build up your endurance. These are great goals, because they’re about YOU, not some perception you think society is judging you to achieve. And that’s what making a change for your health is about. It’s about you forming a habit that helps you get a little bit better each day. It’s a change that is supposed to coordinate with your other priorities in life and help you be ready to enjoy them for the years to come, not the month of restriction that makes you dread your next meal or workout.
So, if you don’t go any further, if you don’t read another word of this article, ask yourself these things:
- What do YOU want from your fitness endeavors?
- What are your priorities, and what other things are you willing to sacrifice to improve your health?
- Do your goals and your sacrifices line up? If not, what goal could you achieve with the sacrifices you’re willing to make?
Most importantly, I beg you to consider these goals in the context of your entire life — not a few days, or weeks, or even a month. Because fitness isn’t about the drastic gains you’re making today. It’s about the benefits you receive over months and years ahead from making a lifestyle change.
2. Start With One Thing
Last Seven Habits inspired thing, I swear. So you have your goals, your priorities, and the sacrifices you’re willing to make. What next? If you have a big goal, there’s a lot of different things that can go into it. Maybe you do need to go to the gym for an hour every day during the week. Maybe you need to eat more broccoli and good proteins for lunch and dinner. Maybe you even need to figure out some supplements to take to give you the extra edge. As you go through the things you need to do to achieve the big picture, the obstacles can build up, dropping a big “I CAN”T EVEN!” on the excitement of making those goals. I’ve been there. The discouragement is real. But, there’s an answer. Start with one thing.
You may not be able to defeat an army, but I guarantee you can take on one soldier. It may not be the commander at first, but there’s a challenge you can tackle and defeat. Find that obstacle and focus on it. Block out the others when you start. Yes, they may be important, but it’s more important to tackle what you can conquer and start making your way through the mud. If you can find your one feasible thing, you’re going to be more likely to make it a habit. You can get good at it, so that as you do it, you get the reward of accomplishment that is going to feed your motivation to do it again. This is huge. Nobody likes to fail over and over. I’m not saying to avoid the struggle, but everyone needs a win to get the ball rolling. Then, when you get the ball rolling fast enough, you can move onto the next soldier and the next, until eventually you do have the momentum to take on that army in front of you.
Now, to sneak in one of my favorite quotes:
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time!
3. Accept That You May Fail and Have Setbacks. Realize That They Don’t Erase the Progress That You’re Making.
This is absolutely the hardest truth I’ve got for you. If you are trying to make a change, you are going to hit a wall that smacks you on your butt at some point along the way. And its going to suck. You’re going to feel like you can’t get over it. You’re going to want to quit. I know. I’ve been there too. Last year in the CrossFit Open, I got pulverized by the five workouts. Straight up, I thought I was doing the work to be successful, and I got crushed. I questioned whether I was cut out to do what I wanted to in CrossFit. I questioned whether continuing was worth it. For a couple of weeks I just did stuff that I was good at because it felt better. Spoiler Alert: I’m actually a lot better now than I was last February, but it’s not because the wall fell down. I had to fall a few steps back. Most importantly, I had to admit to myself that I hadn’t achieved what I wanted to, and in my mind I had failed. But, that failure didn’t mean that everything I had prepared for was done for nothing. Even in failure, I was better than where I started, and on your fitness journey, I guarantee that is going to be true for you too. So what if you miss some workouts! So what if you eat unhealthy for a week, or two, or even a month! So what if you mess up! Everyone does. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that all your progress goes away. It doesn’t mean that your mistake last week keeps you from making the choice you want to make today. So what if you have to take the same steps to get back that wall that knocked you down? In my book that’s a running start. And a running start is just extra momentum to knock that wall down when you see it again.
I hope you’re able to take away something that helps you create your fitness goals and stick to them. If this was helpful to you, please feel free to share it! It’s really easy to get caught up in the mass of information about fitness and health, but don’t get caught up on the physical side. Fitness is a habit — YOUR habit, and I promise you can build one that you can follow. Remember:
You can DO IT!
Taylor Douglas added this footnote to make himself seem like a legitimate blogger. He is currently a washed up athlete pursuing his Master’s at Middle Tennessee State University and an avid’ish CrossFitter. His list of accomplishments include beating the Elite Four in the Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn regions as well as reading the actual Game of Thrones books (It’s called a Song of Ice and Fire). He is a huge nerd who enjoys cheesy jokes and writing in third person. If this kind of person is appealing to you, you can follow him on Instagram @tdoug01 or Twitter @TaylorDouglas_1.