Now that we’re well into March, I want to talk about how to make your fitness goals really stick.
1. Do it for the right reasons.
Just like anything else in life, you need a strong reason why. I can give you lots of suggestions for why to be strong: the innumerable health benefits, keeping up with your kids, confidence, looking sleek and toned or super swole as the case may be, keeping mobility as you age, enjoying your favorite activities- there are endless great reasons to be fit and strong.
I can also tell you the reasons that definitely don’t work.
Exercise does not equal weight loss. You should never view it as “burning off” food you ate or “earning” food you are going to eat later. You need to separate the two. Don’t get me wrong: exercise is a great part of a holistic weight loss program. But the whole “calories in, calories out” thing doesn’t really work and exercising for weight loss without a nutritional overhaul will produce disappointing results.
The idea of exercise as atonement for food sins is not one I will ever support. It creates negativity around something that should be positive and generally leads to poor, destructive behaviors. As a fitness instructor you will never hear me say anything about burning off holiday foods or getting rid of your chubs. That is proven to create negative thoughts in the students being trained. Instead I encourage my students that today is a great day to feel strong and fabulous and work hard toward your goals.
If you are trying to lose weight, you can frame it positively by recognizing that exercise and building muscle supports a healthy metabolism and supercharges your good eating program. I started lifting heavy relative to my own strength because I wanted to build strength and confidence, AND I knew that building muscle efficiently would support my weight loss efforts. Every time you put in a great workout, congratulate yourself that it’s a positive step to the new you. You are working towards your goals and getting stronger every week, and that is awesome!
I highly encourage you to take some time to think of positive reasons to exercise and be strong. Then write them down. You can say things like, “I’m excited to be stronger than I’ve ever been. I am worth the effort to live a long and healthy life. It will be amazing to chase my grandkids someday and be full of energy. When I’m 70 I’m going to be that crazy barbell-lifting grandma at the gym that amazes everybody.” Or whatever your reasons are. Just make them good ones.
2. I’ll tell you the secret about the very best workout you can do.
Are you ready? People ask me all the time, “what’s the best workout?” Of course I could stop you right there and ask you what your goals are and what your current fitness looks like, but that’s beside the point. Here’s the secret, are you ready?
The very best workout is the one that you actually do.
I can and will give you more advice about which workouts are most effective. But first- you need to find an activity or several activities that fit into your life and that you enjoy enough to keep doing them. Especially if you’re just getting into exercising regularly, just do what you like.
If you don’t know what you’ll like, that’s the fun part! Try different things and experiment until you find out. If you like to walk or bike, get outside and do it. Try different classes at the gym, sign up for a sports league, try a new weight lifting routine. If you had told me five years ago I’d be heavy barbell lifting for fun as well as teaching Zumba and dance, I would have been totally shocked. I’ve also found I really enjoy climbing big mountains. I could not envision myself voluntarily hiking for nine hours. It turns out there is trail mix plus great views. I found passions and growth by trying new things.
If your fitness routine is going to be sustainable, you have to find something you enjoy. I would also contend that you will want to have goals, see progress, and see results that keep you motivated. That may take a little time of sticking with something. That also means that if you aren’t challenging yourself, or you’re doing the same old 30 minutes on the elliptical that never helped or excited you the last ten Januaries in a row, it’s probably not going to make you look like Vin Diesel this time either. Don’t forget that real results take time and consistent effort. Find something that makes you grow and inspires you to set new goals.
Don’t give up too fast but also don’t do something you totally hate. If something really sucks, try a different activity. When someone tells me, “I hate to work out,” that usually means that person has a narrow definition of “working out.” If all you mean is going to the gym and running on the treadmill for an hour, I hate that too. I haven’t done it one single time in the process of getting in the best shape of my life over the last three years. Get out there and find something you like, and then do it!
3. Now actually do it.
I know, I know; that’s just an amazing breakthrough. Think about it though. When someone says, “I’m hoping to exercise more often,” that’s similar to saying, “I’m hoping to go to work sometimes.” Really? You’re hoping? Can’t you control that 100 percent of the time by actually getting in the car and going to work on the specified days? The same is true for exercise. Without a plan you’re just wishing. Start by making a decision about which activities you will do at specific dates and times this week, then do it.
You’re busy and you’re a grown-up. If this is important to you then you need a concrete plan of action. Put it on your calendar and to do list and then enjoy the satisfaction of checking it off. I believe you can and will find ways to move your body that you truly enjoy, but commitment means you keep going as feelings come and go. Do you ever receive a late notice for your electric bill and say, “Oh yeah… it just didn’t really excite me to spend my money on this so I didn’t do it.” I hope not!
Every time you keep your appointment for a workout, your belief that you are in fact the kind of person who exercises grows. It’s just like achieving any other goal. One step at a time and don’t give up before the miracle happens. You’ll be increasingly motivated as you actually jump in and do it. There is no substitute for just starting, and then keeping it up. If you’re a perfectionist like me you want to have a perfect plan and be good at everything on day one. It ain’t happenin’ buttercup. The magic is in continued effort, learning as you go, and just plain not giving up.
Make a commitment that your health is worth it. If you find you are consistently unhappy and not enjoying your workouts, it’s time to try something new. On the days when it just feels hard or you’re not in a great mood, make the decision to be the guy that sticks around. I have never gone home sorry I gave it my all on those kinds of days. When I’m in a bad mood a good sweat session usually puts me straight.
Now go forth and be strong!
I want to hear from you! Comment here, email me, or shout me out on Instagram. What new things are you doing in your fitness in 2021? What else would you like me to write about so you can learn more? My beginner ebook for weight training is being released soon, and I’ll be writing more posts with fitness advice and workouts you can try. Stay tuned!