We have been spending the last month or so talking about the importance of mindset, specifically how it relates to physical fitness. So if you are just joining us, take a few minutes to check out my most recent posts. This blog post is going to be different than most, I’m going right to the practical.
Now that we have gotten into the right mindset, we are at the starting line. How do we begin?
Start with your “why?”
Without having a compelling “why” I have found over the years that it is nearly impossible to stick to new habits. So ask yourself, “Why do I want to work out?” “Why do I want to change my eating habits?” “Why do you want to lose weight?” Don’t skip this step, this one is important. Your “why” is the launch pad to change. Here are a few examples:
My doctor said that I am prediabetic. I want to lose weight so that I don’t have to take medication for Type 2 diabetes.
I want to exercise more so I can run around with my grand kids.
I want to change my eating habits so I don’t have a stomach ache all the time.
I want to get more sleep at night so I can be present with my kids.
Write your “why” down, keep it close. You will need to go back to it when things get tough.
Set some goals.
What is your endgame? What is your long term goal? Is it to lose 50 lbs.? Do you want to run a marathon? Do you have a specific pant size that you want to fit into? Once you know your end game, then break your big goal into smaller, realistic goals. Do you want to lose 50 lbs. in a year? Then you need to lose 4-5 lbs. a month or about a pound a week. Then get even more specific. To lose a pound a week, you need to get rid of 500 hundred calories a day either through exercise or eating less calories. How are you going to do that? (I recognize that books are written on setting goals, if you want some more guidance on this – let’s talk).
Start small, I mean small.
Only make one or two small changes at a time. When I say small, I mean small. Are you just starting to exercise? Set a goal of exercising two times a week for 20 minutes. Do you drink three Mountain Dews a day? Don’t go cold turkey. For one week drink two a day and then the next week only drink one a day. Small changes last and add up to big changes over time.
Expect and plan for setbacks.
There are going to be times when you feel like you take one step forward and two steps back, that’s normal. We all experience setbacks when we are starting something new. If you expect and plan for them, you may feel discouraged when they occur, but you will be less likely to give up. It is important to not give in to extreme thinking that says “I messed up, I should just give up.” We all mess up. Your mindset needs to shift to “I messed up, I’ll do better next time.”
This is part of expecting and planning for setbacks. Do you struggle to get up when your alarm rings at 7:00? If that is the case, don’t plan on working out at 5:30 am. Recognize areas where you struggle, don’t set yourself up to fail. Are you self conscious about working out in front of other people? Start off by exercising at home.
Leave your ego at the door.
Repeat after me “I am not a high school athlete anymore.” Just because you played football in high school doesn’t mean you can jump right in and start where you left off. Recognize your current abilities and limitations. Exercise science is a relatively new science that is always evolving. Just because your high school football coach told you 10 years ago to do Lat pull downs behind your head, doesn’t mean you should today. Listen to the current experts. Also remember that just because you have found easy success in other areas doesn’t mean that you will immediate success in exercising. Give it time.
If you are working out at a gym, get a tour of the equipment.
Most gyms offer a tour of the fitness center for free. Take advantage of it. Don’t try to “figure it out”, this is the only body you get! Even if a machine looks similar to one you have used in the past, each machine is different and unique.
Don’t buy into “no pain, no gain”
Remember how I mentioned exercise science is evolving? “No pain, no gain” used to be a common motto and expectation, those days are over. There is a good chance that you will feel sore after your workout, but if your whole body is sore after every workout -you are overdoing it. Don’t go into every workout and try to push past your limits. Overtraining is counter productive and more common than people realize. You need to balance your workouts with hard days and easy days.
Dress the part.
I used to chuckle at people who came into the gym January 1st with their bright new workout clothes. But over time I realized that if you dress like you are going to work out, you will work out. And please get the right shoes, I beg you, it is so important to have the right shoes!
Schedule when you are going to exercise and guard it like a dentist appointment.
If you don’t schedule when you are going to exercise, it will never happen. But you can’t just schedule it, you need to put it in your calendar and treat it like an appointment you can’t miss. If people suggest doing something during the time you allotted to exercise, tell them you have an appointment. If you tell them that is when you were going to exercise, they will talk you out of it. Just politely say you are not available and suggest another time.
Date different types of exercises.
I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but try different things. Exercise doesn’t have to look like showing up to the gym and doing 20 minutes on the bike and a few strength exercises. Learn a new sport. Take a class. Try something new. Do the thing you hate the least. Find what works for you. And please, if you are just starting to exercise – do not start off by running. Build up your cardiovascular base first. If you start with running, it is very likely that you will get discouraged and give up.
Last, but not least, don’t wait to want to work out or be motivated – just do it.
You can grumble and complain the whole way there, in fact you could do that throughout the whole work out, but do it anyway. Motivation often comes after action.
My hope and prayer is that a few of these tips will be helpful to you as you take your first step (or second or third or fourth) towards more physical fitness.
Remember we all have a day one, make that day today!
Because there is more,