When you’re first approaching or re-approaching the decision to develop a healthier lifestyle, the obvious plans have to do with diet and exercise. What should I eat? Should I count calories? Should I start jogging? Do I need to buy a bicycle? Do I need to buy a scale? You’ve probably already had that conversation with yourself. If you’re like me, you’ve had it about a zillion times.
This post is not about that part of the planning. This post is about four important areas of consideration that may not be immediately obvious or appear significant compared to questions like, “Can I wear yoga pants everywhere except work if I’m taking a yoga class?” and “Will listening to “ Eye of the Tiger ” make me feel like I’m in a movie montage?”. I promise it’s all worth thinking about.
Motivation for fitness can come from anywhere — getting married, an impending divorce, chronic health problems, planning to have a baby, longevity concerns, wanting to “look good” in a bikini, training for your first marathon, etc. Often it can be difficult to find the motivation that works for you specifically.
Sometimes what you think you care about or what someone else says you should care about is not actually what’s going to get you lifting weights or joyfully eating kale. For example, I thought for a long time that I wanted to be skinny, and maybe on some level I did, but I realized eventually that what I really wanted was flexibility, strength, and stamina. Once I acknowledged that, it was much easier to pursue fitness goals because I didn’t have to muster up interest in what I “should” care about.
Try asking yourself what you want to do with your body. That may also help you determine what kind of exercise you’re likely to stick with. Do you need to be outside? Would hiking regularly be better for you than using a treadmill? Do you love to swim? Are you more likely to swim laps than go for a jog? How about roller skating? Who doesn’t enjoy roller skating?
Not all exercises are created equal, obviously, but the exercise you’re actually getting is better than the exercise you’re trying to convince yourself to do.
Everyone has access to different resources depending on their geographical location, insurance coverage, economic status, and how they may or may not fit into social assistance programs. It’s uncomfortable talking about resources because unless you’ve been living in a cave your entire life it’s already obvious that there’s a lot of access inequity. Even as I type this and think about my own options, which compared to some are quite limited, I know there’s actually a lot at my fingertips.
It’s tricky. I hope I don’t sound callous when I say that if you are reading this, you have options . Some of those options you might have to make yourself . Most likely you at least have access to a library. There is an abundance of information around you. Not all of it will be useful and it may not be easy, but it’s there for you to use. Or it may be that you have to shift around your priorities. Instead of spending money on new clothes or bottles of wine each month, maybe use that money for a gym membership.
It’s hard to make big, long-term changes alone (and that’s hard to admit, too). Have you ever tried to learn a language or an instrument alone? It’s tough. Partially just because you have to be your own coach. It can be hard to see what is holding you back, where you’re improving, and so on. Whether it’s a close, trusted friend who will exercise with you, a local cycling group, yoga classes, a dietitian, an app, or personal trainer, I recommend having a person (or people) in your life that can assist you along the way. We’re really good at getting in our own way or convincing ourselves that we can’t do something. It’s not weak to allow someone else to help us through those days.
Sometimes just having tangible accountability is useful. Keeping track of your calorie intake and your exercise on an app might be the difference between making progress or feeling “stuck”. Not into smart phones? That’s fine. Keep a journal. Check labels before you eat and look up nutritional content on whole foods either online or at the library. Check in once a week or every other week at a website, forum, local group, or with a friend to update your progress.
Similar to resources, you may have to be really proactive about finding some assistance that works for you.
It’s important to determine a
way to measure your progress. Fixating on a number may be useful to keep you motivated, but only if your goals are relevant to those numbers. If you’re not trying to lose weight, then please do yourself a favor and stay away from the scale. It’s not your friend. It’s
before she was hit by a bus. On the other side of that, keeping track of how many laps you swim, miles you run, or how much weight you lift can be really satisfying.
How can you measure your progress without numbers?
How do you feel?
You may find one day out of the blue that if you really ask yourself, “what do I want for a snack this evening?” that you genuinely, truly want to eat some carrots and hummus instead of chips. Or maybe after months of making the carrots-and-hummus choice you decide, “nope, I want chips,” and it’s okay . Instead of letting your guilt and shame fester into an explosive pimple of self-doubt that’s just going to spread over you in a gross, germy wave, feel totally justified in your moderate consumption of some chips.
You want to know what guilt is good for? Making the same choice. Or resenting the fact that you want to make the same choice. Lessening your grip on guilt is a measurement of progress just as much as choosing to exercise and drink a smoothie instead of binge watching Northern Exposure and eating half of a large pizza.
Sometimes discipline will have to trump momentary desires and impulses, but guilt is not going to fuel your discipline or your success. Only giving yourself the space to feel something other than guilt is going to do that.
Que the feel good music.
I’m about the break it down. The main theme here, which you may have already noticed, is that you need to make your well-being about you. This isn’t a Robert Frost poem, you don’t even really have a thoroughly used and safe path to choose over the less beaten path. Any jerk can give you advice (you’re welcome!), but there isn’t a formula and you have to find through trial and error what works for you.