Make Fitness Happen
© Joan Price. May not be reprinted without permission.
Fitness and lifestyle changes don't happen magically. If you're like most people, you've probably started an exercise program and changed your eating habits many times before--only to backslide off the wagon. This time you're going to succeed. You'll have the information and motivational tools to help you, and you'll be able to avoid the traps that hijacked your best intentions in the past.
Here's what works. In order for your exercise and eating program to succeed, it has to fit you in these three ways:
1. Design your program so it gets you to your goals. First, look at your goals. What do you want to accomplish, and why? Examine and write down these goals. Next, get the knowledge you need so your path is direct and speedy. Talk to credible fitness professionals, and use books and resources.
2. Choose a program that fits your lifestyle, not disrupts it. There are three determinants of whether you'll stick to a program: convenience, convenience, and convenience. In other words, it needs to fit your schedule, your family life, your routine and all those other factors and constraints. The closer your program fits your lifestyle, schedule and preferences, the more likely you are to stick to it.
3. Make it a treat, not a treatment. Exercise has to be fun and food has to be tasty. If you don't look forward to your exercise routine or food choices, you won't stick with your program. Choose a fitness routine that's a highlight of your day, not a chore. Choose health-supporting food that is delicious. Change "work out" to "play out," and change "diet" to "delight."
These changes may mean trying new activities, learning new skills, and making new contacts. If this seems overwhelming, try this: Pretend that you're enrolling in a 6-week course that will dramatically improve your quality of life. If you took a course to get a job promotion or learn a new computer program, surely you'd be willing to read and study, do homework and practice the skills, right? Here you're investing a little time to learn new strategies for a lifetime of improved health, looks, energy, productivity, vitality, sense of well-being and self-esteem. Sounds like a small price to pay for all that!
If you're making radical changes, know that you don't have to change everything at once. Enjoy the changes and their effect on your energy level, health, appearance, and vigor.
Realize that your attitude, as well as your behavior, may have to change. I was teaching a group exercise session recently and I noticed a sprinkling of "I can't..." phrases: "I can't do more than 10 minutes," "I can't do pushups," "I can't dance--I'm too uncoordinated," and the like.
"Change can't to haven't yet," I told them. "Change your wording and you change your belief." I suggested substituting, "I haven't yet developed the stamina to do more than 10 minutes," "I haven't yet achieved the strength to do pushups," and "I haven't yet acquired the coordination skills to dance."
My students laughed at what seemed like a meaningless change, but as soon as they reworded the thoughts, they felt the difference. Instead of defining themselves by an impossibility, they were suddenly marking their progress towards a goal. Try it yourself. Change your "can't" to "haven't yet" and feel what changes.
I collect cartoons about exercise. I have Cathy's eternal quest for thin thighs and Garfield's short-lived urge to make an exercise video. One of my favorites shows Calvin, the little boy in "Calvin and Hobbes," doing pushups, his face emoting ghastly pain. "Rrggh... 125... Oof." He collapses, then tries again. "Rrrggh... 5,200!"
Checking out his arm muscles, he walks away, admitting, "Exercise is a lot more gratifying if you count what it feels like." Though I laugh at the cartoons, I wish it were common knowledge that exercise shouldn't hurt, defeat, bore, or burden you. Start where you are, take your first or next steps, and give yourself credit for what you're achieving.