To conclude my series on getting fit and staying fit, I want to offer encouragement, and a few final tips for your own fitness quest:
#1: This is a Lifestyle Change
When you begin your fitness quest, remember that this journey is full of steps toward a better lifestyle. This is not a diet you will only adopt for 90 days, nor only an exercise goal you’ll hit in a year. All of the steps I’ve outlined in previous posts are new habits and routines to adopt so that you can lead a healthier lifestyle.
Don’t think that you can just go back to your old lifestyle after you’ve lost however many pounds or inches. To go back to your old lifestyle is to go back to your old weight and your old level of fitness. Do you really want to do that to yourself, when you’ve come so far already?
#2: This is Not Impossible
I admit, some of the “healthy lifestyle” routines and habits are difficult to adopt at first, and you end up craving your old life quite a bit, especially if you’ve overwhelmed yourself with a ton of changes. That’s why I suggest changing one or two little things at a time, so that you can slowly shift your lifestyle over the course of years. If you feel that a certain lifestyle change is impossible, break it down into possible goals, and achieve them one at a time.
For instance, to start on my “healthy eating” goal, I shifted from sugary sodas to flavored water six years ago, and now I couldn’t imagine going back to drinking all those drinks I used to love. (Though I still have random Cheerwine cravings…LOL) At first, I thought I’d hate it and would never be able to stick to it, but by removing every soda from the house and choosing to drink only tea or water when dining out, I found that slowly the craving for sugary drinks went away. I’m nowhere near eating “healthy” as most people conceive of it, but that choice of water over soda is one important step toward it.
#3: If You Mess Up, It’s Not the End of Your Quest
So you broke down and had a slice of cheesecake…or perhaps 4 or 5 slices. Does that mean that your fitness quest is over and you might as well give up?
Absolutely not. And actually, it’s perfectly okay to have a treat once in a while. Just make sure that that cheesecake, or those hot wings, or whatever tempts you, is purely a “once-in-a-while” treat. Take time to fully enjoy it, savoring the experience, and then continue with your regular diet again. (I have to use this trick with chocolate chip cookies–I allow myself two a week as part of my regular diet, but if I end up eating more than that, I just factor that in as next week’s allotment and move on.)
This goes for exercise, too. If you miss two or three days of exercise, pick it right back up the next day, or the next week, and continue on as if nothing has happened. In my early days of Zumba, I would sometimes miss a couple of classes in a row because of terrible nerve-ripping headaches and joint soreness. But I always knew there was next week’s class that I could return to. Soon, as my joints got better and my headaches were treated, I missed less classes, until I was attending regularly.
The point? Don’t give up on your goal just because you got off-target for a few hours (or a few days). Fitness is something that is maintained, not gained and then kept forever. It’s a constant process, which can be put down and picked back up at will.
#4: Think of How Much Better Your Life Will Be
When we’re first trying to get fit, we think of all we will lose–access to our favorite foods, less time to enjoy our favorite TV shows, etc. But to change your thinking, think instead about all the things you can’t do right now because of your fitness level, and how much you want to get back to doing them.
For instance, I had to quit basketball–and pretty much every other physical activity (even running)–because of all the joint injuries I suffered in college. When the doctor says “your knees and ankles can’t take high-impact activities,” it means everything high-impact. And for years I felt stuck by that; every exercise I tried hurt, and felt like the worst kind of punishment.
But now, thanks to getting a little more active in Zumba class and staying with it for a year and a half, my knees and ankles are more capable. Just last week, I walked around the entire outlet mall near my hometown, a feat I have not been able to do in seven years because of joint pain. I was a little sore the next day, but not bedridden like I would have been even 3 years ago.
It might be a small victory to some, but to me it meant I am actually returning to normal life as a young woman ought to experience it. I don’t feel like I’m in a body that’s over 70 years old anymore. That’s my point; if you stay with your fitness quest, you can regain physical abilities that you thought you’d lost forever. Physical capability through fitness is something many people take for granted, but when you lose it, you realize how important it is!
Here are a few other articles I’ve written about exercise and fitness, to keep you more informed. May you be successful and happy as you start your fitness journey!