Beginning the year with a new commitment to fitness and health is a fantastic start! It can be tough to stick with it, but not if we develop habits that become our lifestyle, instead of just a “get rich quick scheme.”
First, at the risk of sounding angry (I’m a happy fellow!), I want to talk about a few things I don’t like:
Diets. That’s a bad word! It connotates something temporary, as in “I’m going on a diet.” Eventually, you’ll have to go off that diet, and a lot of folks gravitate back to what they had been doing forever.
Scales. Please, put those things away! Numbers can be misleading and discouraging. You can have a great day of intake, have an inspired workout, and then weigh a couple more pounds than you did the day before. If you MUST weigh-in, then wait at least a month in between checking! Instead, measure yourself by how you feel, how you look, and how your clothes fit.
Elaborate Exercise Programs (if you are just beginning!) Listen, I love all training and think any moving is great, but if you’re just getting into fitness, you don’t need to be attempting the same movements that professional and elite athletes are doing! I don’t like seeing an out-of-shape “victim” at the gym who is paying some goofball trainer to force them into an inappropriate compound movement when what might benefit them most would be walking around the block for free!
Ok, enough of the rant… Humor me and allow me to share a couple of theories that my slow-developing brain has figured out over the past 20 years of trying to become more than a skinny dork… Someday!
CONSISTENCY, VARIETY & UNCOMFORTABILITY
Consistency: When it comes to training, there is no magic pill. If it came in a bottle, everyone would have a great body! But, the good news is that you will look better and feel better quickly, if you are consistent in your training. It doesn’t even matter so much what you are doing, as long as you are doing something. And do something almost every day! Eventually, I promise, you will look forward to it, and then you will love it, and then you will not be able to function without it!
Variety: Do something active almost every day, and just make sure you do different things! You don’t need to set personal records each time you train, or come up with the craziest workout ever seen, but you do need to change things up. Think of your biceps – if you take a 5 pound weight and curl it ten times every day, your muscle will adapt and grow and strengthen until it can handle doing that stress easily. Then, it will never change again, until you stress it in a different way. Your body is the same! It’s a beautiful, awesome creation capable of so much, use it in all different ways, and it will keep improving for you.
Uncomfortability: Nope, not a word, but I made it up because it’s the best one-word way to describe pushing yourself just a little bit harder than you’d like to. If you could run a 10-minute mile last week, go for 9:45 this week. Maybe try more pushups, a heavier weight, an extra five minutes, etc. Please notice that I didn’t say “no pain no gain.” I was fortunate enough to be a professional athlete for a while, and I learned the value of listening to your body. If something genuinely hurts, then don’t do that! But, if you feel good and strong, then push it a bit more so you can improve – venture into uncomfortability!
“YOU CAN’T OUT-TRAIN YOUR INTAKE”
This rule stinks, I know. But it’s true. Think about a Snickers bar – mmmmmm delicious – if it has 271 calories, that’s an 20 extra minutes you need to CRUSH it on the treadmill. Sadly, I see some folks at the gym ride an exercise bike slowly for 20 minutes, then before they leave, they grab a smoothie or a Gatorade and drink that on their way home. They have essentially gotten chubbier by going to the gym because their intake of sugar and calories has surpassed their expenditure. That’s an unfair perspective, of course, because it’s always good to move. But we need to realize that the most important aspect of getting fitter and healthier is not the awesomeness of our workouts, but the cleanness and purity of our intake. I’m willing to say that the ratio is 70/30 on the side of what we put into our bodies. For nutrition thoughts, please see my blog at ironcrossfitness.com, or my video on nutrition, or email me, I’ll always try to help!
Alright, this blog was meant to be about the key to maintaining motivation. The best thought I have for this is pretty simple:
“HABITS ARE STRONGER THAN WILL POWER”
We need to develop good habits. How? By doing something for three weeks. Just three weeks! Try it, I promise. But don’t try to make drastic changes all at once. Think about how loooong we have had our bad habits, some of them we have our whole lives. Try a couple of changes at a time. Example: give up French fries today. In two weeks, give up white bread and have some oatmeal and protein powder or some whole wheat toast and eggs right when you wake up. After that, why not try a spinach salad every day for lunch? Remember, we are training for life, not to be Mz. Olympia tomorrow! Gradual changes stick and become habits, habits become our lifestyle. And before we know it, we Look Better, Feel Better, and Do Better!
Andy McDermott will be the first to tell you that he is the world’s foremost expert on absolutely nothing! He was fortunate enough to play college soccer at Northwestern University and then for 7 years professionally. He has been training hard every day for 20 years, and has made enough mistakes along the way that he has found some absolute truths about exercise and nutrition. He founded Iron Cross Fitness several years ago, and tries to find time to help everybody who asks. His crazy life includes being a husband, dad, cop, actor, model, coach, writer, fitness pro, and all-around goofball. Right now Andy is up for a Shorty Award.