3 Stages to Reach Fitness Nirvana
One of the luxuries of modern human life is we can now “relax” as much as we want to. We no longer have to grow our own food, or even walk to the store for that matter. In fact, a truly motivated person could do everything from their armchair.
Given the fact that exercise is no longer a necessity to survive, it has become a real pain in the ass to find the time, or the motivation, to get our bodies moving. It is because of this that the word “exercise” has developed such a stigma, and for those that are not in the groove, it can be a very difficult thing to just start.
I am no stranger to movement. I make it a priority to workout 5 – 6 days a week, and I have found a way to add exercise to my daily routine without making it a massive time commitment. For me, exercise is about so much more than tracking gains; it is a way of life that has allowed me to view my Tuesday through rose colored lenses.
Although I am no stranger to fitness, I am also no personal trainer, and I’ll leave the “bro” science to the Reddit world. This post covers what I view as the ultimate goal of exercise, and the three stages to get there.
Stage 1: Avoid the gym membership. Focus instead on commitment, discipline, and confidence
It’s January 1st. Like many people, getting in shape is on your list of new year’s resolutions. Where do you start? My first suggestion – Don’t be one of the poor shmucks who gets sucked into the allure of buying a gym membership; not right away at least.
Acquiring a gym membership seems like the logical thing to do – a great first step. Let me give an example to explain why this is often not the case: The gym I go to was absolute madness all January, and by January 20th I was contemplating cutting the fitness cord for good. Thankfully, I managed to grit my teeth and hold on, and on February 1, I was shocked to find the crowds of people had disappeared.
The gym can be a very intimidating place, filled with equipment that looks like it belongs in a torture chamber and people who look like they spend 90% of their time in the squat rack (don’t those people have jobs?). This, combined with a lack of self-confidence and prior experience, pushes people back to the couch faster than anything else.
The only way to form a lasting relationship with exercise is by committing to small steps. Go for a walk. Take the stairs at work. Do 10 jumping jacks a day. Whatever it is, ensure it is measurable, and manageable to do 3 – 5 days a week for a minimum of 30 days. This will build discipline and confidence in your ability to make a change. It will also form the start of a habit.
Stage 2: Make exercise a way of life
This is the stage where you start getting a little serious about your fitness. You are confident in your ability to stay disciplined, and you have tasted some of the benefits that exercise offers. Now it is time to make exercise a lifestyle.
The first step is important with any lifestyle choice – routine. Routine takes the thinking out of doing, and ensures that you are not paralyzed with the decision of whether you should go to the gym today or not. By making exercise a habit, you will greatly increase your chances of making it to the gym on both the good and the bad days. The only reason I am able to work out 5 – 6 days a week is because I work out 5 – 6 days a week. It is just a part of my routine.
The second step is accountability – both internal and external. I find the best way to create internal accountability is through goal setting. I set micro fitness goals for the week, and macro goals for the longer term. External accountability can come in the form of a work out partner, signing up for pre-paid classes or personal training, or through simply telling a friend your goals. Find what works for you to ensure you stay accountable for the long term.
The third step is balance. Life has a way of getting in the way of routine, and there is no point in beating yourself up for that. It is also important to schedule off days. Occasionally breaking a routine is just as important as the routine itself for sustaining it. For more, check out Ashleigh’s post on how to find balance.
Stage 3: Use exercise to find a happier you
Exercise is now a lifestyle. You have a strong routine, are well on your way to achieving your goals, and you have a way with balance. So, what is next for the seasoned pro?
I would argue the ultimate goal of exercise is not to lift more, run longer, or lose weight (although, these are definitely important and necessary steps taken along the way); It is to become happier, more positive, and more in tune with yourself. Exercise is a direct portal to gratitude, positivity, and presence.
During a hard work out, you have no choice but to focus all of your effort on the task at hand. You do not have any room to think about the difficult day at work you just had, or what’s for dinner. The intense focus required to get through that work out is meditative and is a great way to become more present.
During sustained physical exertion, the body releases endorphins, causing you to feel happy. The period immediately following exercise is a great time to utilize these endorphins to practice gratitude (see my other posts on gratitude here and here). Use physical exertion as a tool to get into this mindset.
Finally, the sense of accomplishment felt by maintaining the discipline required to achieve your fitness goals will make you more positive and greatly improve your self-confidence and outlook in the long term.
Hopefully this post will provide you with some direction and motivation to keep a lasting relationship with exercise!