As the month of February comes to and end, I can see the crowds at the gym in the morning getting thinner and thinner. The new faces that flooded in during the month of January are vanishing and the crowd has almost dwindled to the usual suspects that I see day in and day out year round.
How many times have you made the New Years resolution to lose weight and get fit? How many times have you failed to achieve that resolution? If you are like me, the answer is more than I care to admit. It just doesn’t happen on New Years either; at many moments during the year for one reason or another you feel a rush of motivation that says to you, tomorrow I am going to start my new diet and I will be on the way to a healthier me. Then tomorrow comes and you never start. I could fill a whole post with the excuses that I have come up with but I will spare you that; you know what your excuses are. Having lived through this cycle of false starts many times in my life, I wanted to create a list of tips that I have learned during my false starts at a healthier life. Hopefully they can help you as you begin your journey toward a healthier life.
1.) Whatever You Do, Don’t Call Your Fresh Start A Diet
For me, the word diet implies that this fresh start is only temporary. It is a something that you will do until you achieve your fitness or weight loss goal and then you can go back to your old ways. I could tell you about a number of “diets” that I have been on and I never succeeded in losing the pounds that I wanted to and I definitely did not keep any of the pounds I lost off. It was not until I was told to use the term “lifestyle change” that I was able to lose and keep the weight off. The term “lifestyle change” helped me prepare my mind for the challenge ahead. If I was truly changing my lifestyle, there would be no going back to my old eating habits. The change was a permanent decision to better my life through fitness and a healthy diet.
2.) Don’t Start On A Monday
Have you ever felt the rush of motivation to change your life mid-week? I know I have. I would see someone running smoothly and confidently and I would start wishing that was me. I would tell myself, that is it, I am finally going to get my eating back under control. The problem was, if this burst of motivation came on a Thursday, I would tell myself that the week is almost over, why not live it up for one more weekend and then I will start the road back to fitness on Monday. You know the rest of the story. Monday came and I felt gross and depleted of energy from all the junk I had consumed over the weekend. I would get discouraged because of my lack of control over my appetite and not start my new lifestyle because of it. I believe many who have struggled with their weight can relate to this scenario. The next time you have the rush of motivation to get started, start that day! It goes back to the term lifestyle change, if you really want to change your life, don’t wait until tomorrow. You are making a real commitment by saying I am starting right now, today, no more waiting for tomorrow.
3.) Don’t Start Out Too Fast
Don’t let your enthusiasm about your new start become a set back. During many of my false starts I fell into the common pitfall of starting out too fast. If you have been inactive for years, you will not be able to run, bike, or swim for very long. People often ask those they know that run, bike, or swim how they do it without their lungs burning or how they do it for so long without hating it. They follow up that statement with “I could never do that.” You must keep in mind that those who have been living an active lifestyle have spent years building to the levels that you hear them talk about. If the average active person was to try and do just one day of Ryan Hall or Michael Phelp’s workouts, they would quit within one day. They would hate it; it would be far too hard. For someone who has been inactive for a long period of time, trying to do a workout that would be simple for their active friends is a recipe for failure. Your lungs will burn, your legs will cramp, and you will give up within the first few days because it is simply too hard and is definitely not enjoyable. A good rule when starting out with running is that if you cannot hold a steady conversation without gasping for air you are running too hard. This may mean that you will be walking to get started or running for 1 minute and walking for the next 2-3 minutes. Remember, the goal is to become active, not to compete with your co-workers or neighbor. Make it about your journey and keep perspective; you’re just starting.
4.) Build A Support Network
Starting out is hard; starting out alone is even harder. If you know someone who is ready to commit to a lifestyle change, see if they want company on their journey. If you don’t know anyone who is just getting started out, ask one of your active friends to join you on your workouts. If you are unable to get anyone to join you, at least enlist the help of someone you can count on to hold you accountable to your decision to change. When I began my current lifestyle change, I was lucky enough to have fit friends join me on workouts. I was also living with a group of people that helped me control my meal portions and to remind me what my goal was in moments of weakness. I do not live with these people anymore but they are friends for life because of how they helped me. Your support network will evolve as you evolve. You will meet new people that inspire you and will be willing to help you. A member of my current support network texts me nearly every night to see how my workout went. If I missed my run, he encourages me to get back out there the next day. You will always need an extra boost no matter how far into your lifestyle change you may be.
5.) Your Lifestyle Change Must Be For You
This is the most important of all the tips on this list. This journey cannot be about your kids or your spouse. If you’re single, the journey cannot be about getting a better body so you can potentially meet your soul mate. This lifestyle change must be about you and the fact that you deserve a healthier and happier life. If there is one thing in this world it is okay to be selfish about, I believe that this is it. I’m not saying neglect your family or your social life in the pursuit of this active lifestyle, but you need to feel that you want and deserve this new life for you and no one else.
I hope that this list gives those out there that are considering a fresh start a little inspiration and that these tips can help you make this fresh start a permanent start, not a false start. If it does become a false start, remember to just keep moving and to always start again.