There was a time in my life not long ago that I was fit. And not too terribly long before that, I was in great shape. I love the outdoors, and it used to be that any destination that I traveled to, one of my goals was to hike or do some kind of physical activity unique to that area. So I’ve hiked mountains in Alaska, Colorado, France, and Iceland, and descended to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Having spent over a decade in the military, fitness was a requirement, and the gym was my friend. Add to that my wife introduced me to mountain bike riding, and I had a great environment to at least stay healthy.
That was then. Last year, although I was still active in the gym, I had started to let things slip just a bit. And then, the News. My wife was pregnant with our first child. Yes! We were as excited and happy as never before. And since this isn’t an article on parenting, I’m not going to go into the emotional facet of that story. What’s pertinent here is that starting the day after we got the great news, we threw our diets and exercise routines out the window. And now, I’m paying for it. Just over two weeks after my son was born, I’ve found that I’m out of excuses for my lack of fitness. And to make matters worse, I’m only 13 months from my 40th birthday.
So, motivated by my wife, Father Time, and the oppressive feeling of about 25lbs of excessive weight, I’m starting the painful but exciting process of reclaiming my old physique. Many people like to wait until a symbolic date comes along (a birthday or the New Year). Why not make your own significant date…say, right now. As I dredge up the memories of a healthier life gone by, I’m structuring my physical recovery into four steps:
Step 1: Make the decision. I’m tired of the weight, tired of the lack of energy, and very concerned of the looming health impact. I now have my first child at the age of 38. I plan on being around to see grand kids.
Step 2: Get rid of the junk food. This is essential. If I have a bag of Doritos in the house, I’m going to eat them. Don’t play chicken with cravings. Sooner or later, I will justify eating the entire bag, I’ll feel guilty, and I’ll have threatened any momentum I may have built up.
Step 3: Establish a routine. Plan a time to do exercise, and stick with it. This plan can be simple (e.g. In the morning before work, I’m going to walk 2 miles for 2 weeks, then slow jog 2 weeks, then jog for 2 weeks) or it can be part of a program. My wife and I have decided to start the P90X program. There are a lot of gimmicks out there, so I suggest asking around to see who’s tried what. I guarantee there are a lot of hard feelings about wasted money on programs that don’t work or have a lot of hidden costs. I will say that while buying a program like P90X is certainly not necessary, the structure and advice that a good program provides is extremely helpful. About 8 years ago I tried the Body For Lifeprogram and, although it wasn’t perfect, it helped put me in the best shape I’d ever been in. In part this was because it gave me a structured program that helped me to push myself out of my comfort zone. So if you need motivation and structure, I recommend finding a program to help.
Step 4. Stick with it. If you’re faithful to a clean diet and you exercise for at least two weeks, you’ll start to see that this new routine is becoming part of your lifestyle. Stick with it for a month, and not only will you see results, but you’ll find the idea of straying from your newfound fitness increasingly distasteful. Stick with it for three months, and you’ll be referred to by your co-workers as “one of those fitness nuts.”
Two rules to live by: first, don’t let setbacks become excuses to stop. Life will keep coming at you, and some days you may find that instead of going to the gym after work, you went to Dairy Queen. That’s fine. But you need to regroup immediately. Think of your progress as a race. Just because you fall down doesn’t mean you stop. It also doesn’t mean that you lay there a while and think about the fall. Every second counts, so if you get off track, get back on and push on through.
Second rule: be patient. Remember it didn’t take one day, one week or even one month to add on those pounds. It won’t come off all at once. A week from now, after I’ve cut out my treats, and increased my exercise, I’m going to stand on the scale and maybe see that I’ve shed 1-2 lbs. Sometimes it hardly seems worth the effort, doesn’t it? But jump forward a mere month. At that rate, I’ll have lost 4-8lbs. That’s 1-2 inches from my waist. Already, my heart is going to be thanking me. Be patient, and before you know it, the results will be stunningly clear.
Ok. 4 steps, and two rules of thumb. And the best part is that you can start each of them in one day. Plan it out, and stick to it. I have a partner who is going to motivate me. If you have one, that will help. If not, let everyone know that you’re going to do it. That will help keep your objectives out in the open, which will help to motivate you on those days you’re thinking of cheating yourself of your workout. Or you can tell me…we’ll do this together.
I just finished the P90X Fit Assessment. Hoo boy, I’ve got a lot of work to do. Better get started.