Ten years is a really long time. I keep saying “it’s about a third of my life” because I still THINK I’m about 30, but I’m getting closer to it being a fourth. Still a long time, regardless.
I don’t enjoy dredging this picture up every January but it proves a point.
Anyhoo, about ten years ago, I barely fit into size 24 jeans. Walking around my apartment complex or across my tiny work campus was a WORKOUT. I drove the mile to work because “I would get sweaty” or “there’s a hill”. A marathon was something you did watching a lot of a TV show. A triathlon was eating pizza, drinking whiskey, and working or playing games at the same time.
While I was proud of my work accomplishments, I had given up on the rest of my life. I figured that I wasn’t young anymore, so I had missed my opportunity to do something fun for fitness like I did as a kid. Hello, I was in my MID TWENTIES. Who thinks that? I thought if I wanted to lose weight I needed to do the elliptical (ho hum) and lift weights (bleh) and eat low carb (HATE). I would stick to this stuff for a little bit, then I’d get bored and have no overlying goal besides wanting to hate myself a little less, and get frustrated and quit.
However, a decade ago my New Years resolution was to lose weight, and it actually stuck! I’m down a small human from where I was ten years ago and I’m fit, active, and competitive (sometimes) in triathlons. However, there are days, weeks, and months where I’ve felt like an utter failure at it. I’ve gained weight back. I’ve let myself get so far off the strength training wagon I’ve become weak, imbalanced, and injured. To be a little nerdy and quote Alfred from Batman, “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” I’ve learned that the key is lifting yourself up over and over and over.
Change is uncomfortable, and you’ll occasionally revert back to comfort and then feel frustrated about it. You’ll have a bad day at work and scarf down a burger and a beer and feel a bunch of guilt about how weak you are. You’ll get sick or busy and get out of the workout habit and berate yourself for not sticking to it. The scale will, for NO GOOD REASON, go up one week and you’ll want to cry and say FUCK IT, my best isn’t good enough, I guess I deserve to be fat now. I have done ALL THIS AND MORE and yet, still, here I am.
Odds are, you have a health or fitness related goal for 2017. Since it’s coming up to that pivotal time where you’re either going to quit when the going gets tough or persevere, here’s my 5 top tips for actually succeeding with a health/fitness related New Years resolution.
Instead of being too busy to work out because you have all the errands, don’t drive there – get a cheapo commuter bike and some storage (my bike was 200$, my storage cost less than 100$, bike adventures instead of sitting in traffic – priceless).
1. Work the goals around your life, not your life around the goals. Are you not a morning person? I’m not either. Setting a goal to wake up at 5am to work out every day is PROBABLY not the best first step. Try finding 30 minutes a few times a week that makes sense for you. Use your lunch break. Take 30 minutes out of your social media or TV time. Stop at the gym on the way home from work. If you have trouble getting out of the house, find workouts you can do inside (treadmill, trainer, videos, active video games). Maybe it IS the mornings, but if it’s not, don’t force it. Find the time you are MOST likely to work out and do that.
2. Have lofty goals but take realistic steps. Want to lose 100 lbs? Awesome. Set that really scary number aside and concentrate on losing 5 lbs this month. Or better yet, use process goals, like tracking your food and steps and eating 500 calories less than you burn daily as measured by fitbit. You can’t lose weight just by wanting it really hard, you have to go through a process to do it. I know – I tried for MANY YEARS to just want to lose weight as if it was magic. It may be a little mystifying, but I guarantee you, the more you quantify your actions, the more success you’ll have.
3. Have an ultimate (quantifiable) goal. Wanting to be skinny or get fitter is admirable, but hard to quantify. What’s your motivation for wanting it? Do you want to fit into a pair of jeans? Do you want to be able to play soccer with your kids? Do you want to run your first 5k? Once you identify this, figure out those incremental steps to get there and make a plan and set a date. As they say, a goal without a deadline is just a dream. For the 5k example, you may say you’re going to follow the Couch25k program (giving yourself a few extra weeks just in case) and sign yourself up for a 5k in 3 months. This means you can’t just say “someday”… someday is in 12 weeks – get to it!
4. Be gentle with yourself if you falter. Progress is not linear. We are human. The aforementioned bad day burger and beer, missing workouts, and scale being a fuckwit WILL happen. Let me shout this one. IT IS NOT INDICATIVE OF YOU BEING A WORTHLESS HUMAN BEING. However, why do we fall (because we all fall)? To learn how to pick ourselves up again. After the burger and beer day, wake up in the morning and eat a healthy breakfast and go sweat a little. After missing a week of working out, get back to it. If the scale is not cooperating, keep trying, because the other option is giving up and I guarantee you, this is not a good alternative. Sometimes we vacation off the wagon, and that’s fine, but we should live ON it.
5. Celebrate when you succeed. Did you lose 15 lbs and your jeans are loose? Fuck yeah! Go buy yourself a new pair that fits and looks good. Even if you’re not at your goal weight. Even if you have to go to the thrift store to do it. Just because you are not at your vision of perfect yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate the little steps along the way. Progress should be should be met with a hearty fist bump, not a sigh about how far you have left to go.
In ten years, some things have not changed.
Yep, this is still a thing…
Sometimes I’ll eat like an ass just like before. I love me some french fries. I still have pizza and whiskey nights in my life.
I still hate the elliptical. And I constantly fall off and restart on the weights bandwagon.
Right now I’m cranky about barely fitting into some of my jeans.
However, when I eat like an ass, 99% of the time it’s because I’ve just finished a super long workout and I can justify the calories. I may hate the elliptical, but I love to swim, bike, and run. And the jeans I’m cranky about? They’re half the size (or less) than in 2007.
So, there are some things that HAVE changed. And while 2007 me and 2017 me are very different people, it was through very gradual evolution every step of the way. 2007 me would have balked at my current workout schedule and many other things that are just part of my normal life now. But 2007 me DID find it acceptable to do 20-30 mins cardio and 15 minutes of light weights three times a week, and track my calories. And then it evolved from there.
If 2007 me could do it, 2017 you TOTALLY can.