Yesterday was the first day of spring. Here in New York City, you wouldn’t really know it. The Mayor’s office sent out a travel advisory Friday night, urging people to exercise caution when traveling this weekend as temperatures were expected to plummet below freezing, and snow was expected. This sent a huge groan across most of NYC, as many people, myself included, had already begun “de-winterizing” their apartments, stashing their heavy comforters and banishing down jackets, scarves and gloves to storage. The thought of the second largest snowfall occurring on the first day of Spring was much too tiresome to be ironic, and could prove a thorn in the side of anyone who had plans to travel to a coveted destination for New York City’s schools’ spring break. As usual, it got me to thinking about analogies to the fitness world, of which I thought of several… namely jumping the gun, and not being prepared.
I am consistently asked what advice I have for someone who is starting a weight loss or new fitness plan. I always tread lightly on this topic, since I am not a nutritionist or personal trainer, and strongly believe everyone’s bodies react differently to different regimens and programs. I also think that before anyone starts anything radically new for their bodies, they need to do so under the supervision of a doctor. That being said, I do think there are behavioral elements which need to be followed regardless. And since I do know a thing or two about losing substantial amounts of weight, kicking my body into being fit, and keeping consistent going on 4 years now, I feel more than qualified to offer my opinion.
So what do I attribute my success to? One of the most important factors is being prepared, or conversely, not being caught unprepared. What do I mean and why is this important? It’s truly one of the basic pillars of success in leading a healthy lifestyle. In this day and age, it is literally impossible to not eat healthy. We now have so much information at our fingertips about the food that is going into our bodies, and the choices that are out there are greater than ever before. Sources exist for us which even 5 years ago did not. We have access to organic, fresh, whole foods like never before. The biggest obstacle to our success on this topic then, is execution. With a little bit of planning, and time, we can create healthy meal plans and snacks for ourselves without a lot of drama. Even if we aren’t handy in the kitchen, there are so many ready made options for us to choose from which though more costly, are so much better than the historical “fast food alternative” of years past.
Being prepared doesn’t just refer to food. It also goes hand in hand with fitness. When working out, it’s important to be aware of what your body is capable of as well as what your strengths and weaknesses may be. This is not to say that you shouldn’t constantly be striving to push harder, faster, stronger. But you need to prepare your body for the task at hand. Pushing yourself to the extreme without working up to it, is not only unsafe for your body, it also can derail your weeks or months of hard work. Being sidelined with an injury from working out unprepared can set you back much further than taking it slowly could ever do. So how do you prepare to exercise? Hire a personal trainer, read up on different programs, and even educate yourself on your body. You don’t have to get a certification to understand how your muscles work and the proper way to use them. And if you have a question regarding a specific workout or move you are doing in class or privately with a trainer… ask! If you are admonished for asking, fire them or leave immediately. Anyone who is a true “fitness professional” should have the patience and education to be able to entertain questions from clients about their workouts.
In this day of ubiquitous social media - 15 second workout videos and constant flooding in our feeds of perfect “fitness model” bodies -it becomes even more and more important “to thine own self be true”. And a large part of that is to know ourselves. The more we get to know our bodies and the more we can prepare ourselves both in terms of nutrition and our physical workouts, the less we will be caught off guard and the higher our chances for success. The real obstacle in getting where we want to be from a health & fitness perspective can be our lack of preparation. So educate yourself, open some books, write down a plan, and carve out time to commit to it. Yes, sometimes even the best laid plans can’t account for a snowstorm on the first day of spring, but at least you will increase your chances of surviving the frost.