The other day a friend asked me what I wish I had known 4 years ago: before the hundreds of fitness classes, before the thousands of miles run, pounds lifted, and hours spent training. It was an amazing question, because I suppose, luckily for me, I have always been a forward looking person. Once I set my mind or make a decision, I don’t spend a lot of time looking back. I don’t forget where I came from of course, and I always try to find time for reflection - but by and large, my feeling is if something or a way of thinking isn’t working, you need to get rid of it! So it was an interesting exercise when I spent some time pausing and reflecting about those lessons I learned during my journey which I wish I had known from Day One.
1.) The only perfect time is now. For the most part, there really is no perfect time to begin a healthy lifestyle change. Yes sure, maybe some times are better than others. Like if you are about to have major surgery, you may want to put off some drastic changes until after you are healed. But barring any major health reason, one day is as good as the next. Starting a new job? Moving to a new state? Just getting into a new relationship? It really doesn’t matter - you need to learn that carving out time for your new lifestyle is part of the new lifestyle! Things are always going to come up, there will always be reasons “not to”, obstacles to overcome, and excuses as to why now isn’t the “perfect” time. But here is what I have noticed: if you can’t commit to it now then you may never be able to find the “perfect” time to commit to it.
2.) It’s going to be hard, but not as hard as you think. So, this is the cold hard truth. The first two weeks are brutal. There really is no escaping that. Let’s face it - you are giving up most of the comfort you know and forging into completely unknown territory. But… if you get your mind in the right place, you start feeling better very quickly after you begin, and therefore saying no to unhealthy foods and yes to sweat become just a tiny bit easier which each passing day. When I started my journey, I thought there were things that were just “too hard”, I never thought I would be able to do them. But I tried to keep that voice as quiet as possible, and instead, I decided to put blinders on, so that I was just focusing on the here and the now. Because I was so dedicated to my fitness plan, I was progressing rapidly and consistently, and those milestones I thought I could “never attain”…I was surpassing. It took me longer than it should have to begin my journey, because I was terrified about how hard it would be. Don’t look at the whole staircase, take each step at a time.
3) DO sweat It, DON’T stress It. This is probably the biggest one for me. As I found myself losing weight, and achieving my goals, I was thrilled. I was proud of my hard work, and I was amazed at the same time, as I realized I was discovering a passion which I never knew I had before. But I was also stressed, incredibly so, because I didn’t know if I relaxed a bit, either on the fitness front or on the food front, things would balloon back to where they were. I was terrified about missing a class or two, taking a few days to go away from my usual routine, or having a bit of a cheat meal every once in awhile. I didn’t know where my equilibrium was, I initially lost way too much weight, and then gradually, began to feel what worked for my body. I also began to be able to relax a bit and trust in myself more. I could have a slice of pizza with my family on a Sunday night and not feel like i was throwing away all of my hard work. Yes, you should consider your actions in terms of the consequences they may have, but realize that if you do fall down, you will pick it up again the following day. It’s all about finding the balance that works for you. Stress isn’t helping you or your body one bit - sweat is.
4.) Take pride in how far you have come, and have faith in how far you have to go. This one is easier said than done, at least it was for me. We all tend to be much more focused on the end goal and we get consumed with reaching it. But after 3 months into my fitness journey, I was lifting weights and running at speeds that I was not able to on week one. Rather than having one big goal, I found it was much easier to set up smaller incremental goals along the way. I did this with the weight loss aspect, but didn't realize how important it was to tie it to my fitness progress as well. If you're going to be spending as much time as you are in the gym, in fitness classes, and working out, it will be alot more fun & manageable if you can try and quantify your fitness goals too. If you can relish in the moment of achieving small victories, you will find that you are working harder, which is really the point!
5.) YOU are the silver bullet. If you only remember one thing, please make it this one. It is not a person, or a class, it is not a workout, or a nutrition program which is going to be your salvation. It is you. Right now, sitting there in whatever shape you are, and as many pounds overweight as you may be, you contain within you, at this very second, every single thing you need to accomplish this task. You may not know it yet. You may not even know what these things are. You will need people, and programs and situations to bring them out in you. But not a person on this planet is going to be able to do the work that needs to be done except you. All too often we become hung up on thinking there is only "one" way to do something. We look to external people, methods, trends, or programs. We think that if we don't do things a certain way, we won't get the results we need. There are hundreds upon hundreds of ways to lose weight and get in shape. And it all begins and ends with you. You were born an athlete. You may not know how to do any of the exercises you are about to learn on this incredible journey, but your body knows. It was built to do them. Let your mind be open and learn to listen to the voice of the biggest cheerleader you will have during this process, you. There is no magic pill, or cure, or shortcut, the only silver bullet that exists is you.