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Weight Loss Fundamentals – How to Never Ever Miss Another Workout Again
Skipping workouts is second only to poor eating on the list of things that will bring your progress to a screeching halt and/or worse yet, make you regress. Good health, flexibility, the wonderful feeling of self-confidence that you get from sticking to a regular exercise program, and the body you want ALL require CONSISTENT regular exercise. There is no way around this, and despite what the makers of “Exercise In a Bottle” (a real product), you can’t actually buy it in a bottle or any other way. It’s just something that you get to do.
I was not born a consistent exerciser. In my own journey from obese (I had over a 40 inch waist) to fit (single digit body fat), learning how to become a person who almost NEVER misses a workout, despite whatever else is going on in my life, was one of the most important things that I changed. That transition took me a little over TEN years to make. So maybe I can help you make that transition in less than a decade with what I have learned from my journey and the journeys of many dozens of clients. Some of whom did and did not (and got fired) make the journey.
1. Take the long view: It is what you do, or don’t do, today that determines how you and your life will be tomorrow and many, many tomorrow’s later. You have the body that you have right now because of what you have or have not done over the past few weeks, months and years. Don’t kid yourself about where your actions are going to lead you – skipping workouts (or rarely exercising) will lead you to a) eventually or already being fat, b) at least sub-optimal health, and c) in the hospital for complications of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and almost every other health problem you can think of.
Take the long view – in the long run instant gratification will lead to lasting and very serious pain, whereas what is ever so slightly difficult now will lead to long-term, lasting pleasure.
2. Set a new standard: We all have internal laws – “I wear clothes in public,” “I don’t cheat on my wife,” and “For God’s sake, I do NOT listen to Britney Spears or read about her in the tabloids,” etc. Here’s a new one: “I DO NOT EVER MISS WORKOUTS UNLESS I AM SICK OR INJURED AND EXERCISING WILL INTERFERE WITH MY RECOVERY.” You can stop reading the article right now. That law is all there is to it, everything else in the article is just how to make it easier to follow.
3. Drop the BS excuses: Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State flies 24,000 miles per MONTH, yet she works out between 6 and 9 times per week and almost never misses a workout. This is despite the fact that she is almost constantly in a new time-zone, and the “normal order” of her life simply does not exist. What’s your excuse?
Rationalization: rational-sounding-lies about why you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing, that let you off the hook. It’s like taking the top off of a pressure cooker. Excuses make it OK – in YOUR head and your head only – not to exercise. That conflicts with your new standard. This is an instance where it is good to be upset – not to beat yourself up, but to be dissatisfied with your behavior. If you make it OK, then you will not change. You will continue to NOT exercise. If you resist the temptation to let off the pressure with an excuses, then that pressure will motivate you to find a way to get it done.
4. Make more time for THE most important person in your life: Could you tell your boss that you were too busy to come to work? Not if you want your job. Can you tell your body that you’re too busy to exercise? Not if you want your health, or don’t want your gut.
While you can tell yourself that you don’t have the time to exercise for three hours per week, the truth of the matter is somewhat different. A week has 168hrs in it. So, for everyone who flunked math, three is less than 168. Three is LESS than 2% of the time available to you in the week. The problem is not that you do not have the time, the problem is that you do not reserve the time.
When you take the emotions and the excuses out it becomes a very simple issue. And solution: Before your week ever begins sit down with your calendar and make at least three appointments with yourself – one for each workout (if you don’t have a calendar, get one, this will never work trying to keep track in your head – never). Then, when something comes up – and it will – say “no” to the distraction and “yes” to your workout. If anyone asks, you tell them that you have a very, very important meeting that you cannot miss under any circumstances. Also, it is none of their business who the appointment is with – it is your time. Again, when you take out the emotions and the excuses, and instead deal only with the facts, then this becomes a very, very simple matter.
The facts in this case being that when it comes to your workouts, there are only two possible option – either it did or it did not happen. There is no try. There is no excuse. There is only do or don’t do. Keep this in mind and many of the conversations about why it is OK to not will go away, and you can instead think about HOW to get it done.
5. Have a REAL plan: This is, I think, where the magic happens. Frequently people get all excited about getting fit and healthy, and decide that they are going to “workout.” They get a gym membership, and then go in to do some random stuff. Then come back a day or two later and do some more random stuff… This lasts for a week, two weeks, maybe even a month or two and then they just stop working out.
Some combination of three things happened: A) they got frustrated because they’re in the gym all this time and they’ve got nothing to show for it, B) exercising (or a perceived failure to do so) started to stress them out and made them feel bad about themselves, or C) they just got side-tracked by life.
A) You know the old saying, “If you choose to act as your own attorney, then you have an idiot for a client.” You are a teacher, a rocket scientist, a doctor, and event planner, a CPA, or something other than a fitness expert. You should not be surprised when the workouts you design (or make up off the top of your head) don’t bear any fruit in terms of results. You are an expert at something, just not this – 5 to 10 years and $50-100,000 later and you could have something.
There is nothing more frustrating than making an honest effort to do something, and getting absolutely (or almost) nowhere. Get a real plan, and real coaching from a real expert, that really measures your progress objectively so that your time and effort are not wasted. Getting results is very motivating. Lack of results is demoralizing. If you are currently a gym member, I’m sure you have noticed that almost everyone looks the same month-in and month-out, year-in and year-out – especially those working with the people in the “trainer” shirts.
Of course this also goes hand in hand with the new saying, “the guy in the ‘trainer’ shirt at your local gym (or national gym chain) is also an idiot.” Be very careful who you select to help you with your plan. Last year I was able to get my sisters dog certified as a personal trainer, so the t-shirt and the certification mean almost nothing. 99.5 to 99.9% personal trainers are ridiculously unqualified and will only get results by accident, if at all.
B) Being vague about what constitutes “success” or compliance is the quickest way to feel terrible about yourself no matter how hard you are working. That is what the hell does, “I’m going to start working out,” or “I’m going to get in shape” mean? What do they mean specifically?
You need goals that you can quantify and that you can objectively measure your progress towards (with numbers!). You also need a plan that spells out exactly what you are supposed to be doing to get to your goal. Do you workout three days per week, or four days per week? Are your workouts 45, 60 or 75 min in length? What are you doing for that hour? You need a real plan that really defines what you are supposed to be doing.
This way success is defined – it’s one hour, 3 days per week (and you can get a LOT done in that amount of time, provided you didn’t get your plan from the guy in the “trainer” shirt). And you can feel really, really good about yourself for succeeding three days per week. You are living up to your own clearly spelled-out standards of what “good” is. Otherwise exercise becomes something that just makes you feel guilty because you never really know if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, and you never really know if what you did was “enough” without a real plan. And why the hell would you expend extra energy to feel bad about yourself?
C) A real plan comes in handy here too. If you have a specific plan that says do X, Y and Z on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 45 or 60 min., it is soooooooo much easier to schedule that into your life in advance. Whereas the vague, “I should exercise this week,” or “today” means nothing specific and is impossible to schedule. And if you aren’t setting aside the time in your calendar to exercise, then the only time you’ll exercise is when you have “free time.” Which is something that just doesn’t exist for most people. Everything else becomes more important by default, all your good intentions go out the window and you feel terrible about yourself for not exercising when you know you should. Get a real plan, from a real expert and schedule it.
6. Get more sleep: Want to put your self discipline on turbo drive? Get 7-9hours (more in the 8-9 range) of sleep every day. Fatigue is the death rattle of motivation and self-discipline. When you are exhausted your subconscious, and often conscious mind are obsessed with, for lack of a better term, being lazy. They are looking for any excuse to NOT expend energy, to be distracted, to watch TV, to eat some extra food to relax (I don’t think that many people understand how HUGE the link between stress eating and lack of sleep and play time are), anything to try and compensate – poorly – for not getting enough rest. (If you under-sleep chronically, then fatigue is “normal,” so you don’t notice it and you won’t until you actually get enough sleep for a week.)
Sleeping less actually results in LESS time. For example, if you sleep five or six hours per night, you may think to yourself that you now have an extra two to three hours in your day (you’re awake for 18 to 19hrs/day instead of “only” 16). BUT, the fact of the matter is that you are only operating at 50-60% without enough sleep. So, you will get LESS done in MORE time, while sacrificing your health, and feeling like crap – great plan!
For example, I am currently taking organic chemistry (ugh!). At the beginning of the semester I was not very good about getting 8hrs of sleep every day, and I was absolutely terrible about setting aside dedicated play & relaxation time – I let work and school spread out over all seven days, morning, afternoon and night. I was working as hard and as much as I could, and consequently it took me 8-10hrs to complete a single chapter with only ~70% comprehension/retention (according to my exams). However, now I get 8hrs of sleep 6 out of 7 days/week, and take at least a day and a half off every weekend, AND I can knock out an organic chemistry chapter in 3-5 hours with 80%+ retention/comprehension because my mind is so much fresher and sharper.
7. Be realistic: On the road to success you almost always must pass through failure. Despite what you learned in school, doing something wrong is part of learning how to do it right. You are not a machine, you are a human, so you can probably count on stumbling on your road to becoming a consistent exerciser. If you don’t get it the first, second, third, etc. then keep on trying and adjust your approach a little each time. Eventually you will run out of ways NOT to get it right and get it. Provided you don’t just keep repeating what did not work in the past.
So, this is all very, very, very simple: attitude rules, all the strategies to make it easier are great, but they are worthless without the right attitude – “I make all of my workouts, unless I am sick.” Either you do or you don’t, you did or you didn’t, you will or you won’t. No excuses, no rational-lies-ation. You want health? You want to look good? Then you exercise, and you do so consistently. You don’t? Then you don’t, end of story. Stop telling stories to yourself, and getting your ass in the gym will become much less complicated.
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