Starting a new fitness plan is hard. This is true of most projects that involve challenge and uncertainty.
A few years ago, I was sitting at the breakfast table at my family’s farm in Oklahoma. I love talking with my dad, who is the person I admire most and so full of wisdom. The conversation turned to investing – specifically, what are ordinary people supposed to know about money and investing? What is the best way to save enough to retire, given all the complexities out there?
The secret to investing success? According to my dad, simply getting started is the #1 factor. Yes, it’s possible to do endless analysis. Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in details about the BEST way to maximize returns.
All of that can be a distraction, he said, because a few time-tested principles have been repeatedly shown to work very well over the long run. Everything else is icing on the cake.
THE “BEST WAY” IDEAL MAKES FITNESS HARDER
My dad’s advice immediately resonated with me because it’s absolutely true of fitness too. Being obsessed with the “best way” can ironically make success harder, ESPECIALLY if we postpone that first step.
We all know that eating well, exercising, and managing stress are key to being healthy and happy. We don’t need any convincing. And yet, it’s very, very common to think about fitness goals for months or even years before finally taking action. I know I did.
For a full decade (a decade!) I was working in a law firm and giving my best energy to my clients and my family. I put myself last. I always intended to get back into exercise, the way I had before and during law school. I’d watch my coworkers go to a nearby gym at lunch. I’d pass a gym every morning and tell myself I’d get there. Just as soon as I figure out a good strategy. When that massive project gets done and my schedule calms down a little.
Life never did calm down. For me, it took a cross-country move to shake up my routine and start me down the fitness path that I’m on today. Now, at age 48, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been.
SO WHERE DO I START?
You might not like this answer. It’s not complicated or mysterious.
If you’ve been thinking about improving your fitness, the single best thing to do is to start today. This minute.
Take action, and figure the specifics out as you go.
But wait, you might say. What if I’m not sure what to do? What will work for me? What if I make a mistake?
These are great questions to ask. But let’s simplify: there are two choices for taking action on any fitness goal:
- Rely on our own knowledge; or
- Enlist someone more knowledgeable to help us
Pick the option that makes the most sense today, and adjust as needed. Over a lifespan, most of us will need both strategies.
For example, getting started today might look as simple as buying a reusable water bottle, drinking a liter of water, taking a walk, and taking a few minutes for a relaxed talk with a friend or loved one. Repeat daily while looking for opportunities to level up.
Hiring a personal trainer, joining a gym, or buying a new fat loss program are additional options.
More radical changes are ok too. I’ve learned so much from experimenting over the years. For example, I did a Paleo diet for three months and learned that oatmeal is non-negotiable for me. I love it and didn’t feel as strong without it.
Another time, I did a very strict elimination diet and learned that basil can be very interesting in a taco seasoning. Who knew?
Do be sure, if going the more radical route, to be safe and use good judgment. Consider teaming up with trusted professionals, like a Registered Dietitian or certified personal trainer. If you’ve got a lot of weight to lose, consider working with a doctor who specializes in obesity.
A lot of trainers and programs out there will suggest there is one “right way” to fitness. Right now habit-based, intuitive training is very much in vogue. This philosophy recommends avoiding “diets” and just making small, habit-based changes over time. Throw out all the strict rules and embrace moderation. Treat yourself. I actually agree with this approach and follow it myself 90% of the time, but it’s still just one path to fitness.
My funny brother likes to say “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” I love that. Who am I to say that habit-based training is the best focus for you right now? You might need something a little more intense. Maybe an “all-in” kind of program will teach you something really cool and useful.
YOUR ACTION CHECKLIST
The point is to evaluate your options, take action, and work to improve every day. The only way to fail is to get swept up in the current of life and let the circumstances make all the decisions for you.
Here’s a checklist for taking action:
- Resolve every day to do something specific to improve your fitness.
- Aim to make progress on the three essential components of any successful program:
- Eating well
- Moving more
- Supporting a healthy outlook by managing stress and overcoming obstacles
- Strive to improve a little every day.
Since so many of us struggle to take those first steps towards a fit lifestyle, I’m working right now on a free resource to dig into this juicy topic a little deeper. I’ll be sharing the details with my subscribers in a few weeks, so if this is helpful to you, be sure to be the first to get a copy by joining my mailing list here.
Please drop me a line anytime to let me know how it’s going. You can reach me here by leaving a comment below, on Facebook and Instagram, and via email at email@example.com.