I’m not talking about that one time you decided to start your new workouts on a Monday and then by Wednesday you had given up and the whole cycle starts over next month. I’m talking about actually getting started on a new lifestyle so that you stick with it.
I feel like the hardest part of developing a new workout or diet routine is getting started. And not enough people talk about this part! Because once you’ve developed a lifestyle and have stuck to it for awhile, it becomes addictive, habit forming, and arguably easier to stick to.
For example, if you haven’t worked out in awhile and then decide to run five miles, you’re going to HATE it. You’re going to feel like passing out, and you’ll hate the process every step of the way. BUT if you’ve been running every day for the past three months, not only will you replace that feeling of nausea with endorphins, your day will also feel like something is missing without it. In the same vein, if you decide to cut out all junk food suddenly, you’ll feel horrible because that is the fuel your body is used to and you’ll crave it SO BAD. But if you phase out that food over time and find yourself eating salad every week, you’ll start to crave those (sounds fake, I know, but it IS possible to develop the longing for leafy greens).
In any case, because it takes a few weeks to break a habit and develop a new one, it is hard for people to get started on a new lifestyle. IT’S NO JOKE. And when you first start, your body will completely reject the idea because it’s not what it”s used to.
Something I feel like fitness personalities don’t address enough (not that I am one, I just follow a lot of them), is the mental game. Oh sure, they’ll spout all sorts of stuff about discipline, and wanting it bad enough, but they don’t focus on the fact that some people have to work at developing those mental skills just like you’d work on your biceps. Furthermore, while discipline is important, when it comes to getting started I think mental stamina needs to be addressed even more.
Here’s the thing, when you first start out, not only are you flexing your mental and PHYSICAL muscles in a new way, you’re also going to have to go through a brutal process of trial and error if you want to see success.
I imagine everyone has a goal in mind when they embark on some sort of lifestyle change. You want to lose weight, gain muscle, just feel better, whatever! BUT, in order to reach that goal, you must be able to stay consistent with something other than what your body currently does. To truly change your lifestyle you have to go through an arduous process of finding out what works FOR YOU. There are thousands of fitness programs, classes, and sites that are loaded with ideas about workouts and nutrition, but the key is that YOU have to do the ground work on this, and the only way to do it is by research and trial and error on your own body.
Additionally, you have to recognize that some of these things you’ll experiment with won’t work out. Everyone is different, which means not everything will work for everyone, and definitely not in the same ways. A lot of people hate running, hell, it’s taken me 20 years to tolerate it. So if you hate it but you start running thinking it’s going to achieve your goals, you’re going to end up miserable WHILE you’re doing it, thus more inclined to NOT do it, and then you’ll inevitably be disappointed when results don’t appear. If something doesn’t work for you, you have to have the mental resilience to bounce back and keep trying new things.
Keep a list. Let’s say running is the first thing you try. You try it for two weeks and you’re just miserable. Move to the next activity. There’s boxing, swimming, weights, HIIT, fitness guides, cycling, CROSSFIT!! The possibilities are endless, but it’s important that you don’t give up until you find something that you enjoy and that makes you FEEL GOOD. The same goes for food. Maybe salads make you gag, but you find that you like roasted sweet potato with chicken! Just keep trying recipes and dishes until you find some that FEEL GOOD.
And when I say FEEL GOOD. I mean literally — happier, more energy, no guilt, and excitement about working towards your goals and meeting them. Keep in mind, as I’ve said, this part of the process is NOT easy and the key here really is PERSEVERANCE and being able to bounce back when something doesn’t go your way immediately. Ultimately, it is easier to revert to old ways, but if you really want to change your lifestyle, you need to be prepared for the physical AND mental obstacles. If you can recognize these ahead of time, you can develop a plan to overcome them and press on!