As a society, we have been conditioned to expect immediate gratification. Instant results, fast food, real-time connectivity. all of it at our fingertips without any effort at all. Even if our computer or smartphone takes three seconds to load we are prone to get flustered. So it is no surprise that many people beginning a fitness regimen expect the same immediate results with minimal input. But the human body is a very complex machine that is always changing (metabolism) while striving to stay the same (homeostasis). So it takes long term consistency with healthy daily habits to see a lasting lifelong change.
Unfortunately, many people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to diet and fitness regimens. This is largely from a lack of knowledge about how the human body works and from being lied to by the fitness industry with unscrupulous advertisements. Most ads with before and after pics are selling you a boatload of lies. Through lighting, tanning oil, wardrobe, and a host of other tricks they make their program look like a miraculous change in just a few short days is the norm. Not to mention many of the models are people who have a long-term foundation of strength and fitness and are carrying a few extra pounds. Believe me, that makes a HUGE difference as to the amount of time it takes to see those kinds of gains. When you see a fitness model in an advertisement many times you are seeing someone who has just competed in ( and probably won) a competition. Photo shoots are held immediately after to capture them in peak physical condition. They definitely don’t represent what the average person should or even will look like and no, buying their product isn’t going to get you there. Not to say their program or supplements aren’t effective but as the fine print of their ads says along the bottom “results aren’t typical”.
Long term commitment
The people who are successful with their diet and workout routines are the ones who do it consistently over a long period of time. Have you ever said to yourself “I’m just going to lose x number of pounds with this diet and then I’ll maintain it”? How do you plan on maintaining the weight loss? By going back to the behavior that put the pounds on in the first place? Your body is always adapting. If you take someone who’s just completed a triathlon and set them on a couch, fed by nothing but cake and soda, they are going to gain weight and become unfit. It doesn’t matter how fit they were when they sat down. Their body will adapt to their new lifestyle. If you take a total couch potato and start training them for that same triathlon they will become more fit and lose weight. Your current lifestyle determines your current fitness level. It takes regular consistent maintenance to stay fit and healthy. As you get older, it takes more consistency with less room for error. Investing in building a strong healthy body at a younger age and maintaining that fitness throughout your lifetime is one of the wisest investments a person can make. Without your health you have nothing. Your physical health is the foundation the rest of your life rests on.
Strategies for success
So how do you go about achieving this strong, healthy body you’re told you need to have? Firstly you need to make a long-term commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout your lifetime. Your physical health needs to be a priority, not an afterthought.
Secondly, you need to educate yourself on the basic principles of exercise and nutrition. You do not need to become an expert but you should know how to exercise safely and effectively to maintain a healthy level and meet your goals. You should also know what nutrients your body needs and where to find them. The more information you have the easier it is to make the right choices. The library, internet, or a personal trainer are great resources to get you started.
Thirdly you need to have a plan for success. You need to ask yourself what kinds of activities do you enjoy. Do you like exercising in a group or are you more comfortable going solo? In a gym or outdoors? What time of the day do you have the most energy or is most convenient for you? What gear do you need and where do you find it? Running shoes? Gym membership? Answering these questions are barriers you can easily remove at no cost and make your fitness goals closer to reality.
Fourthly, you need to get whatever equipment you need (shoes, clothes, mp3 player, gym membership, personal trainer e.g.) and schedule it. You need to schedule a start date and have time blocked off through the week when you are planning on doing it. Know in advance when you are scheduled. If you wing it and decide on the fly you will most likely not think of it or blow it off. Be accountable to yourself and go when it’s time. It also helps to have someone depending on you to show up so seek out a friend to get some exercise with you. Have your bag packed and your clothes laid out. Make it convenient. Make it a priority.
Rewards for success
What is the reward that comes from committing to a long-term healthy lifestyle? Well living your life in a strong, energetic body for one. Look at it this way, no matter where you go or what you do, your body is the vessel that takes you through your life’s journey. The quality of your body and health in many ways determines what you are able to do in life. The energy you have to bring to tasks, the mental conditioning you attain from physical exertion, even the way you are treated by society (whether it’s fair or not) for having a strong, fit body all influence your actions and opportunities you have in life. If you don’t stay fit, which is open to everyone, you are leaving money on the table so to say. It isn’t easy, but it gives you an advantage in the game of life that makes the investment well worth the time and effort.
On top of that, you should schedule small, regular rewards for yourself whenever you reach a goal. It could be a favorite treat to eat, a new outfit, etc. A reward gives you something to work for and look forward to. Besides, you’ve earned it. You deserve it.
Committing to a long-term fitness lifestyle takes dedication, time and energy that pays off many times over. By making it a regular part of your life you will be amazed at how it positively affects every other part of your life for the better. So start today if you’ve been delaying or thinking about it. It may very well be the best thing you ever do for yourself.