How to Stay Fit For The Rest of Your Life (Pt. 2)
5. Find Your “Why”
Being fit for the sole sake of being fit is great. Nothing wrong with being motivated by concern for your own health and well-being alone.
That being said, I believe it can help when you have a little more “umpf” behind why you are getting up each day and challenging yourself with exercise (especially if that exercise means an alarm is blaring for you at 4:30am to get up). This is where some solid sense of purpose and direction can really help out someone’s fitness goal.
Your aim is to find a “why” that actually resonates with you on an emotional level. For most of us that “why” tends to start off with more shallow surface level things, such as “I’m exercising so I can look better.” I want you to try and take things deeper than that. Try taking that initial reasoning one step further and you get, “I’m exercising so I can FEEL better”. Take that reasoning one step further again and you have, “I’m exercising so I can feel and be my best for my family and friends”. You get my point. The main thing is this “why” needs to hit you on that deep level. It needs to be something you can’t just brush off without a second thought.
What’s interesting is I can’t tell you what your “why” should be. The only person who can pick this for you is YOU.
My best example of this is all the time doctors end up having to be very blunt with their patients. “If you don’t start being more physically active and eating better, you are going to die.”
“You are going to die if you don’t do this.” You’d think that would be the ultimate motivator right? Nope. This morbid ultimatum still fails to result in any sense of urgency in individuals in medical cases, all the time. Meanwhile, reframing it to something like “exercising so they are around to support their kids”, or “exercising so they can live to see their grandkids” could just be enough motivation to cause a change. Then again, it still might not be enough. It’s extremely difficult to guess what someone’s “why” is going to be/what is actually going to be the trigger to cause a change. Where one individual could be extremely driven by a certain “why” another could be entirely unphased. It’s completely subjective to the individual.
What’s good to note is, even if you do find yourself with a strong sense of purpose, motivation and willpower should not be your sole tool on the path to staying fit forever. There’s more to long lasting behavior change than just “will powering your way through”. However, a solid “why” can be a huge mindset boost in tough spots.
6. Be Comfortable With Who You Are NOW
In many cases individuals get into fitness because they are unhappy with something about themselves. Whether it’s body image, they feel lazy not working out, or they don’t like the way they physically feel, many are coming to the gym with this sense of “not being good enough”. You need to reshape your mindset towards physical activity in this regard. You are already good enough.
The way I always like to frame this for people is, if you can’t be happy with who you are now, there’s nothing that fitness has to offer you down the line that’s going to change that opinion. There’s no magical day in training where suddenly you “look good enough”, or you “are fit enough”, or you “finally have big enough muscles”, that you are happy or feel deserving of your own self acceptance. If you can’t accept yourself as is, when you hit these markers of fitness down the line, you’re only going to find yourself demanding more of yourself never truly feeling satisfied.
Understand that your self worth is not determined by your body or your fitness level.
When people train from this mindset of “I’m not good enough”, all it does is setup an unhealthy relationship with being physically active. What should be an activity to make you feel better turns into an anxiety driven routine. Constantly wondering if you are doing enough, if what you are doing is going to net you fast results, how you look, how much you weigh, how much you lift, it becomes more of a stressful activity than a stress relieving activity. This constant association of physical activity and negative emotions is a surefire way to drop off from fitness over the long term.
Leave all of this thinking behind. Attack fitness from a mindset that you are doing this for YOU for the betterment of YOURSELF, but that does not discount who you are right now. We can simultaneously be happy with who we are now while realizing we have more potential down the line.
7. Make it A Habit
Wow…some great sage advice here…
In other words: “If you want to be fit forever, just be fit forever guy’s, it’s simple.”
Jokes aside the reason your favorite personal trainers/strength coaches/health advocates can seem almost superhuman in their exercise routines is because these people have gone beyond the point of needing outside motivation to make physically activity happen. It’s quite literally just, “on the schedule”.
If you ask a coach how they stay so consistent with their training they’ll usually give the very unhelpful answer of “I don’t know, I just do it”. This is exactly how you want to be.
You never want to rely on motivation and willpower alone to get things done because even the strongest of wills are bound to fail eventually. Motivation and willpower are great kick starters to make the change in the first place, and are good in particularly difficult situations, but they aren’t you’re long term solution. If you want to be fit forever, it has to be a habit.
This starts with fitness being as I just mentioned “on the schedule”. Get very specific with when you plan to workout for the week. Don’t stop with what days you plan to work out but genuinely give your physically activity a block of time of it’s own. Schedule it in to your day like you would anything else, and make it non-negotiable. Not I’m going to workout on Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm “if I have the time”, just I’m going to workout on Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm. Think of it on the same level of importance as scheduling out a business meeting, with the same requirements for rescheduling (only in case of emergencies).
If you can consistently hold fitness to that higher level of importance, you get your physical activity in when you say you will, and continue to schedule it out, you will eventually be able to answer the question of “how do you stay so consistent?” with the same snarky attitude of the trainer. “Idk, I just do it bro.”
8. Realize This List Had very Little to Do With Fitness
I purposely left out any discussion of “science based workouts”, how many days you guy’s should be training, what exercises you should be doing…all of that. I never want being physically active to just be another thing heaped on the pile of “things that add stress into someone’s life”, which unfortunately for a lot of people is what I think it becomes. At the end of the day I don’t think it matters so much what you are doing to be physically active, so long as you are being physically active. Whatever it takes to make that happen I’m cool with.
When tackling how to continue being fit over the long term it’s important to consider that physical fitness is only a small piece of a larger whole which is human experience. It is not something which should consume the entirety of your life (I say this as a person who has quite literally made fitness their life…)
The way I want you to view fitness is that it’s something which should be enhancing every other aspect of your life. On a base level if you are able to maintain your fitness over the long term you are going to be improving your physical and mental health over the long term. If you improve your physical and mental health you’re going to feel more energetic and have a more positive mood on a day to day basis. If you regularly have more energy and a positive mood, you are likely to be more productive, more involved in your relationships, and just more involved in life overall. It’s all just one big cascade effect.
When you stop looking at fitness as something that is just effecting what you see in the mirror, and more at how it is effecting everything else around you it becomes much more fulfilling. It’s also when you realize how much positive effect some simple physical activity can have in your life that it stops being a chore to complete. Suddenly it’s no longer “ugh I have to workout today” it’s “if I don’t workout today I know I’m not going to be feeling the best I possibly could and that’s a disservice to myself”.