FITNESS IS MOST FAIR…
Of all of the arenas in life, the pursuit of fitness is actually the most fair, it is most equitable. A bold statement, I know. But do please bare with me here… because I am about to blow your mind!
In order to achieve anything in life, we must apply ourselves, and the outcome is generally associated with our diligent effort. However, this isn’t directly true (and I do stress the literal meaning of ‘directly’). Consider that in many circumstance in our life, our hard work must be recognized, appreciated, and/or reciprocated in order to progress.
Think about it: you can bust your but at your job, but if your boss does not appreciate your hard work (or cannot afford to), you likely won’t receive a raise, bonus, or promotion. And relationships? Very similar. Try as hard as you may, but if your spouse does not reciprocate your love and affection (to the same or greater degree), the relationship will stagnate – despite your loving intentions. School is a bit different. While it is a bit more direct (teachers typically don’t hold students back), there is the problem of the incessant variability of “tests”. The inescapable and pervasive unknown elements (shudder at the thought of them!) of conventional academic exams are actually quite impractical. Typically in life, we know what the problem is in advance and we can prepare our solutions accordingly… but I digress.
Again, the point is: the pursuit of fitness is most fair. You do the work, you get the results. You don’t need to ask for permission from your body or some proverbial – or actual – boss or spouse… your hard work directly stimulates transformation! (Actually, the physical stress you put on your body through exercise IS THE REQUISITE stimulus for transformation! You can read more about it here.) And in my mind, holistic fitness is quite possibly the most beautiful application of cause and effect.
Here is the caveat: the only person standing in your way is yourself. And, human beings – being what they are – can be their own worst critic and saboteur. In Part 1 of this blog, I discussed the importance of the power of thoughts, words, beliefs, and intentions. In this blog, I will share a complementary perspective on how to stay committed to your path to fitness.
HOW DO I GET OVER MY INHIBITIONS AND FEARS OF EXERCISE?
That is the ultimate question. If you haven’t read Part 1 of this blog, please stop, read it, and then continue to read here. It is paramount that you understand the fundamental impact of your beliefs and intentions. From an empowered mindset, you can then begin to apply the strategic concepts of “Motivation and Momentum” – with voracity!
Motivation is strongly influenced by our internal processes: our thoughts, beliefs (both conscious and subconscious), and intentions. The manner in which we speak of exercise and nutrition also plays a significant role. Thus, investigating this phenomenon will be a critical step to removing any self-inflicted blocks.
Once your introspection has begun, you should be able to reveal many sources of “intrinsic motivation” – empowerment and commitment from within. For example, by removing mental/emotional blocks, you can begin to realize that effective exercise and healthy nutrition are supposed to be quite challenging, and accept it without judgment. And not just conceptually, but you actually get it! Or, perhaps you remember that you truly feel accomplished when you work hard on your goals. From this empowered state, you can then approach fitness without fear. Negative affirmations can then transform into positive affirmations. “I can’t do this…” turns into “I can do this!”, turns into “I did it!”.
Intrinsic motivation is a phrase that I often use to describe the development and application of inner strength. I believe that intrinsic motivation is the deepest and most powerful source of motivation. If you truly believe in yourself, manifest your inner strength, and learn to enjoy the process, you will become unstoppable! And that, my friends, is my ultimate secret to achieving and maintaining fitness – for life.
If you are not quite ready to reveal your truths about your relationship with yourself and fitness, do not worry. You can use a shortcut. Although not as effective as intrinsic motivation, “extrinsic motivation” – empowerment from the external world – can be useful. For example, an upcoming wedding (external stimulus) inspires you to lose 10 lbs of fat to fit into your favorite dress/suit. A possible major limitation, however, is that once the objective is achieved (wedding is over), people tend to resort back to their previous lifestyle. This is actually quite common and extrinsic motivation appears a fundamental reason why people transiently improve fitness, constantly fluctuating in weight and performance. I am not suggesting that you believe this for yourself, I’m just highlighting prevalent patterns of society so that you can learn from them. If you can tap into your external objectives and stay on top, you will achieve your goals and even maintain them.
Ready for some great news? Regardless if you are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, momentum also plays a significant role. The Law of Inertia (Newton’s 1st Law of Motion) states that: an object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by a significant force; and, an object in motion tends to stay in motion until acted upon by a force in an opposing direction. In practical terms, this means that once you get going, momentum kicks in, empowering you to get your work done, and in some cases, regardless if you want to or not. Actually, if you don’t have any intrinsic or extrinsic motivation, get it done all the same, momentum will then take care of the rest.
I believe this is the fundamental concept behind Nike’s logo and tagline: “Just Do It”. Simple and powerful, Nike’s logo/tagline has withstood the test of time – unchanged – which highlights the power of the message.
The admonition with momentum, however, is that it can work for you or against you. Get 2 workouts in on consecutive days… guess what? You will be that much more likely to get a 3rd and 4th workout in a row! Conversely, take 2 consecutive days off – you are likely to take a 3rd and 4th, and then you have to start all over again. My advice? Never take more than 1 day off. Practically speaking, to take advantage of the power of momentum, I recommend the following schedules for training programs:
Beginner: 1 day on, 1 day off
Intermediate: 2-3 days on, 1 day off
Advanced: 4-6 days on, 1 day off
Momentum not only plays a role in establishing a habit of going – or not going – to the gym, etc., but also plays a significant role in the actual workout experience.
Like my clients, I too, have considerations about my workouts and sometime drag my feet a bit when it comes to actually getting into the groove of the workout at hand. But after the first 5 minutes, I feel like an athlete! I become totally engaged, focused, and committed to the workout process.
For many you, perhaps the first 5,10, or 15 minutes of a workout are actually the most difficult. This may occur due to the fact that you haven’t done anything yet – you haven’t developed any momentum. Once you get past this microcosm of disparity, momentum will take over: you are warmed up – physically and psychologically – and in the mode of getting some serious work done. Once the workout is over, you may be inclined to train the very next day, but guess what? The first 10 minutes feels like a drag again… It is what it is. Don’t challenge, just accept it and proceed accordingly.
In summary, intrinsic motivation is the most empowering and resilient form of motivation. I highly recommend cultivating this quality. Extrinsic sources of motivation can work, but beware of the possible risk of resorting to your previous lifestyle after you achieve your goals. Momentum works in-of-itself, and can also compliment your motivation style. Essentially, use your motivation to take action, consistently. In time, you will develop a positive habit, thus generating powerful momentum. As momentum develops, it will keep you plugged into your path to fitness, regardless of your current disposition.
Embrace these simple concepts and become unstoppable!