Many times I have seen enthusiastic, motivated, and “ready” clients’ efforts derailed by their own goals. Consistent with our cultural tendency for “top down” thinking, we get an idea in our heads, whether it’s lose “x” lbs or look like “y” celebrity, and think that getting there is simply a matter of strategy. Unfortunately, this breeds discontent when, surprise, the goal was unattainable to begin with. Superstar athletes have great bodies, but they also train multiple hours per day and have a whole team of specialists organizing their daily routine. An article in Men’s Health that promises to give you abs like an athlete does not a six-pack make. Rather than taking a top-down approach, I encourage the opposite, start from the bottom-up.

First, an honest assessment of your current physical status is absolutely necessary. Are you able to do a push-up? Can you run without pain for a mile? Do you suffer from back-pain? Establishing your baseline level of fitness is key for properly progressing into any exercise program. Do not hesitate to do like the celebrities do and hire a train if only for one session. An outsider’s perspective may be needed in order to look at yourself objectively and see what your body is capable of. Simply getting your body back into working order should be the first order of business.

Second, consider how much time you are really willing to invest in fitness. If, for example, you can only spare 30 minutes a day, you will be able to improve your overall health, possibly halt weight-gain, and maybe, if you’re really intense and don’t spend any of that time idle, build some cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength. Granted, all of these changes will take place slowly, gradually, and almost imperceptibly. Dramatic transformations are the stuff of reality T.V. shows, not reality. If you can set your sights on the daily goal, and make that your prerogative, you’ll be much more likely to stick to it long enough to actually experience the outcomes. Of course, if you can commit to an hour, two hours, or more per day (I’m not implying spending all this time in the gym, but split between various aspects of fitness) you open up new possible outcomes.

Third, keep the results in the back of your mind, not the front. Contrary to our “top-down” and “results oriented” society, focusing on the end goal will likely cause you to miss it entirely. Let the results you are looking for shape your daily efforts, but concern yourself mainly with today. Get to the gym, go for a walk/run, play with the kids, and constantly look for opportunities to be active. On any given day, writing a list of personal fitness goals (PFGs) can be very helpful. Don’t get caught up in the temptation to sit down and write PFG’s for the next week, month, or year, just focus on today. Commit to what’s realistic and attainable so that you build confidence in your ability to set and achieve goals.

Fourth, enjoy the process. If you can’t find satisfaction in that first struggling run, the daily weight lifting routines, and whatever else your goal requires you will never succeed. This doesn’t mean that you have to like everything about it, just something, even if it is the feeling you get after a workout or the knowledge that you invested in yourself.

Just like a marriage, there will be good days, bad days, and everything in between. Keep these tips in mind and remember, the only way to fail is to quit and even if you do fail, you can always learn from it!

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About Tony Fed

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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