Laurie and Brandy (my long time companion)
There are many books, programs, coaches, gyms,studios, fitness classes (just to name a a few) all designed to attract and motive people. So with so many choices and options why is it so hard for most people to adopt a fitness program for life that is sustainable, fun, changes as it needs to and keeps people in shape and feeling good! I read a story recently that put it all in perspective for me. Here is the short version and if you want to read the long version pick up Oprah magazine, November 2015. As the story goes the main charter is a man weighing in at 320 lbs. In the course of a year he lost 140 lbs by following the advice of a dietitian and acquiring a dog. He got the dog from a local shelter which says a lot right there. Shelter dogs often are just amazingly grateful and in this case it provided a win/win for both the dog and the man. The reason that the man got a dog was because he did not like to exercise and due to his size knew it would be a huge challenge. He chose an activity that was motivating and a pal who was going to hold him accountable. As the story goes it was the combination of the advice from the dietitian and the healthy eating plan that started the wheels turning which created the momentum to support his lifestyle changes and weight loss. What I tell my clients that want to make lasting lifestyle change in their lives is that when it comes to fitness create a menu of things that you enjoy and then make sure you have a back up plan of things that you might not enjoy as much but that you will do.
How do you do this exactly? I have people write out:
- Things they are currently doing
- Things they really enjoy doing
- Things they used to enjoy doing but no longer do
- Things they might like to try
- Things that are not their favorite but if all other options failed they would be willing to do.
You might be wondering why it is important to have a list of things? Why not just have your one or two favorite fitness activities and stick with them? I have a couple of theories as to why the menu idea works in your favor. It is pretty common for people, especially people new to a fitness program to jump in all excited and fizzle out after 6-8 weeks. In my experience if you have a variety of activities to choose from you have fewer excuses to forgo your commitment to yourself, you can avoid possible injury from overuse, you have a way to fend off boredom and you have control over what you are going to do on any given day. If your list includes cycling and x country skiing as well as lap swimming at the local indoor pool and it is 25 degrees out side plus the road conditions are extremely hazardous, you guessed, it activity 3 or plan C makes sense. In the end unless you are training for a specific goal it is perfectly fine to exercise in any way that takes you closer to the fitness level you are striving for.
That said I am a firm believer in having a back up plan for your preferred workout. There are any number of reasons for this including:
- A change in how your feeling on any given day. As being inspired and motivated is key to sticking with anything day in and day out changing course can make the difference.
- A change in weather
- A change in your day to day plan- traffic, sick children, any number of unforeseen events.