“Holy crap! I have to start looking after myself! I’m going to start going to the gym every day for the rest of the year. I’m going to wake up and go for a run and then hit the gym after work. I’m going to eat nothing but vegetables, give up coffee/smoking/alcohol and drink nothing but water.” Wow!
Does this sound familiar? If so, I admire your ambition. However, this is also a recipe for disappointment because nothing leads to gym failure faster than an over-ambitious plan. Going from 0-60 takes some time even when you drive a Ferrari. And, if you are having thoughts like the one above, your body probably isn’t a Ferrari… not yet anyway.
A large proportion of people starting a fitness program will never achieve the goals they set. In fact, some won’t even last the first month. Clearly, if they are failing so early, they’ve chosen a plan that was much too ambitious to maintain.
Starting a workout program is hard. You need to cut yourself some slack. You may not like where you are right now, but realize that it took time to let your body fall into the shape it’s currently in. It’s going to take a bit of time to get it back into the shape you want. Enjoy the fact that you are making steps to improve even if those steps are small.
Baby Steps First
The true secret to making progress in the gym isn’t to destroy your body with a brutal workout. It’s to challenge your body slightly. Start by trying to do something you know you can do but that still takes a bit of effort. If actually making it to the gym a couple of times a week is that first challenge, then, let’s start there.
You don’t even have to do that intense of a work out in the beginning. Simply checking in, walking on a treadmill for 20 minutes while reading your book, and then leaving is a great first step. When that gets easy, make it slightly harder. Maybe, after your 20 minutes on the treadmill, try the first ten minutes of a group active class. If it was fun, you might try the entire class next time. The point is to start by making a habit of the smallest things (i.e. just showing up to the gym). Once those habits are set, you can start to expand on them.
Consistency is Key
Consistency is one of the most important ingredients when it comes to success in your fitness goals. A plan you stick with will always work much better than the one you do occasionally. If you find yourself debating whether or not to workout, there is a chance you set goals that may be too ambitious.
In the beginning, you don’t need to diet. You don’t need to kill yourself running miles on miles. You don’t even need to run. By creating the foundation of consistently making it to the gym, you’ve given yourself a chance to foster that experience into something that will lead to the success you want.
Do you ever have to build up the motivation, watch videos or pump yourself up to brush your teeth? Or, is it something that is so automatic, you never worry about it. One day, the gym can be the same. Start small and start slowly to create consistency. Know that you are doing this for you and you are creating a new version of yourself. Challenge yourself slightly more every time. The consistency will come and your results will last.
Regional Manager of Integration and Nutrition
World Health Edmonton