Taking Your 6 First Mental Fitness Steps
New year is back and with it comes the inevitable rush on the gyms across the western world. Thousands of people uttering the words 'i'm going to get in shape' descend upon the hallowed halls of sweat, pain and hard work hoping to achieve the physique they have always wanted. The good intentions fill up the gymnasium buildings as new and returning blood is pumped whilst wearing seldom-used trainers and gym tops. And all the while the exercise veterans look on fully expectant that at least 80% of these people will be gone by Valentines Day. How are we so sure? The fitness first steps have preceded the mental first steps. So here's an article to outline those very mental steps you need to take if you are going to be part of the 20% who stays. Here's the list of 6 things to think about when about to start;
1. Fitness is a long term ongoing goal; If you are exercising to get to a certain state, fat percentage, muscle mass, physique then you will fall. Fitness is ongoing, always changing, always fluid, always adapting and you need to do the same in terms of your expectations. You will not 'feel better' after a few months. You cannot get away with just a short plan to exercise. Fitness is not a method by which you achieve a goal it is a process directly and indirectly to living a healthy life. This means the goal of fitness is simply to keep doing it. Save the fat percentage goals for ideals but not set in stone. Don't be fooled by the fitness 'professionals' who starve themselves, go on stage and pose in a competition only to eat their body weight in chips afterwards. That's not fitness. Fitness is ongoing, steady, a lifestyle, not just for a couple months.
2. Do whatever; as long as you are tired afterwards; If you leave the gym mildly moist rather than sweating your butt off you basically wasted your time. If you leave the gym with a similar heart rate to when you entered you didn't really do enough. Nothing destroys gym enthusiasm like feeling you are wasting your time exercising. Plan to crawl out of the gym on your hands and knees. Plan as little rest time as possible. Plan to check no Whatsapp messages until you are out of the gym. Make your gym playlist before you exercise so that it is all sorted as soon as you enter the doors. Do whatever is needed as long as you don't hurt or injure yourself or others.
3. Don't care what other people think; If you are self conscious about your style, your workout, your intensity then you will be too afraid to exercise. That sounds weird but people can be so put off by what they perceive what others think that they feel intimidated by the gym. That's the long and short of it. Get into the habit early of not caring what people think about you; in the gym and in life. This is an issue that demands more time but for now you have to just go with blinkers on. Don't look at other people if it helps. Tunnel vision yourself so that you aren't unnecessarily put off by the looks of others. Life is much much simpler that way.
4. The more efficient you are the less time you have to be there; At the start a gym session is more exploratory and demands a bit of time from you. That is necessary, inevitable if you are going to get your wagon hitched to the fitness train long term. But after a period of exploration that can last up to a week you will be done and knowing what you need to do exercise-wise and intensity-wise. The more you know what you are doing the more efficient with your time you will be and the time it takes for you to have a good workout will reduce a lot. So don't let the time it takes to exercise put you off. You can nail a pretty hefty session in about 30 minutes. We all have 30 minutes to spare in a day. You can too.
5. Don't let your diet let you down; Fitness and diet go hand in hand in a big way but people find it hard to sort out both at the same time. Think about it like this instead; in a diet you take something away, usually e.g. bad food. With fitness you add something to your life. Yes they are not the same things but in thinking that you are substituting bad food for healthy exercise; you are killing two birds with one stone and in doing so you have a net loss of zero in your life. Yes, you can substitute food for exercise because it has a knock-on effect for the food that isn't displaced. That's the beauty of it! You can't out-exercise a bad diet but you can out-exercise time for food.
6. Jump away from the gender stereotype; Women go to the cardio, men go to the weights. Yawnnnnn. Fitness fanatics do both in equal measure, no matter what they are trying to achieve or do. If you follow the gender stereotype you are mentally just following the trend and thus will follow the trend to giving up the gym by Valentines Day. Mix up the two different types of training constantly because mentally that sets you apart from the majority which is one of the biggest aspects to the fitness lifestyle, it's a minority way of living.
These are perhaps the easiest 6 steps you can take in order to be able to stay in the gym for much longer than a month and a half. If you are going to stick around in the gym and really change your life you will have to follow these 6 steps initially. This won't keep you going for months and months because fitness requires a period of soul searching and personal mental and physical analysis but walk before you can run. This should help you give yourself time to get onto the second stage of mental fitness which is that analysis required for knowing what kind of fitness works for you (see the Fun-Efficiency Balance Hypothesis on the TDL Fitness website).
See you in the gym, new people!