“How do you do it?” I get asked this question quite frequently. Most people want to be fit, but can't find the time. Of course, I rebut with the same argument: “You have the time, you just have to make the time.” For me, this can mean waking up at 4:50 a.m. so that I can get it all in before work and school. Or, sometimes the laundry has to wait for the weekend. As a mom, personal trainer, and full-time graduate student, sometimes juggling all of my responsibilities can be extremely difficult. And, to be fair, I struggle as well. Especially in the winter, when holiday fun and coursework require much of my attention. Don't be fooled into thinking it just comes easily and naturally to everyone but you—it doesn't. I think at times even the best of us find ourselves thinking, I'll get it together on Monday...With the new year right around the corner, you may be resolving to get fit in 2011. Be the one who gets it together this year! Do not be afraid of being labeled a band-wagoner. You have to start somewhere!
I am absolutely flabbergasted by the number of people who email me for advice. What an honor to receive so many questions and comments! To consolidate some of the tips I frequently give through Facebook messages, emails, and instant messages, here are some tips to help you STAY on that bandwagon and keep rolling well beyond Memorial Day:
1.If you can maintain a consistent bed time, you CAN achieve your fitness goals.
Reaching goals is ultimately about discipline. If you can make and maintain even the smallest change to your routine, then you have what it takes to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle. The first place I will look when trying to fit a workout in is BEFORE work/school/etc. But, it is impossible to make a routine of waking up early to train, if you can't consistently get to bed on time.
2.Train early in the day, if at all possible.
One piece of advice that was given to me by another trainer on my very first day was, “never take on evening clients.” I'm not sure that this is a rule I want to live by, but in my own experience and from my observations, I think his perspective has some merit. So many things can happen between the time you wake up, and the evening hours. Even if your schedule doesn't prevent you from training at 6:00 p.m., you may not have the motivation left by then. Even very disciplined athletes who train in the evening have to work hard to overcome a lack of motivation at the end of the day.
3.Set a long term goal...and several short-term goals along the way.
The most common piece of advice you may receive from a trainer is to “set realistic goals.” But, sometimes it's easy to get lost in the follow-through. Set a large goal—where do you want to be in a year—and work backwards so that you have monthly, and possibly even weekly, goals.
4.Keep a journal.
I know. It's cliché. And difficult. And then you miss a day...and since you missed on Saturday, who cares about Sunday...you vow to try again on Monday...and the rest is history. But, just like with the practice of good nutrition, you can't let a missed day prevent you from getting back on the wagon. Even if you miss an entire week, there is a lot to be learned if you can compare even just a few entries over time.
5.Stop beating yourself up about mistakes.
I can spot a guilty face from a mile away, and especially when a client shows up with her head down. The guilt comes from two places: 1) she's disappointed in herself, and 2) she's afraid of disappointing me. To some extent there is a bit of a tough love situation here, but ultimately, I try to demonstrate how NOT to react to a mistake. Ok, you ate the whole row of oreos and half a jar of peanut butter. So? Excessive guilt and/or shame over a mistake like this will only lead to more guilt, more eating, and more guilt, and so on, until the yucky feeling kills your motivation to train. This is how and why many people fall off the fit wagon. GET OVER IT and get your butt in the gym!
6.Keep it fresh!
Everything works in cycles. There is a reason we set aside time for contest prep—no one wants to each that much chicken 365 days a year. Similarly, do not fall into the rut of doing the same workout every week! Find something new, try a new challenge.
7.Get a new playlist!
This one is a spin-off of #5. We have all experienced the motivation that an awesome song can bring to a workout. That awesome song can only motivate your training so many times before you start to experience a lull, often before you even realize you're bored. As trivial as it sounds, in my experience a tired playlist can be the culprit. Music makes us feel good—and feeling good usually sparks good training! Try switching with a friend or generating ideas in a forum or facebook post. And remember: no one has to see your play list but you—you'd be surprised how many athletes will admit to really embarrassing playlists. Don't feel like your playlists have to contain the kind of music you listen to in your car, and don't feel like it has to live up to some expectation of coolness. If the Bee Gees get you moving, there is no shame in burying a song or two in your playlist.
Easier said than done, yes. But really it's the little things. As much as I hate to admit it, I never train as well on days that I'm self-conscious about how my clothes fit, or when I am not feeling good about myself in general. There is always that one pair of gym pants or shorts that just...fit oddly. Avoid those! Listen to a feel-good song on the way to the gym, treat yourself to a new set of gym clothes every now and then, and smile more!
9.Make it a habit!
If you've ever received advice from me, you may have noticed a recurring theme in my advice: habit. Anything that becomes second nature will fade into the background, until one day you look up and notice the changes. If you check the scale every day in the hope of being five pounds lighter than the day before, then you will get frustrated and eventually give up. If you enjoy what you're doing and take it one day at a time, and in three months the results will sneak up and surprise you! You may say, “but I'm just not...feeling it, what's wrong with me?” Nothing! Nobody feels like it every day—just DO it.
10.Don't feel stupid!
Almost everyone has felt self-conscious in the gym, especially when starting out. Even seasoned athletes can feel this sort of self-consciousness upon starting at a new gym. But don't let this hold you back! If you want to know what that leg-thingy does, ask someone. No one was born with a complete knowledge of gym equipment—nor do they expect you to be. People tend to walk around and pretend to be self-important at the gym, but most of the time it's either a sign of focus with no bad intentions, or extremely vain posturing. Chances are, they looked dumb the first time they tried to figure it out too. And, don't worry that everyone is staring at your form, especially as you're learning a new exercise. I'm not going to lie, someone probably is staring at your form—but those people tend to think everyone else is “doing it wrong” anyway. It's not just because you're new.
I don't have time. I don't feel like it. I already messed up. I'll get it together another time. I can't establish a routine. I have no discipline. I like sweets too much. DON'T LET THESE BE YOUR EXCUSES. It's crazy how often I hear people actually say these things out loud! And once it's spoken, it becomes true. Don't say it, don't think it. Just get your butt moving, and the rest will come. Good luck in 2011, and feel free to email me if you have questions, concerns, or need motivation