My inspiration for this blog is a new friend I met in the last month. I cannot believe how much she reminds me of myself when I first started on the road from flabby to flabulous. When you are at this stage, it is hard to imagine that you will ever reach your ultimate goal--you are sure that you will fail once again, just like every time before this attempt. Exercising is hard because it feels like everyone else is so much more advanced than you are, and it is also so much harder to move the extra weight around no matter what the exercise is. Like my friend I also avoided anyone taking my photo like it was the plague--who wants the documentation of this low point in your life.
I am here to say that it DOES get better, and you CAN reach your goals no matter how far you have to go to reach them. This week I was reading an article from one of my favorite bloggers--Adam Bornstein, the editor of the Livestrong.com website (you can read the full article at this link: 4 Steps to Get Back in Shape). I wanted to share some of his tips, because they are ones that have helped me on my journey.
Tip #1: Determine Your 'Why' This is a big one, why are you wanting to embark on this journey? Do you want to be healthier? Get in better shape? Have more energy to play with your kids? For me, I decided to be a better role model for my children. I noticed that my unhealthy habits were becoming the lifestyle of my kids, and I wanted a better life for them. And as I have progressed on my journey, my reasons for continuing on have changed. Now that I have become a more positive role model, my focus has moved away from losing weight and is more focused on increasing my endurance in my exercise. That is why I have chosen to work toward completing an Ironman--this should allow me to really push myself to my fitness limits.
Tip #2: Establish Clarity Once you determine why you want to change, you need to be specific about how you will go about working toward that change. You cannot achieve your goal if you do not have a target to shoot for. I have written before about the importance of setting specific goals and then determining the steps you need to take to meet those goals.
Take my example, I am not just saying I want to be more fit. I have set my sights on doing an Ironman, which will require me to meet lots of little goals before I can be prepared to actually participate in the final event. My first goal is to complete a shorter triathlon in December that will allow me to practice the transitions between my swimming, biking, and running. I plan to do my first full marathon in January, and then I plan on doing a century bike ride (100 miles) in March. These little goals will all work together to ensure that I will be successful when I hit that final stretch goal of running 26.2 miles, biking 112 miles, and swimming 2.4 miles in the Russian River as I compete in the Vineman.
I have been reading the book Triathlons for Women by Sally Edwards. I was really inspired by one of the quotes I came across that had me looking at goal setting in a different way. She stated that "losing weight is a goal, but isn't it better to set your sites on something you can gain, rather than something you can lose?" I love this twist in thinking, and it fits right into my plan to focus less on the scale and more on my general fitness. So when you set your goals, you might want to focus on what you can gain.
Tip #3: Take a Step Back This basically means that you need to be patient with your progress. It is easy to go full force, be disappointed by the pace of your improvement, and then end up giving up the entire journey in frustration. Remember that for many of us it has taken years to put on those extra pounds--we need to allow time to work toward healthier eating habits and fitter bodies. My more recent journey has been over six years long. Yes, it has taken me a while to get to this point, but because I have worked so hard to reach this level, I am not going back to what I was. Be patient and you will be rewarded in the end. If I had not started with small fitness goals such as walking five minutes and then running one minute, I would never be at this point where a half marathon is a comfortable distance for me. I would have hurt myself, and then given it all up and thought running just wasn't for me.
Tip #4: Focus on Progress, not Perfection This one is related to the previous tip. You need to focus on the progress you make, and not on being perfect. You should also not compare yourself to the progress of others. One of the most beneficial things my Crossfit Coach Al said to me was that I should never compare myself to what others are doing in the workouts. I should only compare myself to the person that walked into the Crossfit box on that first day. Maybe I can't lift 115 pounds like Lana, but I started lifting a PVC pipe, and now I can lift 85 pounds. It is not my ultimate weight lifting goal, but I have made incredible strides since November, and I can be very proud of that.
So, to my new friend, and to all of you out there trying to reach your health and fitness goals, you can do this. Figure out why you want to make the change, set goals, and then be patient and focus on your progress, not on perfection. Pretty soon you will realize that failure is not an option--you have an amazing life to live, and it is easier to live it in a healthy body. You will be an inspiration to others, and you will no longer be hiding from the cameras--you will be seeking them out to document your incredible new life.