Celebrities (and now influencers) who praise products XYZ as the #1 solution to achieve their beautiful and strong Hollywood-movie body should always be taken with a sprinkle of skepticism. While many of them certainly believe in what they’re selling, their astounding physical achievements usually stem from restless work and dedication, not instant-mushroom-coffee-artificial-powered-stuff.
Now before you start throwing rocks at me, let me make something clear: I am not anti vitamins, anti protein powder, anti keto, anti anything. I simply think we, as consumers, should raise our awareness when it comes to marketing, false claims and associating how a person looks and what they’re selling.
Because in real life – and that is the life of a person who works part or full time and tends to their family – you are not going to reach your ultimate body shape and potential within a few weeks of following Chris Hemsworth’s training plan or gulping on GNC’s latest sports concoction. The marketing that got you thinking that is powerful and well thought out, we’re all looking to achieve maximal results with the least amount of results, so there is no wonder we feel deceived and disappointed at the end of the day.
I am not saying this to discourage you, but rather inspire and enlighten you before you get on – or continue your health journey.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Here it is, the one and only recipe you need to get healthy, lose weight, get lean and gain muscle.
Are you ready for this?
What you need more than anything is this single ingredient : consistency
You got health and fitness goals? Get into the tortoise mindset.
Remember the Fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare”? The children’s Fable actually has lots to teach us in terms of fitness.
Do you often find yourself excited about a new diet, new workout regimen, and new weight loss products, go all out, then find yourself quitting, or achieving some results and then going back to a more normal, less crazy lifestyle?
In the process you’ve burned yourself out – feeling physically (and sometimes economically) depleted … and you’re just one new product away from REALLY getting fit this time.
And the cycle starts again.
Then one day, you meet a new (or old) friend. They radiate with energy. They look quite fit and like they got their life together, so you ask: “What do you do to be in such great shape?”
And their answer turns out to be quite boring: “Well, I get up early, I meditate and work out, eat mostly non-processed healthy foods and enjoy myself in the evening.”
Pretty unimpressive, no?
What’s impressive is that they do that everyday, like a tortoise.
In a world of hares bragging about instant gratification and quick fixes coupled with a trillion-dollar wellness industry with hares shouting ridiculous claims of six-pack abs, herculean strength gains, and a fast track to a lifetime of happiness, is it any wonder that our tortoise friends go unnoticed?
– Grace T. DeSimone, “The Tortoise Factor”, ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, March/April 2019
Consistency Beats Everything
What is much harder than following a 30 day plank challenge?
Doing planks 3 times a week for 10+ years.
It doesn’t matter how inspired you are after watching the latest Nike Ad, checking out a sports documentary or listening to a motivational speaker, that sudden passion and motivation will end up fading if it’s not followed up by a specific plan an a system to get you to reach your goals.
I say that because I’m guilty of jumping from one exercise plan or diet to another, always seeking “the best one”, completely unaware that the key solution to my health was already in me.
Purpose is key. But passion is overrated. Because fanaticism is unsustainable. In other words, Its not about the epic workout. Instead, It’s about what you do daily — because it’s the anonymous micro actions undertaken regularly that dictate not just what you can achieve, but who you are as a human. The past is the past. And so I ask, what are you doing right now? Are your actions in alignment with your goals and core values? Are they congruent with the authentic person within? The best version of who you would like to be? If not, don’t wait until the new year to adjust — change is available to you in every moment of every day.
– Rich Roll, Ultramarathoner, Triathlete and Podcaster
How To Get a Lifetime Of Fitness
A pretty simple formula will actually get you improving little by little each week. It won’t make a dramatic change in your life at the beginning and you won’t see results right away. But bear with me. This works!
1. Apply the FITT principle: Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type
Your body will respond differently to exercising if you do it once a week for long periods or 5-6 times a week for shorter periods. Give yourself a chance to succeed by increasing the frequency before going crazy with High Intensity Interval Training. You can start by increasing all activities of daily living that are not “exercise” as per say also known as Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Those bouts of activity still count : walking to the store, using the stairs at work, parking at the very end of the parking lot to get your steps in, etc.). After you’ve implemented that, add exercise sessions into your weekly routine until you reach 3-5 days a week. By slowly increasing your frequency, you limit the chances of early quitting and you allow your body enough time to rest, rebuild and repair.
Once you’re exercising regularly (even if it’s just 20 minutes each time), start increasing the intensity.
You want to start off with an intensity that you can achieve and gradually increase over time. You can start by walking at a slow to moderate pace and work your way up to a brisk pace. If you’re used to finding online fitness plans or routines, know that they’re often not adapted to your fitness level and might turns out to be too much – which in turn leads to fatigue, not that feeling of having more energy after a good workout.
Remember, you don’t have to feel completely dead after your exercise session to get results!
You want to start off exercising often for short periods of time. Doing 15 minute walks everyday at lunch of after dinner is exactly that consistent tortoise mindset I’m talking about. Once you’ve adapted and feel like 15 minute bouts are easy, increase the time but maintain the frequency. Remember, consistency is key!
Also, depending on Intensity and Type of exercise, you won’t exercise for the same duration. One day you’re cycling at a moderate pace for 45 minutes and the other you can do a high intensity circuit of 30 minutes that burns as many calories as the first. Therefore a 20, 30, 40 or 60 minute session can be a perfectly fine duration to set for a bout of exercise. You may ask a professional to help you write a program that works with your schedule to chip at your goals safely and efficiently.
So what type of exercise should you be doing?
Unless you are an athlete who needs to prepare for a specific competition (in which case you have a coach to advise you), you most likely need a mix of cardiovascular and resistance training along with stretching sessions.
2. Create a System
If your goal in exercising is to feel more energized and boost your life, I cannot overstate the importance of a good system. Passion and motivation will only get you so far, but a sound plan with a system to stick to it is key in lifelong health and fitness.
You may like to write out your yearly goals, monthly must-dos and daily to-dos, and you may be really good at keep track of them. I am not. I tend to write goals, then find new goals more exciting ones than my old ones and not get anywhere. But one trick that has worked for me consistently in the last 2 years is allotting 30-60 minutes of each day to chip away at my most important goal. That’s it.
I could write on that for hours, but if you’re like me and you find yourself scattered and unable to choose and focus, here are my absolute must reads:
3. Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and a regular meditation practice will definitely lower your stress and boost your well-being on top of helping you sustain the healthy routine you are committed to. It’s known that athletes use meditation and visualization to help them perform in sports, but what regular people like you and me? It turns out that meditation and mindfulness techniques can actually make you better at your athletic endeavors and at making better dietary choices.
Working on breathing and understanding how to mindfully attend to your emotions and everyday practices goes a long way in creating that consistency you should be aiming for in fitness.
If mindfulness and meditation is not your cup of tea but you would still like to learn more about it, yoga could serve as a gentle introduction into the world of combined movement and stillness Our 55-minute sessions are perfect for beginners who are curious and for experienced meditators who wish to deepen their practice by focusing on the benefits of mindfulness in a fitness environment.