People ask me a lot of questions. Most of the time I’m happy to help.
But one question is getting old. In fact, when I hear it, I can’t help but feel a little hopeless about where we are going as a society.
Not because I don’t know the answer, but because people still have to ask it.
“What should I do to get in great shape?”
Consider that full-time professionals technically need just about 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 3x a week to reach the guidelines set by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. It’s a benchmark every young professional between the ages of 20 to 50 should be able to meet.
Moreover, if you do a good job and implement spontaneous non-exercise activities, you won’t need to do much planned exercise or spend hours in the gym to become the strong, lean and energetic person you want to be.
And yet the question gets asked, and often.
So to save you the time (and me the repetition), this article tells you once and for all how to get healthier by following these strategies:
Connect with neighbors and friends to workout, play or walk together.
Make exercising tremendous fun!
Heal your relationship with food
Prioritize your health and keep yourself honest
Before I get into all that, let me ask you something.
Why aren’t you fitter?
When I ask people this question, I typically get one of the following responses:
- My family doesn’t support me.
- Between my job, my family and everything else, I don’t have time to exercise.
- I don’t know where to start. I can’t just start exercising, what if I injure myself?
- I have a gym membership – in fact, I’ve had several in the past years – but I just can’t seem to get results.
- I can’t afford a personal trainer even though I know that’s probably what I need.
Sorry, but it’s time for some tough love. First and foremost, you must take ownership of your health.
This applies to everybody, including people who work full time jobs, have kids, volunteer and other commitments. You can’t count on your family and friends to make time for you to take care of yourself. They may love you and need you, but they need to see how much of a better mom, dad, daughter, son or friends you are when your mind and body are healthy. To get them to let you take time off, you have to prove to them that you escaping your regular duties for an hour means they benefit too.
You are responsible for your health. You’re in charge, and you have to act like it.
I have three rules for success, and I’ve followed them every day for nearly 8 years:
Rule #1 – Get comfortable with the discomfort
Rule #2 – Keep yourself honest
Rule #3 – Ask yourself if whatever you’re doing would make sense to keep doing in 10 years
Along with “people care about Feeling Good, not Health,” these are the foundational rules of living a long and happy life.
Follow them while implementing the four strategies I’m about to describe, and people won’t stop asking you how you’ve gotten and stayed in such great shape.
How do you start?
You already have.
You’ve found your way to Monterey Bay Moves. That means you’re different, and you’re better off than you were 5 minutes ago. Regardless of how experienced you are, the simple fact that you’re here, making the effort, sets you apart.
Key strategies to get and stay fit
That annoyance I mentioned earlier? I’ll admit I was projecting. Years back, when I started out on my own fitness journey, I too struggled… a lot!
I made smoothies everyday, quit sugar for a few weeks, even joined a water polo team when I didn’t know how to swim (yup…). I hated it all (although I learned how to swim and now it’s my favorite sport).
I tried so many diets and workout routines to feel more energetic and happy, not disappointed and depleted at the end of the day. But if I wanted to grow, get rid of my obesity, clear my cholesterol level and feel better about myself, I realized I had to do take things a little more seriously.
So I read about fitness, I asked questions to the counter lady at my local gym, I asked questions to the janitor, I asked questions to the regulars. I tried different food tracking app, I hired a personal trainer and switched 3 times. And I came to two conclusions:
- I had grow my tolerance to discomfort.
- I had to feel like I mattered and like I was important enough to see this project through.
Two more quick things about attracting fitness into your life :
- You don’t need to spend tons of money hiring an expensive trainer that you’ll have to keep for years on end to get and STAY FIT. Of course, it’s more important to create the habits and develop your skills in the short-medium term. You’ll need to keep practicing your new fit craft on your own if you want to keep the weight off and the muscles on. But you don’t stand a chance if you think you can buy your way to fitness.
- Once you are in a shape you are happy with, you’ll soon realize you have surrounded yourself with a fit tribe! You will have proven to your family and friends that you are worthy of taking 2-3 hours to yourself each week, that they too should take better care of themselves and you won’t have to work as hard to convince people to go on a walk with you. You’ll get invited on hikes, group trainings, fun challenges, cycling tourism tours and whatnot! You’ll soon find yourself wondering why this used to seem so hard.
Now let’s talk about those strategies.
1. Connect with neighbors and friends to workout, play or walk together.
Every neighborhood has “mavens,” well-connected and fit people who always seem to be out there living their best life! You can read about mavens from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Email, call or text one someone you know and tell them about what you’re trying to achieve and ask for their help!
A study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found that participants gravitate towards the exercise behaviors of those around them. That’s why it’s crucial for your to find and create your tribe:
That fit friend or family member
We all have that “super fit” family member who looks (annoyingly) good, eats well and always seems to be out on an adventure. They always seem to know where the fun activities are at and you feel like you maybe would like to partake in them. Call, text or DM them and ask where they’re going next week or next month!
Nextdoor is an amazing platform to find people of similar interests to hangout with. Write up a post about wanting a buddy to go on walks 3 times a week before heading out to work or ask people where they workout and why they like it. Most likely you’ll end up with more suggestions than you need!
Check your local city’s Parks and Recs website, your Chamber of Commerce, local sports shop or other Community centers for fun activities to attend! There is community volleyball on Tuesdays and you’re not sure it’s the right thing for you? Call up the coach and ask if you can go try it out once before committing.
Strength in numbers
Having a partner in crime is a clear indicator of success in people who undertake a fitness journey. You can join groups here and there, but having a consistent buddy who will help you get over your slump on a Wednesday afternoon and kick your butt to get outside and walk those 2 miles together will definitely help. You don’t have a buddy? Say no more, now is the time to explore different groups and activities and find your tribe (FYI, our group classes kick ass and our participants are the best…). There are too many benefits to exercising in a group to miss out on those!
2. Make it fun!
“Exercising is boring” Yup, heard that one a hundred times. Well here’s my take on it: it shouldn’t be. It should be challenging and be enjoyable… to an extent! I don’t recommend only doing workouts that are easy and fun. At the end of the day, the principle of adaptation and progression prevail: you must challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone to see changes.
There are two ways you can make your new routine more fun :
Craft a killer music playlist
Whether you use Spotify, Pandora or Youtube, making a playlist of songs that get you pumped will crank up your energy levels for sure. We don’t recommend using music to numb the sensations or soreness as you should always be aware of what your body is telling you, but nothing beats a good playlist. A quick search online will show you which song have the best tempo for your type of workout:
Warm-ups: 100 to 110 beats per minute
Strength exercises: 110 to 120 beats per minute
Endurance, speed, and agility exercises: Higher than 120 beats per minute
Stretching: 90 to 100 beats per minute
When I was a kid…
When I was a kid, I didn’t like P.E. I always ended up picked last in sports teams, I was always out of breath and wasn’t particularly good at anything. But I really enjoyed obstacle courses, soccer and games that involved lots of variety of movements. I just didn’t see the point or enjoy running around a field or dribbling the same ball for an hour. Fast-paced, varied and music lead movement is what got me moving.
Try to remember which sports you did as a kid and why you liked them (or disliked them!). Try to see if you can join a team or recreate that type of activity today.
Don’t make it feel like a chore
It’s hard to not see exercising as another thing to put on our to-do list and dread doing for lack of time and energy. I’m serious about making this fun. You should look at your schedule and see your daily activity, walk or workout and look forward to it. You might be tired and think twice about going straight home, but part of you should feel like you’re going to miss out on having a good time even if it’s going to be hard. Getting friends on board you can laugh with, having a coach you connect with or a group that brings joy to your day are a must!
Try something new!
It can be daunting to join a new group, gym, studio, or class, especially when you feel out of shape. Know that everyone you see around you felt like a newbie at some point. Be that person in your family that tries new stuff all the time. Do all the free trials you can! Most gyms, trainers and group will let you come in for free. And keep trying until you find that activity that brings you excitement and makes your feel challenged physically! You think you’ve found something you like, but you’re not sure? Go for a lower commitment package and reevaluate after a few weeks if it’s worth it. You may take a 3 month spin class package and realize you prefer being outdoors even though you like the intensity. That’s a step in the right direction! Now go out and try a cycling club!
Keep Assessing your Enjoyment
Mindfulness and body awareness is extremely important when it comes to sustainable fitness. You need to be able to assess your progress and (especially) your enjoyment on a regular basis.
- Pre workout: Are you excited to go? When you think of your workout, what kind of emotions or sensations can you feel?
- During workout: Are you having fun? Do you find yourself smiling or laughing at times? Do you feel like you’re doing something good for yourself even if it’s difficult?
- Post workout: Do you feel like your session was worth the time spent? Would you do it again? Are you satisfied with the energy you put in?
If the gym you used to love when you joined it years ago as a single professional doesn’t bring you as much pleasure now that your interests or life situation has changed, there is nothing wrong with changing things up for a few months. Trying out a different type of exercise model could re-energize you and help your routine feel fresh again.
3. Heal your relationship with food
Being told what to eat is demeaning. Following a celebrity diet or taking things out of our food options because we’re told to never works in the long run. Remember when your parents told you to eat more of this and less of that? Having an outer authority in control of our basic needs, leads us to think something is wrong with us and triggers shame or rebellion.
It leads us to think: “If I can’t comply with this, it means I have to be so dumb or incapable of making the right decision. There has to be something wrong with me.”
Build mindful eating habits
Developing the inner wisdom to know what food your body needs and how much of it is a process that requires patience. Food is a relationship unlike any other we have in our lives: we are 100% dependent on food unlike alcohol, tobacco or drugs. The only other relationship that might be similar is the one you had with your parents as a baby, when you were 100% dependant on them for survival. If there is one relationship you want to heal and improve, it’s your relationship with food. You will always need food. In order to build a mindful eating practice, you can start with the easy to follow B.A.S.I.C.S. (read more), or attend a mindfulness meditation group.
Develop your outer wisdom when it comes to food
As a life-long evening binge-eater and all-day grazer, I was still surprised to see myself not lose weight as I went to the gym 3 times a week in my early 20s. I had 3 healthy meals a day, I drank water and got lots of sleep. What was wrong with me?
Turns out I hadn’t realized how calorie-dense my meals where, regardless of how healthy each ingredient was individually. I also tended to forget about my snacks, regarding them as “just snacks” and tended to numb emotions, sensations as well as memory when I ate full bags of chips or cookies in the evening.
Once I started tracking each item I would eat and visually saw how bad my eating patterns were, I was able to start making better decisions. I’d seek the most taste satisfaction for the most nutrition without obsessing over food that were forbidden or being scared I was going overboard with a treat. I used a food tracking app for 6 months 5-6 day a week, which gave me the basic knowledge I needed to stop using it on a regular basis. I now only use it every 2-3 months when I need a reminder of portions, when I introduce a new food in my diet or when my body craves more protein and I want to make sure I am getting it.
4. Keep yourself honest
I see myself as an honest person. I believe I am trustworthy and dedicated.
Would you say the same thing about yourself? Probably!
One thing I’ve learned this last decade is that keeping yourself honest is one of the hardest things to do, and a powerful skill to develop in order to get and stay fit. It takes courage to examine your schedule and habits and see what you are doing well and what you could do better. Sometimes, we are not as dedicated as we think we really are.
Taking full responsability for the state that you are in, and not blaming circumstances, family, work or anything else is an act of courage. Only when you know and feel that you are responsible for your own well being can you reach your full potential.
Planning VS Doing
Stop spending hours planning your workouts, stop buying expensive gym memberships and boutique fitness experiences that you don’t end up using. I remember a time when my schedule was filled with daily morning walks, lunchtime yoga and weekend runs. If you really knew me, you know that was all wishful thinking – and that I almost never ended up doing any of those activities.
There is no amount of fancy equipment or membership that will get you moving consistently. If you’ve followed my tips so far and you still don’t find the motivation or support system you need to actually exercise, you might need to try something different, or get help from a personal trainer to get you over this hump.
Lying to yourself
When I started exercising with a personal trainer, I would complain because I wasn’t getting results despite religiously following his advice in the gym. It took me 2 years of working with different trainers until I found a professional I felt comfortable enough with to tell her (with much shame) that I would binge-eat at night quite regularly. She didn’t judge me and encouraged me to keep being honest with her. The judgement-free zone with my trainer had fostered allowed me to stay honest with myself and stop lying to myself about my “perfect record”.
Shedding light on your key weaknesses is extremely powerful, and a lot harder to do that it seems! Again, a nutritionist, a personal trainer or a therapist can help you get more comfortable with past or present experiences that shape your habits.
No one cares about your fitness
At the end of the day, no one really cares if you get your workout in today or not. If you tell your partner you might go for a run later that night when they want to watch a movie with you, you can rest assured you will end up on the couch watching Netflix.
Your kids most likely won’t tell you “Come on, mom, go do your workout in the garage, we’ll be alright without you for an hour.” The house will always need more cleaning and your family members will always feel like you’re not visiting them enough.
If you decided to get some exercise in the day, you’re not doing at someone else’s expense, but you’re doing it FOR yourself and for others too. People who go to the gym consistently will feel energized, relaxed, loose, strong, and accomplished after a workout. Focus on how exercising regularly makes you feel, how it plays into your own values and what kind of behavior you want to model for your family and friends.
Stop waiting for other people to care about your health and fitness, they simply won’t… until you get sick and have to take care of you.
Do what’s best for you and for your family.
Exercise & Thrive.
CHECK OUT OUR GROUP CLASSES AND PERSONAL TRAINING OPTIONS IN MARINA, CA.