I was asked a question recently by a friend that everyone goes through at some point. Let me walk you through our conversation, and it’s my hope that it helps you in the process.
“I used to be in really great shape, I was running 5 miles every other day, I felt great, looked even better, and could eat whatever I want, but then…“
“But then…” We are all guilty of this one, right? We always talk about how happy we were years ago with our workout regimes, our nutrition plan, or lack thereof, and how we could get away with eating anything in the world and could tell no difference.
In church, there is a saying, “Everyone is either about to enter a trial, is currently going through a trial, or is just exiting a trial in their life.” Kind of a morbid way to look at the world, but I have found that it holds true more than not.
The more I consult with people about their health and fitness, I find the same to be in true when it comes to the elusive “being in shape.” Everyone is either on the path to being in shape, is currently happy with their fitness status, or they are now on the other side of a seemingly vast expanse, wondering how in the world will they ever get back to “being in shape.”
Before we continue down this path, let’s pause and define one thing here.
What Does Being in Shape Mean?
Ask one hundred different people, and you will get one hundred different answers. Here is what a sample of those answers might look like.
Being in shape to me means…
- feeling confident in yourself, in your body, and in your abilities.
- no one is going to tell me if I’m in shape or not. I decide that for myself!
- Being under 10% body fat for men and 18% for women.
- Being able to see my abs!
- I accomplished my thigh gap goal.
- Being able to excel across a variety of physical challenges and tests.
- the ability to bench your body weight, squat 1.5 times your weight, and deadlift 2x your body weight.
- competing at a professional level.
- being fit and balanced across all areas of my life, not just physical health.
- simply being free from disease and chronic illness.
- just being able to play with my kids, or keeping up with the grandkids.
- as long as I can touch my toes, I know I’m still good!
We receive a variety of answers because we are all shaped by different circumstances and environments. Our expectations of ourselves are different from one another regarding our physical health, just like they differ in financial, relational, and spiritual areas.
Therefore, it should be no surprise when I say…
YOU DETERMINE what being in shape means FOR YOU
Just as you set expectations for your salary, the car you aspire to drive, the kind of person you wish to marry, the house you desire, you also set the expectations in regards to your health. No one else can decide that for you.
It’s only at this point when you define a specific goal for your physical health, when you give it a name, when you can form the image in your head, then you are ready to start developing an action plan to navigate your life in such a way to produce the desired result.
For a how-to guide on achieving your goals, read on HERE.
What usually completes this “but then” statement is a list of life events that have blown the fitness journey off course. Most of the time it has to do with the time and effort it takes to raise kids, grow a career, school, often times physical injury is involved, emotional turmoil, heartache, or sometimes it’s just extreme laziness.
I say extreme because the other life events, although can turn into excuses if given sufficient time and attention, are not always something that can be avoided. However, if you cannot find time to treat your body as a temple, that you have been blessed with from above because you are too busy tossing in your bed or binge watching the newest Netflix series, I have no sympathy for you.
(Let it be known I have been guilty of both on occasion)
All this being said, yes, life does throw some real cruel punches sometimes and it’s easy to divert off track. Although, there is a common trend that follows when we get “busy.”
The first thing to take a back seat when our schedules become hectic is our health and fitness.
The 30 minutes or hour you use to devote to working out, going to the gym, or running can no longer be found in your day, or you cannot summon the energy and willpower to do so. To combat this we need to prioritize and execute more efficiently. That’s all there is to it.
One of my favorite books was written by former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, Extreme Ownership. The common theme is taking ownership of all aspects of not only your company but your life. His most used quote says, “Discipline equals Freedom.” Meaning, that the more disciplined you are with your time, the more freedom you will actually experience.
If you have the discipline to wake at 5:30 AM and workout, then you later have the freedom to take the family out to dinner, coach your son’s baseball team, date your wife, or become more involved in your church, etc. The more disciplined you are in your schedule, the fewer decisions, and mental space these issues are consuming, leaving space for the more critical life matters.
If you agree and make up your mind to avoid bread for one week, then the team wants to grab a pizza on Friday; well, the decision was already made for you, five days prior. Therefore, you have more willpower and mental freedom than you would otherwise, wrestling with the decision to treat yourself or not.
For more on willpower and intrinsic motivation click HERE.
The Most Important Thing
Over lunch one afternoon with a few buddies, the conversation eventually and always does fall back to health and fitness. My friend, adjusting to life with a couple newborns, started to tailor the conversation to mirror the one I have been walking us through.
He used to be in excellent shape, right where he wanted to be, eating at all times of day, whatever he wanted, but as long as he kept his workout routine, the scale and mirror never betrayed him. Here is the question he followed with, “what would you recommend is the single most important thing I do for getting back in shape?”
Here my friend was wanting to know if he should begin building up his cardio base by running more often, or incorporate a strength cycle to build some foundational strength, or should he start along the lines of yoga to regain flexibility and joint health. However, what is my friend really asking me? What is anyone in his shoes desperately wanting to know?
Where do I start?
I want to encourage you today: the answer is easier than you might think.
Remember when I said, the first thing to go when people become busy is their workout routine and focus on health and fitness, right? That’s because we tend to view working out as a chore. We really enjoy the way it makes us feel, look, the mental clarity that follows, and the escape that it can provide from our daily lives. However, when our time and willpower is lacking, the last thing we care to do is become all hot and sweaty, beat down, gasping for air.
The simple solution…Do What You Enjoy.
You heard me right. In the end, the key to longevity and health is movement. Whether that movement happens while trail running, lifting heavy things, dancing, cycling, walking your dogs, swimming, pilates, yoga, Crossfit, gymnastics, tactical fitness, softball, basketball, polo, TAKE YOUR PICK!
I want you to ask yourself, “what am I most likely to do, continue to do, and enjoy at the same time?”
Think back on the times when you have been “in shape” or at least physically active. What were some of the activities you enjoyed the most? What are the activities that you were best at? During which activities did you have the most fun?
For myself, I welcome a good variety, but what I enjoy the most and will continue to do throughout my life are only a few activities. Why? Because they are what I like, they’re what I’m good at, and therefore, what I will most likely continue to do.
Put the odds in your favor, friends. Try not to overcomplicate this stuff. Yes, we can provide you with nitty-gritty details on how to become ketogenic, on how to lose body fat while gaining muscle, how to add 20 pounds to your back squat, and how to become more explosive. However, all those are additions to your primary purpose: live a long, healthy, and prosperous life.
Do what you like. Do what you are good at. Do what you will continue to do.
Now, Go Do It.