Path to Fitness Is the Journey of a Lifetime
The calendar says late February, which means many of those who pledged fitness as a New Year’s resolution are close to giving up until next year.
I don’t mean this in a preachy or in-your-face way. It is, however, true that the gym crowds of January start ebbing by about the middle of February. Those who thought they could rise early and exercise before heading to work have learned, even here, just how cold it can be at 6 a.m. And those who thought they could fit in an evening workout have found out it is far easier to give in to those late-afternoon meetings or after-work errands.
I can say all this because I’ve been all this. For years, I pledged fitness at the start of each year, only to give in — usually this time of year — when I realized I wasn’t prepared to make the lifestyle commitment. Somehow, the time to exercise wasn’t right, but I found plenty of time to clip coupons for buy-one-get-one-free Breyer’s Ice Cream.
So it went until 2010, when my age and my waist size arrived at a common number: 44. That day, I weighed myself and watched the number swing past 250, and even that number was a bit charitable.
The time had come, in the same way it comes for all of us when we honestly have to look in the mirror and choose a path. So I chose mine.
This is not an “I did it and it was easy and here’s how you can do it” story. Here’s the bottom line: I did it, I slid back some, I’m battling back, and it’s hard. What works for one person does not for another. As the standard disclaimer goes, your experience may vary.
I started with a few rules. First, anything I did had to be sustainable, capable of being continued over time. I would balance exercise with better nutrition. That ruled out crazy diets and insane workouts. Second, I set one big goal (210 pounds by my daughter’s birthday in August) and several little ones along the way. Third, I would record my calories spent and consumed daily in a log. That would keep me honest. Fourth, I would not beat myself up for small failures, and I would celebrate all successes, regardless of size.
With those rules, I joined a nearby 24-hour gym. I was working a second-shift job at the time, so the best time for my workout was midnight. I built my own routines: cardio training one day, resistance training the next. I started low and worked up. I did this four or five times a week.
On the food front, I gave up very few things, but what I did give up — sodas and fast food — made a big difference immediately. You want to pack on calories quickly? Go to any fast-food place and order a large “value” meal. As you look at the tray, say hello to about 1,200 calories. Cutting sodas and fast food was no small part of the overall effort.
But I continued to eat everything else, although in smaller portions that went recorded in the calorie log. And I began pigging out on the kinds of things I used to eat in small portions: salads, beans, eggs and seafood. I tracked in that calorie log the level of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
The result of all this? I blew by my big goal of 210 pounds almost three months ahead of schedule. I kept going. By the fall of 2010, I was wearing medium-size shirts and size 34 pants. I was down to 182.
I didn’t stay there. Over time, I’ve given some of it back. Just after this past Christmas, I was 217. Today, I’m 212 pounds. I’m not trying to go back to 180, but I’m also not headed back to 250 either. Healthy living is addictive: Once you have it, you don’t want to give it up.
I’m not a dietitian or exercise physiologist. I don’t know the right answer for you. But there are some truths, if your resolve to exercise is dissolving. Don’t set yourself up for defeat; build small goals.
Celebrate small victories. Stay at it and support yourself and others. And when all else fails, fall back on cliches, because the path to healthier living really is a marathon and not a sprint.
Contact John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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