If you’re struggling to stay motivated (or even to get started) with your fitness journey, I hope this post will help you. As both a fitness professional and someone who has worked hard to earn my fitness results, I have found the following “secrets” to be true of everyone who succeeds in reaching – and sustaining – their goals.
You can take these steps one at a time, but you will probably find the best progress when you have all five in place. I’ve put them in the order that will probably bring you the best success, so start with step 1 and go from there.
1. Have support.
I never talked with anyone about my fitness goals – I didn’t work with a personal trainer consistently for my workouts, and I figured out the nutrition part all on my own by reading, researching, and experimenting – but I found 2 communities that supported me. I kept a blog on a fitness-focused website, where I also connected with others who had similar goals, and I discovered Zumba Fitness, where I had a kickass dance party crew whose names I never learned but whose moves inspired me to keep showing up nonetheless.
You don’t have to keep a blog or do Zumba. Maybe you want to work with a personal trainer (hi!), or maybe you have a friend or three who are consistent, focused, positive, and dedicated enough to be good workout buddies. Maybe you want to join a Facebook group or connect with others through Instagram or another site where you can brag about your workouts and whine when you’re feeling stuck. Whatever you do, find yourself some quality support, because you will need it more than you think you will.
Important! Support is not about accountability – it’s about sharing your fitness journey, because change is hard and it takes a long time, and it’s not linear, and you will want to celebrate and whine along the way.
You think you’re doing everything right but not getting results after 2-3 consistent weeks? Track your food honestly and accurately – like, actually measure things and eat at home – and look for things that might be delaying your results. (And maybe ask why you’re holding back on yourself, because your body already knows the truth.)
When I first started the leg of my fitness journey that led me to becoming a personal trainer, I was a healthy food dabbler. I liked to make healthy recipes that I saw on blogs, and I also liked to make excuses about why I had to eat Toyota Center nachos on Rockets game nights. (I didn’t even like the nachos, but they were the only gluten-free vegetarian food I found there since we didn’t have club level access, and my basketball companion felt hurt if I ate before the game.) Eating before the game might have caused me a little social friction, but it became more natural after the first two times…and I stopped having to get by on 350 calories of fried tortillas and fake cheese.
Less obvious than the neon nacho toppings, I was wrapping my scrambled egg whites and veggies in brown rice tortillas because I felt like I “should” – as if some invisible food and culture police were concerned about whether or not my meal looked like a burrito. I didn’t need to add those carbs to my dinner – I already had a sweet potato on the side – but I was eating out of habit rather than based on what my body needed to feel its best. I discovered and ditched so many “shoulds” along the road to discovering what nutrition strategies work for me…and they still evolve as my workouts and lifestyle change.
You have a choice about everything you eat, and when you get serious about what is going to be the best for your body and your lifestyle, “magic” will happen.
PS – good nutrition feels good. Healthy food doesn’t feel or taste like cardboard punishment and sadness. I promise.
3. Get consistent with a workout that you like (or love).
I ran a half marathon and several 5 & 10k races before accepting that I didn’t really like training for races. Eight years ago, I thought that becoming a runner was the key to fitness, perhaps the only key, and so I forced myself out of bed in the heat, in the rain, and even on holidays to slog through my training plans. I didn’t like to go a month without at least signing up for another race, because I knew that without the paid registration I would stop running.
I learned a lot from training for races, but I also made myself pretty stressed out and anxious. Instead of enjoying my runs, I mostly worried about if what I brought for fuel would bother my stomach, if my mp3 player would stay charged through my whole run, socks, where I would hydrate, camelbak strap burn, and planning running routes that would be safe to traverse alone at 4:30 in the morning but not so boring that I would be desperate to quit at mile 8. I didn’t want to admit that I was just running half marathons for the medal, even though I never felt like I earned the medal if I didn’t hit my personal goal time.
(I don’t run a lot anymore.)
(Although now I know how to do it without being an anxious wreck. But that’s not a surprising secret for this post.)
Eventually, I found Zumba Fitness and ditched the elliptical and the treadmill and the shin-shaking pavement for a workout that I was always dying to get back to. After I got over the the learning curve of my first two classes, I started going five or six times a week…and years later I’m still part of at least five Zumba classes a week in Houston, but now as an instructor. I can count on one hand the weeks I’ve spent away from Zumba in the last five years.
Is there anything wrong with running? No! But if you don’t love it, keep looking until you find some activity that you really love. It doesn’t have to be Zumba – it doesn’t even have to be in a gym or studio. If you love barre classes, do barre! If you love yoga, do yoga! If you love walking, go walk. For me, Zumba was the gateway to stripping away that feeling of “should” that came with working out, and the start of real cardio love.
I have many other pet workouts (yoga, certain modes of strength training, hiking and bouldering, ballroom dance…), but what makes me consistent in all of these is that I love doing them. I am human, and some days I am sore or tired or busy, but if I miss one of my workouts I am sad rather than relieved, because I love them. Find an activity that makes you feel like that and watch your results appear.
4. Chill out.
Seriously, stress, GOODBYE.
You do not need to be stressed out.
You do not need to quit your job and move to a commune or a tropical island to escape stress. You will have to do something much, much harder: change your perspective.
I had some major, major, major stress going on. Personal stuff, work stuff, money stuff…stuff that’s a little too sensitive to put on the internet forever, but that I’d be happy to talk about at the studio. I rated my stress at an 8 or 9 out of 10 most days of the month. I developed high blood pressure and adrenal fatigue before age 27.
I don’t feel silly or sad that I allowed myself to feel like that, because it was part of a learning experience. But I can say without at doubt that life is much better without that stress.
Bottom line: if you can’t change it, chill about it. If it’s ruining your life, find the good things about it.
Hate your job? Well, at least it pays for the roof over your head (and I bet there are some other good things about it.) And could you change jobs? Or could you change your attitude about your current situation? Can you cut out at least one thing about your job that makes you rage-y? (Do you just complain to complain? That’s a common bonding activity at work, too, but you don’t have to put your heart into it.)
Hate your commute? Change it – take the bus instead, carpool, take a sleeping bag to work and live in your office – or get over it. Everyone has to find their way to the office, no one likes traffic, most people aren’t actually trying to be jerks on the road, and you can listen to something nice in the car rather than talk radio that exists only to get you riled up. No need to make yourself miserable.
Problems with your family? Sticky situations for sure, but do you need to be a raging bull about them? Is it helping you (or them) to be angry and resentful all the time?
Problems with money? It will all shake out eventually, so just control what you can control right now and be open to new solutions.
Problems with anything? Try to look for the bright side, accept what you can’t change for now, and focus on the things in your life that you do like or that are going well. You can solve problems, but the solutions probably won’t come from being stressed, angry, bitter, and resentful.
What does this have to do with your health? You probably don’t make good decisions for yourself when you’re stressed – you probably use your stress to justify behaviors that are hurtful in the long run – and your stress itself has a measurable impact on your physiological health. Stress really slows down (or stops) fat loss and muscle repair, and it uses up all the energy that you could be using to take better care of yourself. So stop making more problems for yourself and find some ways to chill out.
Read. Listen to music. Get outside. Pet an animal. Talk to people you like. Watch funny things online. Get perspective. Breathe. Stress doesn’t have to be a part of your life.
5. Get your health in line.
I have some unique health challenges that delayed my fitness progress for a loooooong time (and sometimes still present issues). Once I got a handle on them, daily life was way better, and results showed up in leaps and bounds. (It’s a really good story, but another thing that I’m not yet comfortable sharing with the world at large. If you have questions, ask away!)
Even if you don’t have any special issues, make sure you know where your cholesterol and blood sugar stand. Get the rest that you need. Take care of yourself. Love your body, and let it know that you love it.
And start today – the longer you procrastinate on your issues, the more work it will take to solve them. I can’t offer any universal solutions since everyone faces their own unique health circumstances, but know that you can wake up feeling great every day so don’t settle for less.
There are lots of tips and tricks you will learn along your health and fitness journey, but I have found these to be the five non-negotiables for real and lasting success. If you’re not sure how to take one of these steps, send me your question or talk to me about it and I will do my best to help you.
Did you notice that none of these secrets include “making yourself feel bad” or “hating yourself for eating a brownie”? Let your fitness journey feel good because it’s the only way you will succeed. Feelings are a part of fitness, and they are often what keep us from really making progress.
Now go get your results!!