We are now in the twilight of January, which means that many people who decided to get fit as part of a New Year’s new start have been at it about three weeks. Right now is a critical point in anyone’s journey of change because it is at about the 21-day point (give or take a few days) that lifelong habits are formed. If you are new to fitness and eating well, and NOT feeling the love, do not be discouraged! I heard from a friend last week who was committed to getting back into shape who told me “Other people are talking about how they love the burn but I don’t. I hate the burn. Will this ever change?” This is such a good question and there are so many people in the same boat that I wanted to address it at length.
Let’s talk food first. Usually when people eat a healthy, correctly balanced diet they feel fantastic…eventually. If you have been given an eating plan and are following it rigorously there are two reasons why you might not feel fantastic. First, if your former diet consisted of a high volume of any of the following; processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup, a high proportion of refined carbohydrates, regular alcohol intake and/or high sodium then there is a high likelihood that you could experience withdrawals upon a dramatic dietary change. Symptoms could include; nausea, fatigue, irritation, or even mild disorientation. These should pass within three or five days, assuming you don’t relapse, which will only prolong the agony. These symptoms also occur if you’re not getting enough food, so it’s very important you make sure you are eating enough calories in the right combination. Anyone can give you an eating plan and if you starve yourself you will lose weight, but you’ll also do a number on your metabolism so if you are in doubt check with a doctor or licensed nutritionist.
Next is exercising. If you have been mostly sedentary and have just started an exercise routine, it is perfectly normal to hate it at first. As you engage muscles for maybe the first time you can expect soreness – a lot of soreness. It’s also common to not particularly enjoy the work out sessions at first. You don’t know what you’re doing, you might feel awkward or out of place and nothing is comfortable. Make sure you pick a gym or trainer that does their best to welcome you and make you as comfortable as possible. Most of the time, if you are consistent, your body starts to adjust after two weeks and after three weeks you may even find yourself enjoying it a little. As long as you put in honest effort, your body will get stronger and it will get easier. The only caveat here is if you are working out on your own or with an unqualified trainer who is pushing you beyond what is reasonable or safe. Aches and burns and ‘feeling it’ are normal but sharp shooting pains, or isolated pains are not and you should stop that activity immediately. Take the horrible exercise known as plank-ups, where you move from a plank position on your elbows, to supporting yourself on your hands with arms straight, back to elbows, repeatedly. Pretty much everyone who does this complains that it hurts their wrists and it’s not exactly comfortable. Usually we ask if both hurt and if yes, keep going. If you were to get a searing pain in your left shoulder, on the other hand, we would recommend you stop.
The most important thing to remember when you are in the first 21 days of a new endeavor is that our brains are wired for homeostasis. This means that our brains will fight us to the death to keep things exactly the same. Even if keeping things the same will lead us to an early grave. You are literally your own worst enemy when it comes to improving your life so treat any negative feelings about the process with extreme skepticism. If, after 21 days you don’t feel like you’re in the right gym, or with the right trainer look at it then but count on pretty much hating everything for the first three weeks. And most importantly remember to congratulate yourself for taking this step and investing in a healthier life. You ARE limitless!