I have an awesome business coach, and one of the things he helps me with is developing systems that work for me, instead of ones that I work for. Coach John consistently tells me that systems that require discipline never work long term. Makes sense, of course, in all areas of our lives, and especially when it comes to getting fit and healthy. We all know that ‘diets’ don’t work and I’ve written before about New Year’s Phenomenon of gyms, and how busy they are from January 1 – 18th. So if it requires discipline to get and stay healthy, and if things that require discipline don’t work long term, does this mean that only the .5% who actually like exercising are destined to enjoy the benefits of a healthy body?
You’ll be happy to know that the answer is a resounding ‘of course not!’…BUT…there are some things you need to know in order to stack the deck in your favor and avoid the strobe light syndrome (or yo-yo effect, if you will) of starting and stopping (not to mention the havoc that wreaks on your metabolism. Some of these things are easy and some will require a major reframe of your perspective, but as I’ve found, once you get your head around these truths, change is no longer as painful and you won’t continually feel like you’re pushing string uphill to get the results you want.
1) Stop thinking there’s something wrong with you
The problem with using systems that don’t work for us is that we almost always end up blaming ourselves when they don’t work. Besides needless guilt, this also prevents us from looking for systems that actually do work. So instead of calling yourself a lazy blob because you never go for that jog after work, maybe consider that jogging after work isn’t a system that works for you and you need to try something different.
2) Stop thinking that just because something works for someone else it should work for you
Just because your sister-in-law achieves an amazing physique through weekly mountain bike rides, or your long lean neighbor runs two marathons a year does not necessarily mean that all you need is a $2,000 bike to lose those 20 pounds you’ve acquired over the last three years. It may, but it just may be that something else is your groove.
3) Find solutions that don’t require you to be disciplined
The trick here is to find something that works for you, no matter what it is. Some people find that hiring a personal trainer is motivation enough for them to show up. Others enjoy the camaraderie of a group does the trick. For others it’s being on a sports team, and the accompanying practices. For some of us, getting up and getting to the gym on our own just works and that’s great too.
4) Find things that are fun
This is so important. If you can, start thinking of physical activity as something you try to do all day, not just for 45-60 minutes 4-5 times a week. Run around with your kids, dance, walk. Don’t think of ‘you’ and ‘your body’ as two reluctant roommates who tolerate each other but have nothing really in common.
5) Embrace progress
There’s a meme going around that says something to the effect of, “I don’t always exercise and eat healthy, but when I do I expect immediate and dramatic results.” Funny but deep down this derails a lot of us. We work hard for 5 days, don’t see anything happen on the scale, decide it’s not working and go eat a pizza. This is not how immediate and long term results are made.
So in conclusion, if you’ve had a hard time sticking with a fitness program, don’t blame yourself, give up or decide this just isn’t for you. Instead, chalk up previous failure to research and keep up the process of figuring out what really is going to work in your life.