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Thursday, July 5, 2012

52 Weeks of Fitness, The Midpoint: Looking Back and Looking Forward.

You may not have noticed the obscene amount of blog posts about it yet, but in January I made a New Year's resolution that this year (2012) was to be the Year of Fitness. Sounds impressive, doesn't it?

At first I wanted it to consist of a lot of things:
  • Weightlifting workouts from The New Rules of Lifting
  • HIIT sprint/bike workouts for "cardio"
  • Tracking (and changing) nutrition through the Lose It! App
  • Giving back to my body through MWODs
This plan was an awesome idea, truly something that would (and still could!) catapult me to levels of fitness I've never seen before. But there was an issue - I wasn't ready for it. I tried to go 0 - 60 in all of these awesome health changes when I was barely used to keeping a consistent workout regimen. So I started suffering from guilt (poor nutrition or skipped workouts), flagging motivation, and an overall desire to throw in the towel.

But instead of giving up, I decided to trim down my expectations and push harder at the things I knew I could consistently do well - Weightlifting and keeping track of my nutrition. Since that moment, I've been relieved from a lot of the guilt and I feel much more in control of my healthy future. I still need to get in better cardiovascular shape and I have plenty of issues that MWODs could address, don't get me wrong. But saying I wanted to do things wasn't going to make me actually do them. That's just one of several lessons I've learned so far from trying to walk the walk this year. Here are some others:
  • Consistently showing up and doing something is better than killing yourself in the gym on occasion or binge dieting in a moment of panic. Slow (or fast) and steady always wins the race.
  • Everyone has a different take on every facet of health and fitness, and we all love to debate minutiae. You will be far better off picking something, trying it for a period of time, and then evaluating whether or not it works for you than you will ever be keeping your ear to the ground for the next health debate.
  • The best workout in the world is the one you'll actually do. Cliché, isn't it? But it's so true. For instance, I finally realized that I had a poor track record with squat-based workouts because I don't feel comfortable squatting (for a variety of reasons). Rather than playing mental gymnastics and skipping workouts, I switched the lift to leg press and added other accessory exercises to try to make up for some of the loss in workout efficacy. Voila! I now can enjoy lower-body workouts again.
  • Another cliché: the real results come from the kitchen, not the gym. Figure out what your nutritional sticking points are, and address them one-by-one, gradually, over an extended period. You'll be shocked at the way you feel in a matter of months, let alone an entire year.
  • Stop. Looking. In. The. Mirror. Your muscles will look more impressive for 1-3 days after a good workout. Then they will magically disappear, only to reappear after the next good workout. If you let your motivation ride on mirror poses, you'll give up before you even start to see lasting change.
  • General activity levels are so underappreciated in the health and fitness world, but they can make an enormous difference. I'm convinced that the average person could get in great shape (even in the mirror) with decent nutrition, a pedometer, and a willingness to trust in the process.
I've only been able to learn those lessons and several others, like more concrete conclusions about health and fitness tactics, exercises and science, from actually putting rubber to the road this year. It's been an amazing process, and I've been blessed to go through it without major setbacks or issues.

So where to from here? My main goal will be to skip as few workouts as possible, because I know I can get a lot of great results if I stay on the path I'm following. I will keep trying to eat well - more real foods, less binging, and a better awareness of moderation in all things. I would also like to embrace a more active lifestyle - taking advantage of opportunities to play sports with friends, take long walks with my roommates, explore trails and natural areas, and do a lot more.

And in the near future, I have a philanthropy 5k to run in a month or two. It's time to start running again!

This is the point where I close with something philosophical and inspiring, but I find that I can't offer much of anything. What I can offer is this: from personal experience, the road to better health can be confusing, long and painful. But every step, every drop of sweat, every twang of processed food withdrawal is a blessing in disguise - it's a step toward who you could be, who you want to be, and who you were meant to be. Life is a blessing — put down the Oreos.

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