“Fire is the test of gold, adversity of strong men.” —Seneca
It’s January 2019 and you’re probably having it way too easy. It’s the beginning of a new year and it may be the perfect time to ask yourself, “how much did I grow last year?” A great number of people want to change—to be more active, to exercise more, to eat better. But most people are only good at conceptualizing change. They’re great in beginning but have a hard time following through to the end. Adversity makes change hard. There are thousands of obstacles standing our way or weighing us down and preventing us from soaring towards our goals. Despite all the limiting factors, you have a choice to be not like most people. You see, the real reason why many can’t commit to their New Years resolutions is not because they don’t know what it will take them to build the habit—more often than not, they know exactly what it will take—but because they are afraid of the process itself. The idea of change or a change of routine is more bothersome than working out itself. This is why as a coach, I always advise my clients to not only clarify their goals but identify and anticipate the roadblocks standing in their way.
There is an old saying, “If you want to know how to get to your destination, you have to first know where your are.” This cannot be more true especially in our fitness journey. Knowing our goal weight, our goal body type, and our goal performance are the easy part. It’s the fun part. We all get caught up and excited in the idea of writing down the things we want to achieve and the results we aspire for. At the start of the year, many of us are eager to put out our planners and timetable our goals and to-dos. Knowing we need to eat better and to exercise more is pretty obvious. However, it is knowing where we are at the moment that makes our journey to change difficult. Indeed, self-awareness and brutal honesty are the hardest pills to swallow. This is why getting clear is an important element in the beginning our fitness and health journey. We need to be aware of our eating habits, daily routines, activity level, emotions and roadblocks so that we can move forward seamlessly. Here are some of the most common roadblocks and limiting factors that may hinder you or slow your progress down:
- Food Choices. You may not be aware that you may be are eating way too much processed foods and too little nutrient dense foods. Are you aware of their difference?
- Eating Behaviors. Do you pay attention to how fast you eat? Studies show that eating slower and chewing your food more helps your gut absorb your food better and make you feel full thus preventing over-eating.
- Life Skills. Not being able to set clear boundaries with others and asking for what you want can make it difficult for you to create a new healthy routine. Do you say “yes” all the time when what you actually meant was “no”?
- Fixed Mindset. All-or-nothing way thinking is being too perfectionistic. You don’t have to wait until you create the perfect plan to start. Just start and make your plan perfect along the way. Don’t think you are a failure just because that you still haven’t got it right. Instead, trust yourself that you can learn along the way.
- Environment. You cannot willpower your way through everything. If there is junk food laying somewhere inside your home, the day will come that it will go into your mouth. Set yourself up for success by eliminating temptations around you.
“Muddled thoughts and intentions create a muddled life. Get clear.” —Bryant McGill
Your Self-talk Creates Your Habits
Your thoughts determine your actions and your actions determine your future. But let’s pause here for a moment. If your thoughts are that powerful, then who is the thinker of your thoughts? The answer is your identity. It is your self-image, your worldview, your judgment about yourself and others. It is how you see your circumstances and the choices you make everyday.
According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, “most people don’t even consider identity change when they set out to improve.” He points out here that if we want to create positive habits, we shouldn’t focus on the outcomes, the results or the new habits themselves, but instead, we should change who we are. He continues, “the ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”
Telling yourself to start eating healthfully this year is different from telling yourself you are a healthful eater from now on. It is a subtle but big difference. Sometimes a little shift in perspective and self-talk goes a long way. Many people try to change their habits by focusing on the outcome instead of the persons they wish to become.
“Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.” —James Clear
Think Outside the Box
You don’t have to start big. You don’t even need the universe to perfectly align for you to start. Just jump and grow your wings on the way down! Oftentimes, the best way to start is to start small. In exercising, for example, a clear space is all you need whether it’s inside your home or a park outside. For total beginners, I’d advise starting out with your bodyweight. Bodyweight exercises are a great way to develop kinesthetic awareness and proprioception, or in layman’s terms, being aware of how your body moves through space. Mastering the mechanics of your joints and the capacity of your muscles will give you the confidence to try out more challenging physical tasks in the future. Here’s a sample bodyweight exercise routine you can do:
1 Round of:
30 seconds forward arm circles
30 seconds backward arm circles
30 seconds hip circles
30 seconds knee circles
30 seconds ankle circles
Rest for 2 minutes
3 Rounds of:
10 Jumping Jacks
15 Good Mornings
20 sec Hollow Hold
30 sec Rest
In a 5 minute window, complete
As Many Rounds of:
30 Mountain climbers
20 Bodyweight Squats
10 Push ups
Record the number of rounds you’re able to do. Rest for 3 minutes. After resting, grab any weighted object—a backpack, a heavy book or a rice sack and run outside for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes of running, immediately perform as many Burpees as you can in 1 minute.
Record and save the number of Burpees done. Repeat the same workout in the future. Check if you improve your score.
10 minute slow walk outside.Can We Rebuild Our Health?
Jumpstart your year now. Get clear not only with your goals, outcomes and results but also with your own personal identity. Always identify yourself as someone who is not not perfect but someone who can learn along the way. Trusting oneself is the cornerstone of being courageous and being courageous allows us to stand up for what we think is right—for ourselves and for others. To ensure you’ll have a successful journey, don’t be afraid to seek like-minded individuals or a professional fitness coach. The best person who knows what you need is yourself but the best person who can help you succeed is someone who puts your needs at the forefront.
Towards the end of last year, I’ve had a friend come up to me, finally determined to change her life for the better. She said she had been eating good before, but this time she is willing to commit to being more physically active. She started doing CrossFit more. She believes that women should get stronger and not just look good because physical strength is not exclusively for men. She believes that women are and should play empowered roles in society. She also believes that the best way for her to keep working hard is to have a community that support her. Here’s what she has to say.
“I don’t think I’ll ever have an easy relationship with diet and exercise but what’s really helped has been finding a program that motivates me to really commit to my health and fitness goals. I am a recent convert to CrossFit. My couch potato self from a few months back would never believe it but I’m actually starting to find the joy in the workout grind and it’s all thanks to the strength-building aspect of CrossFit which is fundamental to a lot of the movements that constitute the program. I’ll just never be the type of person to stick to a fitness plan where the main goal is to get skinnier because I think that workouts are much more meaningful when they inspire a person to aspire for not just a six-pack but also for more important attributes such as physical strength and mental fortitude.
Another thing I find that’s very important to staying on the fitness train is keeping friends with a fitness mindset similar to yours close because, at the end of the day, nothing beats moral support and community. This applies especially to women who aspire to not only be fit but also strong. The society we live in doesn’t have the best ideals when it comes to women’s body standards and women are conditioned from a very young age to believe that gaining muscle is an activity exclusively for men. Friends who remind you that your fitness goals should never subscribe to this school of thought are a godsend.”
Change occurs when we have the courage to stand up and do the right thing for ourselves even if it raises some eyebrows. Our bodies are intricately designed to adapt, grow and survive, but they are not machines made to work for endless hours. This year, I encourage you to start treating your body the respect it deserves. Along the way, you won’t only succeed in your work or in your relationships, but you will also enjoy the journey of growth and fitness itself. Remember, it is always easy to create a plan, achieve goals and call it a day. But in fitness and in health, the journey is the destination.
“Fitness is a journey with no destination.” —Ross Edgley