I am going on my sixth year in writing this column, and every January I feel this strong obligation to “keep it real” for you all.
As you embark on your fitness quest with high hopes and a renewed sense of motivation to conquer all of your goals this year, make no mistake that challenges will still come your way — just like last year. There is no exception to this. No one magically gets an “exemption status” from life when it comes to achieving their goals. Life simply happens and, quite frankly, doesn’t give a crap sometimes.
But rather than viewing it as bad luck or thinking to yourself, “Here we go again,” consider it life’s way of testing you. Because ultimately that’s all it is — a test.
“How bad do you want it?” That’s what is being asked. And I have found that life rewards individuals who press on and continue in hot pursuit in accomplishing what they set out to do regardless of what is thrown their way.
Now in order to be able to work through the year and come out the other side both physically and mentally better than the previous one, these are the necessary requirements for you to solidify your chances of becoming that person you know you are supposed to be.
Fitness has to be a priority
This absolutely has to be adapted right out of the gate — period. If you are not willing to schedule your workout time with the same level of importance as you would for a work meeting and all other day-to-day obligations, your chances of success will plummet. Something will always come up and you will quickly develop the nasty habit of finding reasons to skip a workout instead of finding ways to get it in.
Trying to simply fit it in when it’s convenient is damn near impossible if you continue to place it at the bottom of the totem pole. And, honestly, it’s only yourself you are placing at the bottom of that pole.
Put higher value and importance on yourself. You are worth it. Start treating yourself that way and everything will start to shift. Whether it’s 5 in the morning (my largest training group) before life has a chance to get in the way, a lunch break, right after work or after you put the kids to bed, find what works for you and stick to it.
Remember this saying: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Taking care of yourself will only enable you to take care of everyone else in your life to full capacity.
There is no magical workout plan, diet or special cape that somehow you were unaware of and which is the sole reason why you have failed to this point. If you want to get lean and mean, it’s YOU that has to do the damn work.
Don’t get me wrong — there is a method to the madness, and there are approaches that are more effective than others. But at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to show up consistently. You’re the one who has to put in the effort. You’re the one who needs to embrace the challenge. The blood, sweat and tears all must come from you. As a trainer, I can motivate and hold you accountable, but at the end of the day, you need to look in the mirror and be real with yourself and own it.
Exercise isn’t your enemy
The path of least resistance will get you nothing in the results category. There are no shortcuts and there is no way around “real work” when it comes to this. You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. And most importantly, you should never view exercise as your enemy.
It’s no coincidence that the exercises you hate the most give you the most results in return (e.g. burpees, squats, lunges, pushups, running, pullups, box jumps, etc. etc.).
I realize I’m in the minority when it comes to my love for “most” exercises. But most of that love has come out of respect for what they have given me in return. I feel just as good physically at 40 as I ever did in my 20s. I owe most of that to the exercises listed above.
An “enemy” wouldn’t give you the closest thing you’ll ever find to the fountain of youth for only five hours a week. An “enemy” wouldn’t help minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease, low back pain, obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiac arrest, osteoporosis or, in general, premature death. And not to mention other things like improved sleep, mental well-being, self-confidence, increased libido — I think you get the point.
I’m not saying you have to love it all, but at minimum respect it and appreciate what you get for your hard work.
Free your mind and your body will follow
Too often going into a fitness program we put restrictions on what we think we are capable of. Whether it’s being able to complete a half marathon, being able to do a pullup or getting to your ideal weight, we’ve already made decisions on whether it’s possible or not.
Realize that your body will only perform and follow in line with what you believe. It’s critical to catch and eliminate self-limiting phrases like, “I could never be that fit” or “I’ll never be able to run” and replace them with empowering phrases like, “I want to be able to do a pullup” or “What do I need to do to reach my goals?”
Begin questioning the process of how and keep a blank page of what is possible going into it, and you’ll accomplish more than you previously thought. If you have a desire to go after a goal, go for it and lose the mental leash. Free your mind and your body will follow.
Exercise is therapy
Everyone has personal battles. It can come in the form of work or money-related stress, relationship issues, regrets — basically all challenges that we will all face at various stages of our lives. Rather than letting life issues paralyze you from exercising, make it even more of priority to take care of yourself.
Resist the urge to stop because life is handing your ass to you. It’s during difficult times that you need to keep exercising, mostly because the mental benefits of exercise can far exceed the physical a lot of the time.
And I can tell you from personal experience that during some of the toughest moments in my life, exercise was the only thing that kept me from losing it.
You’re not alone. Lean on friends and family during your toughest moments and keep moving. Bang some weights, go for a run or walk, hit some hot yoga — whatever suits your needs the most. The mental war gradually softens, the clouds will clear much faster and all of your problems will seem significantly smaller and more manageable.
Take your power back
I say it all the time and I will probably say it until I take my last breath: Exercise is more than just what the scale says. It’s more of reclaiming your power and becoming a better and more rounded person. It’s about having the energy to get through your day and playing with your kids. Being able to hike Table Rock with ease. Getting off your blood pressure medication. Getting physically and mentally stronger. Having less aches and pains. Happiness — you’d be amazed how much happier and vibrant you will become. Confidence. Self-worth. Being a role model.
Basically, being the person you deserve to be. You are all worth it and you have to believe that. We can all be inspiring to those in our lives. Now get out there, get physical, kick ass, aim high and conquer with a smile!
Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or championfit.net. He writes a monthly fitness column for Idaho Statesman.