As a yoga and fitness instructor and health coach I know this time of year is the trendiest time to go to the gym, so I thought I would share some of the lessons I've learned over the years through my own health journey and now, as a specialist in sustainable health and wellness.
I'm more than wiling to impart some of my knowledge, but nothing I say is going to matter if we don't first understand two things: you have to choose to work out and eat healthy and you have to have a good reason that inspires you to make that choice.
When I was a freshman in high school I was aggressively out of shape, in fact, I really had been since late elementary school. Needles to say, I had a stridently passionate aversion to running of any kind, and when forced to choose a P.E. credit I opted into weight lifting, as most students spoke fondly of the limited cardio and laid back atmosphere. I soon found myself in an all male class full of gorgeous football players, and me. It was my experience in weights and my joining the high school swim team that started my journey. I realized that something I had believed my whole life was very wrong.
In school you're only athletic if you can run. I had inherited my mother's aversion to running and a childhood spent in ballet shoes or riding boots hadn't necessarily done much to help with cardio conditioning. While other students like my then boyfriend, now many years later, fiancee for example, who had been filtered through numerous little leagues and junior sports excelled, I struggled. The only thing I had ever been good at was sit ups; a victory which was overshadowed by my double digit mile time.
What I learned in swim team and weights was two things. First of all: you have to struggle a bit before you get good. Secondly: There are a million different ways to be fit.
These two realizations changed my idea about fitness and ultimately my idea about myself.
This is not an inspiring story about how my new found self-confidence and interest in health allowed me to move up the lanes to the fastest swimmers or out lift my male classmates. In fact, I remained in the slow lane and maxed out at maybe a sixty pound bench. However, what I did do was drag my mom to the gym across the road and purchase a membership after swim season and first semester ended.
I will sum up the rest of my fitness journey briefly, by the end of high school I had run a 5k and came in the top ten women who ran, I have been teaching yoga weekly for over a year and a half and I am in the fittest shape I have ever been. I can rock a solid crow pose, out plank almost anybody and hold a flawless Warrior III. Also, I am not "skinny".
That's the kicker folks. Looking at me, you'd probably have no idea how many hours I've spent at the gym or how dedicated I am to staying healthy. This is the reality of the situation, while I did loose quite a bit of weight, even with a five minute plank I don't have a six pack and with hundreds of miles under my belt my belly is far from concave.
Here's the other reality, though; I am very, very proud of myself. While there are times (maybe hundreds of times) I wish I looked like other women on Instagram, at the end of the day, I know that I am beautiful in my own way.
In order to start a fitness or health journey you have to set goals that are attainable. It is much easier and realistic to set goals related to your fitness abilities than to your body appearance. What so many people don't realize is that every body type responds differently to loosing weight or getting strong. Not everyone can get a six pack. Genetically, our bodies are designed differently. This is why some people gain weight on their stomach while others gain it in their butt or upper legs. Not only do we gain weight differently, but we loose it differently as well.
Instead of setting body weight goals (which is an especially bad idea because muscle weighs more than fat) set a lifting goal, a mile time goal, a daily veggie goal. Make sure this is a reasonable goal and that you set a reasonable amount of time in which you expect to achieve this goal. Create a detailed plan in order to reach this goal. For example, if you want to up your bench by twenty pounds, plan to have achieved your goal in four weeks and up the weight by five pounds each week. If you want to eat better, for the next week say no to candy. The week after that, say no to any processed food and any candy. If you want to knock your mile time down a minute, try six weeks and knock off ten seconds each week or twenty seconds for three weeks. You get the point. Make it gradual. Make it attainable.
Once you have set a goal you need to sit yourself down. You need to identify why you want to achieve this goal. This is the most important rule of all: getting healthy has to be for you. What I mean by this is that, at the core, your reason for improving yourself should not involve anyone else. If you hit a wall two miles into your weekly 5k and have to think about being sexy for your boyfriend, great. My boyfriend says that someday he wants to be a Macy's model and that gets him through his two sets of abs. These thoughts are like energy drinks, they'll get you through to the end of the workout, but they won't get you to the gym tomorrow. If you're just working out on days after you binge eat, nothing is going to change. You need to foster some self disciple and self efficacy, and soon that self discipline self efficacy will bleed into other parts of your life and you'll be achieving more than ever. There has to be a deeper source than the artificial stuff. You have to work out because you love yourself. Thats why you choose to be healthy, because you know you deserve better, not because you had too much cake yesterday. Creating a sustainable self-image is believing that you are a powerful, capable creature. Our bodies are like fruit trees, they can produce beautiful fruit, but we have to positively nurture and encourage ourselves to grow and change. In order to do anything you have to have good foundations or else you'll soon find the floor falling out beneath you.
You also have to believe in yourself. On your sickest day, you can still make the gym.When you have no time, you can still whip up a salad. Trust me, I know. Period cramps? A good run will nip those in the bud. Horrible headache? Yoga will leave you feeling refreshed and pain free. Craving sugar? Honey with peanut butter is essentially a drug and will fulfill all your needs. Our bodies are AMAZING! Don't let your own power and potential go to waste. God gave us kick ass bodies, freaking use them!! Push them and love them. Don't let excuses or laziness rule your life. You rule your life. You are the defining factor in your own success or failure.
All this being said, be gentle with yourself. Understand that a work of art takes dedicated, focused attention, but also time to settle. The most important factor of creating a workout routine or deciding to eat healthy is that you have to love yourself enough to make it last.
If you're reading this and feeling really inspired but still pretty lost as to where to start in your wellness journey, that's why I'm here! I encourage women to live fulfilling, slow, healthful lives on the daily as a health coach. I work as an advocate and a guide to support gals just like you to acheive their goals (whether that be physical health or mental health). If you'd like to book a free health consultation with me click here! I'm excited to support you as you move into a new era of self love, health and confidence in your life!