Six Tips to Fit:
My Hard-Learned Lessons
As a competitor and fitness enthusiast, I regularly get asked questions about how I got started with fitness, why I began my fitness journey, and how I stay motivated? These are great questions but, I think what most people are really wanting to know is how the heck I stay away from cookies and pizza for weeks on end and exactly how do they get a 6-pack too? Despite how it might seem by looking at me now, I can completely relate to these questions. I love carbs and sugary treats just as much as the next person and have the “before” photos to prove it. The quickly spouted excuse of “you have good genetics” does not apply here and every ounce of muscle I’ve gained or inch of fat I’ve lost has all been through my own hard work and determination. Maintaining a fit lifestyle is definitely difficult but for me, it became better than the alternative of living a lifetime never being happy with the body that I had. My fitness journey and new lifestyle began the day I decided that I would let go of the excuses, believe in my abilities, and take control of my actions. Over the years I've learned a lot of lessons and looking back, I have six tips on how to get started and to maintain living the fit life:
1. Stop the excuses!
We all have them, those negative thoughts that tell us what we can't do or can't have. You cannot accomplish what you don't believe is possible. No, you won't have that 6-pack or those bulging bicep peaks over night but you won't get them by never starting either. Let go of the negative beliefs about yourself and what you're not capable of and replace them with positive facts about your capabilities and achievements. If you can believe it, you can achieve it.
2. Do it for YOU!
We've all done things that we didn't want to do, succumbed to peer pressure, or done things out of the fear of disappointing others if we didn't do them. Taking on the challenge of living a fit lifestyle and even just losing weight must be done because it's what you truly want. You may be thinking, "Well, what if I want to look good for my significant other?" That's understandable but when the going gets tough and you're craving foods or low carb, etc., resentment over putting yourself through stress for someone else can arise. Sticking to the plan because it's what YOU want for YOU can make this journey much easier. After all, at the end of the day, it's you who must live this life and you who must have the internal motivation to keep with it. Always, live the life that you want and be who you want to be. Only then will you be happy with the life you lived.
3. You are the company you keep!
This was one of the hardest lessons I learned and one that I still struggle with. As a competitor, no one will be able to understand what it is that you go through like another competitor. Commiserating with friends when you're trying to lose weight or get ready for a competition can make a huge difference and having a support system that understands is a great way to keep you on track. It becomes very easy to fall back into old, unhealthy habits if, you are constantly surrounded by people who maintain that lifestyle. The human psyche is a complicated entity and I can tell you first hand that you will encounter others who attempt to derail your success for their own benefit. When you encounter these people, the "come on just one bite" people, steer clear!! Surround yourself with like-minded people, those who are the best at what you want to accomplish, and you will quickly find yourself becoming more like them. Their success is your success!
4. Maintain your motivation.
The decision to begin something you're excited about can give you as much energy and speed as a racehorse bursting through the gate but what happens when you're several laps in? Motivation to continue on a path can be difficult when the excitement wears off and the road gets bumpy. Finding motivation can be easy if you know where to look. A few of my favorites are social media, Youtube, workout partners (a little friendly competition is good!), progress pictures, motivating quotes or pictures placed around the house, or a visual cue that always keeps you remembering your goal (i.e. a bracelet with a quote or goal written on it). Perhaps, the greatest method of motivation for me however, is simple reflection. Daily and/or weekly reviewing of your goals, assessing your progress (both physical and mental), and remembering why you started and how you felt when you started is a key method of reaffirming your goals and motivation. You can't rely on others to be the source of your motivation, you must be able to create and maintain it yourself. Being your own motivation is the secret to success.
5. Remember where you started!
Everyone has to start from somewhere and progress takes time so, cut yourself some slack and look back! It's inevitable that you will hit a plateau or that your motivation stalls. The body is great at adapting so in these times you must be able to push through and stick to the plan. Reviewing your "before" photos is a great way to see exactly how far you've come. I'd recommend weekly or bimonthly progress photos. However, photos don't tell the whole story so, keeping a journal on what life was like before you started this journey and updating it with notes on how you feel, energy level, current diet and training, body measurements and new max weights can reveal to you just how much your body has progressed that isn't visible to the eye. This is a lifelong journey, it's not a quick fix or stop/start so, keep track and remember the steps you've taken.
6. Don’t forget to ENJOY life!
Living a fit and healthy lifestyle requires extra time and preparation but it becomes easier the longer you work at it. If you take on the goal of becoming a competitor, the lifestyle can become more difficult as the time dedication increases. When you enjoy being fit enough to get to this point, making fitness and training your priority is understandable. Your training schedule and restrictive diet can become quite limiting if you let it. I've seen many people, myself included drop everything and everyone else in order to give 100% to competition prep. Finding the balance in your life is a trial and error process and I'd recommend also stepping back periodically and ensuring that you're not overlooking other important aspects of life. We only get one body but we also only get one chance at life. Be fit, be healthy, be a shredded beast if you want but also take time to enjoy life and those around you. Put in the same amount of time and preparation into this as you do to maintaining your fit life and body. Once you balance these two aspects of your life you will find that yes, you can most definitely have your cake and EAT it too!