You know how on Facebook you sometimes see "it's complicated" under relationship status? That's how fitness is for many people.
It's as if, somewhere in your heart, you know you want to be with fitness forever, but it can drive you gaga with all the ups and downs you have to deal with in the "relationship." You and fitness might hit the rocks from a lack of excitement, stress, or very little reward for what you put in. Each of these could very well lead you to take a break and do your own thing.
Everyone feels this way at some point—unhappy or less motivated about their fitness and health. I've fallen out of love with fitness more times than I care to admit, but that's just life. The daily grind can interfere with health goals, our well-meaning friends and family members can keep us from achieving certain physique goals, and one errant cookie can make you fall to the Dark Side.
Thankfully, it's a lot less complicated than you'd imagine to revive a stale or inert fitness relationship. Start implementing at least one of these seven actions into your daily life to rekindle an old flame!1
I'm not talking about drinking only cayenne pepper and lemon-juice water for seven days to "cleanse" your body. I mean cleanse yourself metaphorically of your past shame and guilt.
Beyond cleaning out your kitchen pantry, let go of the food guilt that is weighing you down. Let go of what your body can't do and what it looks like. Let go of the emotional baggage and disappointment from past shortfalls and forgive yourself. Let go of looking at how others are doing, and direct that wasted energy back into yourself.
You have no recollections of your fitness past; you have a clean slate, a new you that's ready to rock this. This moment is the beginning of whatever story arc you want it to be.2
We all want to relive the "glory days" or look forward to a future filled with bulging biceps and infinite possibilities.
Unfortunately, Marty McFly and Doc Brown would never lend us a DeLorean to live out these time-traveling fantasies.
Place all your focus on the present moment, which you can actually control and shape it into something a "future you" would look back on with pride. Every fleeting moment can be seized. When was the last time you actually savored the present moment? Even when you're eating, you're probably thinking about or actually doing something else.
There's no point in living in the past: If you completely fell flat on your face with a past fitness goal or let yourself binge on office donuts, who cares? It's over and done with. The future doesn't help either; if you find yourself fantasizing about your "new" beach body but haven't even started to consistently exercise yet, you're getting ahead of yourself.
Take it one step at a time and focus on winning the present moment each day. These victories arise from executing on the most mundane daily habits and behaviors consistently.3
Identify Your Danger Zones
We all have weaknesses or triggers—certain danger zones—that make us more prone to losing focus, strength, and control. Superman had kryptonite. Spiderman had Mary Jane. Homer Simpson had donuts. From superheroes to us everyday folks striving to look amazing, there's a danger zone for all.
Ask yourself this question: What temptations in my daily life could possibly derail my progress and goals?
Identifying those danger zones can help you do some preemptive planning and assessment to make sure they don't completely derail your goals. My own danger zone is getting "too busy" and heading down a path of skipped workouts here and multiple packs of Red Vines candy consumed there.
No matter the scenario, you can side-step the danger zones by asking yourself this second question: What am I going to do to prevent those temptations from winning? As soon as you ask the right question, the answers will fill your head. Acknowledge them, welcome them, and establish them as ground rules for yourself so that when you do come across the danger zone, you know what to do.4
Form Your Own Version of the Avengers Squad
The Avengers are a group of superheroes. They work together to save the world. If superheroes can't save the world by themselves, it's certainly a tall order for you to venture into the fitness world alone.
People tend to underestimate the amount of effort—both physically and mentally— that fitness endeavors demand. You have to find information on a workout you want to do, figure out how to do those exercises, commit to going to the gym on a consistent basis, get the right nutrients and food composition to fuel your everyday energy and workouts, and—oh, my! The list goes on and on, and fitness becomes a supervillain that is nigh-impossible to deal with completely on your own.
Just as each member of the Avengers brings a special skill to the group, you must recruit friends, family, co-workers, and buddies who can all uniquely complement your needs in some way. Some people are good with teaching exercises, planning foods, or staying motivated. I'm a professional coach, and even I have difficulty completing all my planned workouts for a given week. To help with this, I recruited a workout partner who is great at being consistent and lighting a fire under my tush when I need it.
Identify what you are good at, then fill in your skill gaps with the right people to make your fitness goals indestructible.5
Master the Basics
At times, our ambition bites us in the rear because we try to master all aspects of fitness and be the best we can be at everything—immediately. Other than this being simply impossible, the pursuit of mastery and perfection could cause you to see negative energy out of everything you do.
A better approach is to gradually add more and build upon your skills.
After all, someone doesn't become Mr. Olympia after one or two weeks of working out, and a Jedi Knight doesn't wield a lightsaber on his first day. So, don't expect 30 pounds to just melt off after eating clean and working out every day for a week.
No matter who it is, everyone starts with basics and develops their skill set with consistency, focus, patience, and time. When you're getting back into fitness, you need to pick one to two important actions that will give you the biggest return on effort invested.
Too often, people worry about the small, insignificant details—meal timing, optimal protein synthesis, four-day split or two-day split—before they've even started. Once you've got a solid foundation of training consistently and eating foods that will properly fuel your body and take you toward your goal, then maybe you can worry a little more about optimization and making improvements.
Until then, focus on eating one balanced healthy meal a day if you're coming off of a "see-food" diet. If you're new to working out, commit to working out three days each week.6
Think of Fitness as Online Dating
In online dating, there are so many options to choose from, and while your head can spin in a tizzy from the possibilities, you need to choose someone and try things out before you can pass final judgment. If it doesn't work out, no big deal—there are more options out there.
The same goes for fitness. Weightlifting, running, CrossFit, power lifting, gymnastics, calisthenics—the options are there! Try something for a month—a fair amount of time—and see if it's something you want to pursue long term. If you hate it, axe this loser and move on.
Don't be afraid to experiment until you find "the one." Anything less is just uncivilized.7
Emphasize the Positives
There are ups and downs in any relationship. Too many people can end up focusing on the downs while ignoring the ups. It's simply a matter of reframing your perspective.
If you look to the positives or think back to a period when things were going well with fitness and why you enjoyed it, you'll begin to see the more positive aspects: better energy, improved mood, more confidence, a way to destress, and an impetus to eat healthy.
Ask yourself: How can I make fitness fun again? Were there triggers that turned my relationship with fitness sour?
Let those original intentions and motivations reignite your old flame, and always hold on to the feelings of how beneficial this relationship truly is.
What do you think is the hardest part about getting back on the fitness wagon? Comment below and I'll be sure to hit you back!