By Michael Krueger
Last night I had some clients at a corporate gym I have been training at for many years. When I arrived, I had to turn on the lights since no one was there. Not a single person, not even the cardio only crowd.
The New Year is barely 12 weeks old yet and the gym is deserted. All the grand plans have been shelved for another year; we all know Americans can only start an exercise program on January 1st.
So, what happened this year?
What happened was the same thing that happens every year. People make big plans for getting in shape and then quit. It’s quite simple really; they don’t want success bad enough to make it happen. They want any number of other things more and that is where they put their attention and effort.
I can understand that completely. We succeed when we focus on what we want and we don’t spend time and energy on the things we feel are less important. We all do this, this is how life works. The problems arise when we claim to want something, but don’t put forth the effort needed to get it. We place blame on everything but ourselves, but we fail because we simply don’t want it enough.
I have been told by people that they really do want to lose weight, get in shape and be healthy, but they just can’t seem to do it. The more we talk, the more obvious it is that what they really want is to eat a lot of food, sit on the couch, watch TV and not exercise. They want this far more than they want to be fit and healthy.
When I tell them that this is what I see happening they get very defensive and insist that it’s not true. They do want a fit lifestyle. They are afraid of dying young or being disabled. They are afraid they will lose their job because they’ve gotten so out of shape. They want to be there for their kids. I say that I understand all that to be true. The issue is still that they want a lot of other things more than those things that they listed.
Getting What You Want
If you want a new car what do you do? You shop around for the car you want. You do some research on options and prices. You save for a down payment and arrange financing. Then when you are all set, you go to the dealer and get the car you want. This is a logical progression that makes sense. You put in the time, effort and money needed and you got the exact car you wanted; life is good.
Now, say you want to get fit, so what do you do? While sitting at the bar eating wings and drinking beer, you tell your friends that you want to lose some weight. Later, while driving home you stop to get gas. Along with your gas you buy a Mega-Big soft drink and chips. Then you pick up a muscle magazine to see what’s new and hot in the bodybuilding world. You get home and plop down on the couch and watch “Worlds Strongest Man” on ESPN while drinking your soda pop and eating your chips. Maybe you order a pizza. You then spend the entire weekend eating, drinking, dozing on the couch and watching a lot of sports on TV.
Then on Sunday night, you lie in bed staring at the ceiling. You are planning to get up early tomorrow and start working out, but right now your acid reflux is keeping you awake. Morning comes and you hit snooze repeatedly until you absolutely must get up and then, realizing you are late, you lament that you “forgot” that you were going to start your new exercise program that morning. Oh well, there’s always next week; Americans can only start exercising on Monday too.
They say that in life you can get anything you want, you just can’t get everything you want. In the above scenario you are getting what you want most and what you want most is incompatible with what you don’t want as much.
You’ve got some serious thinking to do so that you can reset your priorities and get what you claim you want, or given the effort involved, admit that you don’t really want it after all.
I’ve touched on honest assessments before, but I’m going to do it again anyway. Usually when fitness people talk about assessments they mean body composition, strength, cardio and flexibility. Those items are important, but they are merely numbers compared to norms. What I’m talking about here is assessing where your head is at and why it’s keeping you from where you say you want to go.
The truly tough assessment is when you look in the mirror and face how you got to where you are and why you aren’t progressing toward what you profess to want. You need to understand why you claim to want one thing and yet everything you’re doing is taking you in the completely opposite direction. We’ve all known people who seem to be totally dedicated to screwing up their life. They say they don’t mean to, they just can’t help it; they believe that, but it’s not true.
If you honestly can’t see that you are sabotaging your dreams at every turn, then you really need to seek professional help. This can be a life threatening problem and if it isn’t bad enough to kill you, it’s certainly going to make your life miserable in so many ways, so get some help.
If you are like most people you are well aware that you are your creating your own obstacles to achieving your goals. As in the earlier scenario, we talk big, but don’t back it up simply because we want something else more. It’s time to be honest with yourself and either get your priorities straight so that you can achieve your goals or admit that you already have and the sedentary unfit life you are living is exactly what you want and quit worrying about it. Either way, you can then get on with your life.
Once you make your decision on which direction you are going, expect some fallout regardless of which you’ve chosen. I’m not talking about grief from friends and family, I’m talking about your internal dialog. This self-talk isn’t going to be a pleasant conversation either; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
If you’ve decided to get fit and healthy, the same thoughts and habits that held you back before are going to come back in spades. The negative thoughts about failure and “how hard it is and how you can’t do this and why are we doing this again” will be even stronger than they were before.
Just because you say you’ve now got your priorities straight doesn’t mean that you will simply do it; it might, but it’s unlikely. You’ve got to live your new life everyday and struggle mightily against your old habits. You will fall, but you’ll get back up. You will doubt yourself, but you will reaffirm your resolve and carry on despite your uncertainty. You will build an iron will that will enable you to finally take control over your thoughts, health, fitness and ultimately your life.
When you know what you want and live everyday with the single-minded goal of getting it, your success is guaranteed.
Now, what if you decided that you are in fact currently living exactly as you want? You say that your lack of fitness, energy, health, self-esteem, job and relationship prospects don’t bother you. You say you’re at peace with your fast food and sedentary lifestyle. Well, while it’s a decision that I don’t understand, it’s better than being at war with yourself and if you are being honest you’ll save yourself a lot of anxiety.
Today, Tomorrow and Beyond
Do whatever you must to make your vision a reality. Daily reminders of your commitment do help keep you focused so put up post-it notes where you’ll see them, set you phone or laptop to remind you of your workouts and enlist a support team of your friends and family to provide you with encouragement.
Lastly, at the end of every day ask yourself if you did at least one new thing to move you closer to getting what you want the most.
The proof of your commitment, and your ultimate success, is in the action that you take today.
Michael Krueger is an NSCA-certified personal trainer. He got his start in fitness training while serving in the United States Coast Guard. He works with firefighters and others in and around Madison, Wisconsin. He is available to fire departments, civic organizations, and athletic teams for training, consulting, and speaking engagements. He has published numerous articles on fitness, health, and the mind-body connection and was a featured speaker at the IAFC’s FRI 2009 Health Day in Dallas, Texas. E-mail him at MKPTLLC@gmail.com.