Back in the day as a college freshman, I discovered fitness. Soon after, I realized that working out made me feel incredible. I knew I liked working out and wanted to be like all the New Yorkers around me who I looked up to. But when you’re 18 years old, you have no idea who you are yet.
Was working out just a phase? Luckily, no. I lived for trying out all kinds of workouts on the NYC studio scene and tended to gravitate toward lifting weights and high-intensity cardio.
Although so much has changed since I was 18, some things have stayed the same. I still enjoy lifting weights and high-intensity exercise. Over the years, so much about health and fitness has become clear to me. Here are 7 fitness truths I’ve realized after growing into my own skin and becoming confident with who I am — both in and out of the gym.
7 Fitness truths that have taken me this long to realize
1. Getting healthy doesn’t have an end date.
It always surprises me when I see ads online for crash diets and when people expect overnight results from their eating plans or workouts. That’s not how to get results! I admit that back when I was in my early 20s, my mom was doing one of the popular “cleanses” that’s still around today. I was curious and attempted to do it along with her. The 7-day plan went something like this each day: eat 3 almonds, drink this god-awful tasting drink at set intervals, have a few more almonds, then eat a healthy protein/vegetable for dinner. No deviation.
On day 3, I passed out when stepping out onto my deck and cut my arm on the grill that caught me on the way down. My body couldn’t function on that little nourishment. That was the end of that. Cleanses and other extreme trends just aren’t worth it, in my opinion. Know what works? Committing to doing your best on the regular in terms of diet and exercise (see more on that in point #4).
Along with crazy diet trends, you see it in the gym too with workout plans. Do this workout for this amount of time, and voilà, you’re in shape. Done. Mais non, it doesn’t work like that! When I used to work at a gym, people would sign up for a membership before the summer, work out like crazy, and then stop coming in once they reached their goals.
You either make healthy living — whatever that means to you — a lifestyle choice or you don’t. Quick fixes don’t exist and going to the gym hardcore for 8 weeks to get in shape and then quitting will only put you back where you started. I’ve learned that if you want something to be a part of your life, you have to work for it and continue to work hard. Go at your own pace.
2. Starting is the hardest part.
We psyche ourselves out of so many things. I know I did. I was scared to look silly or dumb trying a new workout or afraid I wouldn’t fit in at a new gym. But it’s all in our head. Just get out there and start. This applies to starting a brand new routine in general and to your particular workout that you’ve been dreading all day.
What’s the worst that can happen if you force yourself to do it?
How many times have you procrastinated or gotten tied up at work letting your workout fall to the wayside? I have. Sometimes just making yourself do it is harder than the workout itself. Hitting play on your DVD or just dragging your tired butt to the cycling studio is the biggest hurdle. Once you’re there, the workout will just flow and you’ll feel better when it’s over. When we have a routine, it’s easier to stick to it.
A motto of mine is “Done is better than perfect” and it absolutely fits in the context of working out. Not every workout is going to be your best and that’s OK. We’re tired and not always in the best mood. Again, just do it. Finishing the workout is better than skipping it, even if it’s far from your best.
3. You get out what you put in… as with most things in life.
No one says you need to go hardcore 7 days a week or anything close. I’ve certainly learned to switch it up over the years. But making a concerted effort toward your goals is all it takes to notice results and feel on top of your life. Simply put, the effort you put in will directly affect your output. So if you want to see big changes in your body and mind, your effort is going to have to be just as big. If you can sleepwalk through your workouts, you may want to take a serious look at what’s motivating you and if you’re on the right path for achieving your goals.
If you’re not sure how hard you’re working, this heart rate monitor I reviewed helps you gauge your intensity and I can’t recommend it enough. Your heart doesn’t lie.
4. Consistency is what matters in the long haul.
It’s not all or nothing. We’re human. We make mistakes. What counts is the overall level of consistency you put in over the long term. Eating a decadent dessert once in a while or skipping a workout now and then won’t be the end of the world if you’ve established a consistent base of healthy living. Aim to hit your goals and put in the work 80% of the time.
I think it’s better to shoot low with your goals so you’re more likely to exceed them and reinforce the fact that you’re on the right track. So consistently going to the gym 3 times per week instead of saying you’re going to go daily and then failing. It’s not consistent if you work out hardcore for a month and then fall off the wagon completely for the next 2. Doing good work consistently is something to shoot for and is better than doing great work once in a while.
5. Being too strict will lead to failure.
Clean eating 100% of the time isn’t for me. I respect others’ eating choices and what works for them — we’re all different. For me personally, I strive for eating well 80% of the time and allow myself leeway for eating out, sweets, and the occasional indulgence. It works. But having a diet that’s restrictive isn’t feasible for my personal goals and needs. Same goes for working out. If you want to work out 5 days a week but can realistically only fit in a workout 3 days a week, then do everything in your power to get moving 3 days a week. We have to do the best we can, and most of the time, that’s good enough.
6. Pick an activity you actually like and eat foods you enjoy.
Life is so much richer when we enjoy ourselves. The fitness industry is booming and there are so many incredible ways to work out. And let’s not forget all the amazing resources online for working out (like Nia Shanks, Girls Gone Strong, and POPSUGAR Fitness). Don’t do something you hate!
Likewise, when it comes to eating, if you hate quinoa and kale, for example, opt for something else. A trend or eating what you “should” be eating only makes sense if it works for you. Forget all the noise out there and do what is still in line with your goals but still makes you happy. Not every person’s goals, body, and starting point are the same, so again, we all have to do what works best for us.
7. Focus on overall health and not things you can quantify.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers on the tape measure, the scale, or the squat rack. But there are other measures of health that are just as valid. How do you feel? How do you look? Looking good and feeling good often go together, so focus on the big picture. Numbers on the scale and other metrics aren’t always great indicators and can fluctuate. They can also make you crazy if you tend to get obsessive. Find a like-minded support system to have your back. Working out is more fun with a friend. And remember, health should be our goal.
Do any of these fitness truths ring true for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. 😉