The secret to getting fit (finally) and staying fit

(I asked my friend and personal trainer, Mike Landry, to contribute an article to the blog. The subject matter came up after I asked him why gym was so busy right after the 1st of January and then empty by the 1st of Feb. Mike always tells it like it is…)

So there you are, sitting in front of your computer screen reading this little tidbit. You’re thinking to yourself “oh lord, not another motivational load of crap”…

It’s not…ok, well, maybe it is. But it’s not really “motivational”, cuz let’s face it, if you’re not intrinsically motivated there’s nothing written on this screen that’s going to get you out of your seat.

This is just an attempt to shed some light on the most observed reason for failure when trying to start a fitness regimen.

It’s called “too much too soon”. And I see it all the time.

New Year’s Eve comes and goes, and for the majority of the population the number one resolution reads something like “this is the year I get in shape (lose weight, start running, etc. etc.)  Basically, this is the year you resolve to get healthy. And like a gangbuster, you hit the gym, and you hit it HARD. You’ve made up your mind – from zero days a week setting foot in a gym, to 5 days a week of blood, sweat and tears.

But after the first week you find that you’re pretty beat up. It’s hard to walk down the stairs, dry your hair, and even pick up a spoon to stir your coffee. And it’s only…been…a…week.  Look out, here comes week two.

Suddenly, you find out you have to work late, and gosh-darn-it you can’t make it to the gym. “No problem” you say to yourself, “I’ll just pick it back up tomorrow”. But now it’s tomorrow and your daughter is home sick from school. You have to stay home from work, and there’s no way you can hit the gym with a sick child at home. “No problem” you say to yourself, “I’ll just pick it back up tomorrow”.

Now it is day 3, and the soreness from the previous week of hell has worn off. And you’re thinking to yourself that maybe you need just one more day to get caught up with the household chores (or work stuff, or pay the bills, or whatever stuff), and that tomorrow you’ll start fresh. But tomorrow comes and guess what…you have to work late, again. Yup, no gym for you.

That’s three days in a row of no gym time, and if you count the weekend (cuz you know, the weekends are “me time”) that makes 5 days in row.  It’s not your fault. You can’t predict working late, or your kid getting sick, or rain, or snow or….  And you figure this is the way it will always be and you’ll probably never really have time to make fitness part of your life.

So you give up.

Sound familiar?

I see this scenario play out year after year for as long as I’ve been involved in the fitness industry (over 20 years).

So what’s the answer?

There will always be something that comes up.  No getting around that. It’s called life. The main problem here is that when trying to start anything (diet, fitness, a new job, etc.) there is a natural tendency to go at it with guns blazing. And that’s fine, provided that the situation calls for it. But most often the best course of action is to take things slowly, one step at a time.  So instead of making it your mission to workout 5 days per week, try setting a smaller goal to workout at least one day per week for 4 weeks.

Be flexible with your goal – try not to pick one specific day, just try to make it to the gym one time over the course of 7 days. And yes, you should include weekends in those days too.

Setting a smaller, more attainable goal will promote a sense of accomplishment; a feeling that you CAN do this.  It is from these small successes that greater goals are attained.

Starting out slowly doesn’t mean you will not see results. The fact of the matter is that you will be more consistent with your workouts, you’ll start to feel more energy, and you’ll gain confidence as you make progress. Once you’ve successfully created the habit of going to the gym once per week, build upon your success and set a new goal of going twice per week, but no less than once per week. And once you’ve achieved that goal, continue to set new goals.

And this doesn’t just pertain to the gym. Nutrition is another area where trying to make too many changes can affect success. Instead of completely re-vamping your diet, try to change one thing. Maybe it’s no carbs after 5pm, or no more soda. Whatever it is, make one small change and work of the success of accomplishing that goal.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Small achievements equal great success.

Michael Landry

Michael is an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and holds a CrossFit Level 1 certification.  With over 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry, he knows what it takes to get it done. When he’s not lifting things up and putting them down, Michael enjoys golf, mountain biking, hiking, golf, rock climbing, and golf.

  • Tom

    Well put Mike! Good article.

  • Hilary

    Thanks for this information! So true. It’s easy to start out too ambitious. I’m going to rethink my fitness goals because I want it to work this time!