19 May 2018

A Beginner's Learned Lessons Getting into Fitness

Lessons learned after 3 months into a daily fitness routine.

This post is written for people who are embarking on their 1st fitness journey and are looking for tips on how to do so effectively. These are my learned lessons about the process.

In February 2018, I decided to get fit - once and for all.

I embarked on Insanity, a 63-day workout challenge and finished it - all 63 workouts, having never missed a workout. Currently, I’m making my way through Insanity MAX 30, another high-intensity workout challenge, with potential plans of completing P90X in the summer.

Figure out what it is that makes you do the workout, day in, day out.

I think a lot of people wait until they have some sort of magical, internal motivation before starting on their fitness journey.

That just doesn’t exist.

Rather, there are 2 types of motivation - big picture motivation and everyday motivation. While you may have ‘big picture motivation’ (being generally dissatisfied with your fitness level, feeling ready for change, etc.,), you’ll never have magical ‘everyday motivation’, propelling you out of your laziness to workout. At least not in the beginning, with killer workouts.

So you need to create systems that allow you to bypass your day-to-day motivation. For me, that system was paying a friend $5 for every missed workout day (which led to not missing workouts). I’d send her a photo of my Fitbit heart rate chart, so I couldn’t fake my workout. (I wrote a whole guide about using this method to accomplish goals, here).

Everyone responds to things differently; if home workouts aren’t your thing, sign up for a bootcamp at a local gym. Or workout with someone who already has a daily routine. Whatever you do, figure out what allows you to bypass your natural laziness, and stick to it. Layout exactly what you’ll do for that set period of time so there’s no wiggle room to change it when you’re feeling lazy.

Never skip a day, ever.

When you skip a day, you create precedence of exception. And a week later, you’ll consider skipping out for another exception, engaging in an internal battle as to whether that exception qualifies.

Instead, don’t make exceptions. Pick a time interval you can prioritize working out over other obligations and commit 100% to that. Then, schedule your life around your workouts, rather than scheduling workouts around your life.

Focus on the process, not the results

The results don’t show up until weeks, sometimes months, later. So don’t think about them; just focus on finishing the time interval you set for yourself with a 100% attendance rate.

Craft fitness as an identity, not a rule

Junk food and sweets have always been a huge problem area for me.

Something that’s helped enormously has been saying, “I don’t do this” versus “I can’t”.

Researchers tested the difference in the two approaches in relation to self control. Students who told themselves “I can’t eat X” chose to eat a tempting chocolate candy bar 61% of the time while students who said, “I don’t eat X” chose to eat it only 36% of the time.

Identity can be an incredibly powerful motivator. Use it to your advantage!

Seeing a cost to eating unhealthy foods

The bad news is, I still crave sweet, sugary, unprocessed foods. I don’t know what sorcery can help me resolve that, because Insanity sure didn’t.

However, I definitely see way more of a cost to eating unhealthy foods. Let me explain.

  • When a 5 year old kid sees a donut, its heart swells in desire & excitement.
  • When a diabetic looks at a donut, maybe part of their heart swells in desire & excitement, but another, more rational part thinks of the health consequences which, often, they simply cannot afford to put their body through. So they don’t eat the donut.

Before, I’d reach for the donut, acting precisely like a 5 year old. Now… I think, I have a tiny bit more self-control, despite still having cravings. I’m much closer to acting in the way the diabetic does.

Realizing my body is dynamic and changeable, and not static

Before, I just viewed my body as a sort of …. static object - because it had never really changed! The thing I had known for years, the thing I was used to waking up in the morning with.

Seeing the results of Insanity - for example, slightly toned arms or more muscular legs totally shattered that concept. Wow – my body totally /can/ change!

Be wary of celebrating too early

After finishing your goal, it’s easy to feel accomplished, to feel proud, to let that small victory de-rail your potential if you kept pushing onwards. Tuly, this is a trap. Instead, figure out the next goal and avoid celebrating early Take advantage of your positive inertia, and keep going. Enjoy the success but don’t stop the process early to celebrate.

And lastly, fitness is a habit, not a destination

I write this post as if all the work is done, as if I’ve unlocked some sort of level on a video game. In some sense I have, but it’s important to realize that being fit is very much a habit, not a one-time goal.

All the gains I’ve made in 3 months could easily vanish with 3 months of laziness. So it’s important to stay humble, keep your head down, and keep working out.

Looking for fitness ideas? This is my experience doing Insanity, a 63-day workout challenge!