I’m no fitness guru with a jaw-dropping, sculpted body. I’ve taken courses in nutrition and have been learning about fitness methods since I was in college, but that’s the extent of my expertise.
What I am is a real-life, average working Jane currently seeing changes to my physical health, particularly in response to rich food, late nights and other unhealthy habits that accompany a lifestyle writer/editor. In the past year, I’ve been working out more and have seen my metabolic system plod along sluggishly, even while making vast strides in core strength and overall endurance. That’s a rather sad side effect of getting older, but one has to adapt to those changes.
Improving one’s health and fitness is one new year’s resolution that most often makes the top of the list, but is also one of the quickest to fall by the wayside, especially for those of us with busy, full-time jobs. But when the kilos pile on and your clothes start to look less flattering, that’s when you’ll be kicking yourself for breaking those wellness promises. Perhaps it’s due to inconsistency in my workouts that I haven’t achieved the results I seek.
I’m still intent on embarking on my journey to better health. Whatever it takes, whatever the exercise or good nutrition, I’m determined to rhythm cycle, HIIT, weight train and Muay Thai my way to achieving that dream bod and flawless internal health that has only been real in my vivid writer’s imagination.
All is easier said than done, of course. What am I going to do differently this year that’s going to hit it home with my health goals?
Think Ahead. Don’t “Make Up For Lost Time” Down The Road.
There’s a really good lesson I learned while working at a major coffee chain company, way back as a high-school teenager: the CAYG or “clean-as-you-go” method. Instead of leaving a pile of mess to deal with after one’s shift is over, we would mop up spills, put away unused items and wash utensils immediately after using, or in between orders. By the time one was done with their shift, there was barely any cleaning up to do. Apron off, work done.
If only cutting back the kilos were that easy. But if we consistently do some planned housekeeping with our health throughout the year, we could stave off inevitable weight gain that follows ageing for a good bit longer. Those of us who work in high-stress jobs and do little to balance it with weekly activities that are good for the mind and body, tend to suffer the most. Keeping check on your body’s health requires conscious effort, but it’s only quite minimal if you look at the bigger picture. You rely so much on your body’s good metabolism to work hard and keep that weight off naturally, it’s only a matter of time before that system maxes out, and the real trouble begins.
I took mine for granted until sometime mid last year. The engine died, and I’ve been trying to reignite it ever since. Diets and exercise has helped me lose a couple of kilos here and there, but they pile on much more quickly than I can lose the suckers. Since I’m just at the beginning of this weight gain issue, there’s still time to turn things around and make those good habits with both food and fitness, a permanent part of my routine.
You Can’t Half-Heartedly Commit To Your Health Goals
But if you want to be trim, healthy and taut, just keeping check of your weight isn’t enough. The most often quoted reason I’ve heard for skipping the gym has to do with the lack of time and energy. People are mentally exhausted at the end of the day, and all they want is to head home and couch potato it till bedtime.
I was exactly one of those people not too long ago. I didn’t mind not being able to climb like a monkey or have the endurance to run long-distance — I figured that if I could go on the elliptical for 20 minutes without passing out, I was fine. My gym membership often went unused, until I began feeling guilty about my laziness and signed up for a personal trainer. Knowing that someone is expecting you to show up for a workout session made it much easier to stay on track. My personal trainer was always reminding me of my appointments well ahead of time, enforcing the no-refund cancellation policy and being a little bit stern when I said I couldn’t make it. Once, I even felt compelled to send to him a doctor’s note to confirm I was sick!
Our sessions were always in the evenings after work, and the desire to cut sessions definitely always came up. Especially after an extra tough day — who would have the energy left over to do an hour of grueling reps, was beyond me. Having those sessions really helped me see that once I got to the gym and began the warm-up, I did have enough energy to power through it, and actually felt more alert afterwards. Some people plan gym sessions with like-minded friends, another great way to ensure you meet your fitness goals while building friendships. When you train with others who share health goals, enthusiasm and interest in certain types of workouts, suddenly, gym sessions become something to look forward to and less of a chore.
More importantly, it trained my mindset about not making workouts optional. If we can make certain activities a regular thing, like Friday drinks with the ladies, or Sunday mornings with the gardening group — there’s no reason going to cardio classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday can’t easily become a part of one’s regular routine. If you don’t let your son skip soccer practice, why should you be allowed to skip your workout? Hold yourself accountable by creating some sort of penalty for skipping a gym session. I’ve not canceled my membership in three years, because those monthly bills on my credit card statement serve as a reminder that I’m wasting RM200 every month on a service I should be using more. Or if you’re a proponent of the reward system, then by all means, do something nice for yourself when you hit a milestone.
Your Fitness Journey Is Your Own To Assess, Not Compared With That Of Others.
Assuming that you make some progress after a few months, but it’s slow and you’ve got some ways to go. Barring an injury or a traumatic incident, it’s crucial not to give up at that point, because you’re either going to push forward and achieve your goals, or slide right back into your too-many-hours-sitting-at-your-office-desk bulge. What a shame if it was the latter. Work is always going to be hectic, and you’ll always be feeling even more drained than usual from long hours. Having a cheat day or two will help to make it through an especially rough week, but don’t let those turn into weeks or worse, months. The free passes with binge eating and inactivity were used up in your twenties, and now you have to adjust to taking care of a body with a more delicate system.
On that note, as an older person (yes, this applies even to some in their thirties!) you will quite likely be joining a legion of twenty-somethings who appear capable of breezing through challenging HIIT classes without even breaking eyebrow sweat. Fitness is the new in thing, which is great, but you’re not there for the lifestyle, not really. Instead of feeling intimidated, let that tremendous energy by which you’re surrounded, inspire you to work a bit harder to achieve what you want. Just because others around you seem fitter, have flatter stomachs and extra fashionable outfits, doesn’t mean that your efforts at improving your health should be seen as trifling.
Staying fit and healthy is a tough task to be tackled head-on, but it is not a competition. Leave that domain to the professional athletes. If you hang in there, your dream bod could become a tangible reality, but at the end of the day, that’s really just a really terrific side benefit to living a healthier lifestyle.