“How do you do it?” I hear this question all the time. Whether it’s my coworkers questioning, “How do you say ‘no’ to the break room pizza?” Or acquaintances wondering, “How do you get up at 5 am almost every morning?” I understand that my lifestyle isn’t the norm for everyone, but I also can’t ignore how this (albeit totally well-intentioned) question positions my choices as some sort of chore that imposes difficulty in my life when in reality, the opposite is true…
To answer this question, let’s go back to the beginning of my Fitness Journey. Through a series of decisions that did not benefit me – physically, spiritually, or mentally – I reached a point where I had surrendered my life to habit. Looking back – hello from the other siiiiide 😉 – I have a clear perspective on how my lifestyle was affecting me, but at the time, I thought I was following the textbook plan for my 20s – work, booze, grease, Netflix, repeat. But with each empty choice, I became a little more numb, a little more removed, a little more hollow.
I can pinpoint the choice to adopt a healthy lifestyle as the first truly intentional choice I had made for myself in years (a realization with a gravity that weighs heavy on me), and it reignited my passion for life. I never knew how good (I honestly can’t think of a better word than purely, truly “good” to describe this) it could make me feel to simply choose. To choose myself. To choose what benefited me.
So, how do I do it? It being all the choices I make day-to-day. I do it because it’s easier for me to get along with myself than it is to battle my reflection day-in and day-out. I do it because it’s easier than grasping for excuses in thin air. I do it because it gives me purpose, it makes me happy, and it represents a life I am proud of. So you see, these choices do not make my life more difficult to navigate, they make it easier.
Even better yet… not only easier, but more enjoyable. And that, sweat sisters, is key. Some people say that to get healthy on the outside, you have to get healthy on the inside. For me, that wasn’t necessarily the case. With roots so inextricably intertwined, where I watered one, the other would grow. As my muscles flexed and my body changed, so did my mind. As someone who spent the majority of her teen and young adult years trapped in the confines of anxiety and panic disorder (which was not properly self-medicated by the aforementioned textbook 20s plan), I can honestly say that my Fitness Journey has been paramount to my mental health. My lifestyle fosters an infinite list of positive side-effects including confidence, self worth, and the assurance that I am consistently making the best intentional choices for me. In short, my lifestyle fosters a sincere internal happiness that radiates outward.
Allow me to elaborate. It’s not to say that this journey, like any, doesn’t have it’s peaks and valleys – it’s highs and lows. Sometimes I want to stay in bed when my 5am alarm sounds. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes I want to use food as an outlet for my emotions. Sometimes, I do. Not every day will be bushy tails and power-ponytails, but in the great-big-grand scheme of things, you should be able to matter-of-factly identify your lifestyle as something that brings you genuine happiness.
PSA: If you reach a point in your health & fitness journey where you aren’t enjoying your day-to-day choices, if you feel burdened or restricted (and I’m not talking about the weight of the squat rack in booty-huggin’ yoga pants 😉 ), it’s time to rethink the model.
Notice how I’m not telling you to abandon your lifestyle and sink into your couch with a bag of Lays and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? That’s because instead of giving up on our goals, we should adjust our means. Let me break it down for you with a simple equation: Ideally, Goal + Plan = Achievement, but what happens when Goal + Plan ≠ Achievement? Letsbehonest, been there, done that! Consider the goal your constant, and the plan your variable. Meaning: When achievement isn’t met, change the plan, not the goal.
A few words of wisdom from a self-proclaimed fit-girl (in training) who has tried, tested, and tweaked to build a lifestyle she loves. I mean, if you can’t laugh at yourself when you fall off an exercise ball in front of an entire gym of people trying to master ab pikes like Katrina Scott… are you even living?
Don’t force it. Listen up sister, I may LOVE kale with the burning passion of a thousand suns, but you may… not. I ain’t judgin’! If you don’t like something, don’t force it into your routine. Don’t get it twisted, we can’t confuse not liking with not trying, and I absolutely encourage you to try new things. If I wrote off all the things I thought I didn’t like before even trying them, I would never have this love affair with kale, or brussels sprouts, or sweet potato, or almonds… who would I be, even?! I’ll be honest with you, for as many times as I have tried spin, I just can not get into it. So guess what? I don’t subject myself to it. If running isn’t your thang, and spin is your jam – spin, baby, spin! It’s all cardio in the end. Forcing your health and fitness practices will only lead to frustration, so please, do what you enjoy.
Let go of comparison. Just because someone on the gram is a long distance runner, a vegan, a heavy weight lifter, or a macro counter, doesn’t mean that you have to be. Comparison is the giant red self destruction button of your life, don’t push it! Instead, practice celebrating your own personal accomplishments and giving them the recognition they deserve. Show ’em off and be proud! Check out this blog on being your own Fitspo 🙂
Intuition, Baby. Just like your fave pair of denim, health & fitness practices are not one-size-fits all. Read it, repeat it, believe it. There’s a lot of hype surrounding methods and tracking: caloric intake, macronutrient intake, workout cycles, cardio, and rest days. While these practices are often yes, scientific, and often yes, produce specific results – they are not the only way to navigate a health & fitness journey. Before logging into an app or following a predetermined plan, I challenge you to get in tune with your body, and learn how to treat it intuitively. Listen to your satiety cues, your energy levels, your cravings, your muscles, and your mind. Feed yourself when you are hungry, eat what sounds tasty and satisfying, determine your max reps, rest when you are sore, and match your workout to your mood. This practice will promote a sustainable, maintainable lifestyle that is founded on flexibility and tailor-made to your body. (P.S. You might be thinking, “Hey, Al, I know you track all of the above!” Did you know that I only track my macro & caloric intake M-F? Measuring out individual cacao nibs on a Saturday is not fun for me, so I don’t do it. Eating intuitively on the weekends helps me to keep a healthy relationship with food and works best for me 🙂 )
Get Social (IRL). If you have a social media account dedicated to your health and fitness journey, I say AMAZING! I hope that it fosters accountability, motivation, and encouragement. Now, I challenge you to use this platform to connect, I mean really connect, with someone from your area and plan an activity sans keyboard and emojis. Another great idea is to engage a LBF (Life Before Fit) galpal to experience a piece of your lifestyle you can enjoy together. How about a meet up at your newest local salad shop or a free community yoga class? These tangible memories will support more than one of your wellness centers.
TL;DR: I’m not just here to preach a healthy & fit lifestyle, I’m here to preach a happy, healthy & fit lifestyle that supports all of your wellness centers and is as unique to you as your body is. Moral of the story: Do your own thang and make sure you love it.