Okay, so let’s say you’ve decided to make a change in your health. You want to “get fit” or “get in shape” or “lose weight” or “bulk up” or whatever. Lovely. Good job, that’s a good first step!
But is that really enough to provide the motivation you need to keep going? It wasn’t for me. Read on to see what changes I had to make in my mindset in order to progress.
When I was 22 and decided to go for a run for the first time outside of mandatory Physical Education classes, I felt great! It was hard, and I was tired, and my legs burned for three days straight, but it felt good.
It felt good that I had finally made a choice to create a better life for myself after basically a life-time of treating my body poorly.
It felt good to know that this was the start, and it would only get better.
It even felt good to be in pain, because the pain was recognisably that of sore muscles and not of injury. Opinions may differ, but I find DOMS pain (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: post-workout pain that sets in between 24-72 hours after a workout) enjoyable in a strange sort of way.
Of course, looking the photos in my previous post, it’s obvious that my fitness journey wasn’t a steady climb toward better health, otherwise I would have both looked and felt a lot better today, almost twelve years later.
The thing is that “getting fit” is incredibly vague. So is “losing weight”, in fact, even though it’s a lot more easily quantifiable. Also: These two are not the same thing, no matter where on the gender spectrum you are.
Weight is an incredibly unreliable marker for health on its own, and you’d do well to learn and accept that early on. I will write more on that later on. But know that Health at Every Size is a Thing.
The point that I am making is that your goals must have better specificity. When I started jogging, I just knew two things: My butt was getting saggy and I needed to get fitter. I didn’t think to combine the two into a single motive, though: I will learn how to do the things that will make my butt as perky as before my fat cells lost their youthful spring.
It’s a silly motive, and it’s a very weak one (and couched in a lot of problematic body negativity), but there you go. At least that would have been specific.
Instead, I just thought “I have to get fitter. I should run. And stuff. Maybe get a chin up bar? Those are cool.” And I off I went. It went up and down a lot. I could not keep to a schedule and I would spend large periods of time not doing any exercise until I saw something or read something or got a new gadget that would give me that motivation again.
Things started to get interesting in 2011, when I worked at Butlins for a year. One of my co-stars in Lazytown: The Energy Show was a Personal Trainer as well as playing Sportacus, and I started to see how being fit and healthy (and looking good) could benefit me in my work. I started to want to get fitter for the sake of work. I paid Paul (of Paul Cox Personal Training) to train me for a while during my Butlins year, and it was an incredible step forward for me. He taught me a lot, and provided accountability and purpose while we were training together.
Since then, the periods of time that I do work out regularly have steadily increased while the off-cycles have decreased. I still have longish off-cycles (I did very little between September and Christmas) but I keep active. What usually spurs me on to get started again is an acting job where it might matter what my body looks like or something like when I did Crossfit almost five days a week for three months in the run-up to Tough Mudder in 2014.
The Tough Mudder one is a good example of useful motivation: I want to get fitter so that I can get through all the Tough Mudder obstacles without injuring or knackering myself. And it worked! I was in the best shape of my life when I did that Mudder, and a lot of that hard work paid off in the long run.
So the question is not “Do you want to get fit?” it’s WHY do you want to get fit? Do you want to do an obstacle course? Do you want to be able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded? Do you want to bench press your partner for some reason? Do you want to look good for a photo shoot? Is there a mountain peak on your door step you want to climb without dying? Or maybe you even want to brave the Peakiest of Peaks, Mount Everest? Run a marathon? Becoming BatMan?!
Finding a specific motive is important. And so is finding motives that keep you working for yourself. Because we’re not good at long-term goal keeping, try to set yourself goals three months in the future, and one month too. Have a long-term goal (for me it’s to gain five kg of muscle so that I am at a good place to drop or gain weight for potential film work) but also shorter term goals (get myself as primed, pumped and ready as I can be for a PT course later this year).
Since I started Aerial, I have additional goals that add specificity. I want to be more flexible and stronger so that I am better able to do the Aerial moves. I love doing Aerial, and I love the sense of accomplishment it gives me when I master a move. That is a powerful driver for me going forward for doing the stretches I need to do to get there.
This has been typically rambling, but I hope I’ve made some sense. I know I sometimes phrase myself as if I’m telling you what to do, but this is first and foremost a journal of my own mindset and how I’m progressing. If you follow this blog going forward, you’ll be able to see me learn, fight, fail and succeed.
Hopefully, we can learn together.
Do you have any goals? Are you trying to do right by your health this year and making a change for the fitter? I Would love to hear your stories, experiences and suggestions in the comments. If there’s something you’d like me to talk about, also let me know!