One random evening in February on the eve of my 43rd birthday, it happened.
“Tell me exactly what you do to look the way you do.”
She was looking at me like an eager student. If we hadn’t been standing in the locker room of a commercial gym, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her holding a reporter’s notebook and clicking a pen in preparation of writing down all the secrets I could divulge.
Standing there in sweaty gym clothes, I was caught off-guard after my evening workout. I am not a superstar or a celebrity model, so I was a bit mystified with her question.
“Excuse me?” I stammered.
“You look amazing,” she continued on. “I just want to know exactly what you do to look that way. You know, step by step: What do you do? What do you eat? How do you exercise? What exercises do you do? How many repetitions? Do you run? What do I need to do to look the way you do?”
I was at a loss.
After all, how can one encapsulate years of work into a sound bite? I was baffled that anyone might think what I had accomplished could be simplified into a series of easy steps.
The last twenty years of personal struggle with my body, my diet, and my self-confidence came flooding back through my mind. There was no way for me to tell her that I had been anorexic throughout high school and college. I couldn’t share with her how I then ballooned to 50 pounds over my ideal weight and succeeded in carrying that extra weight around for years. I didn’t have the time to discuss how body image issues have plagued me throughout my life.
This young woman wanted the easy answers. The step-by-step magazine version.
Newsflash! There is NO easy. Ever. In anything. But especially not in fitness.
Yes! I wanted it to be easy, too! It took me those 20+ years to figure out that developing a fit and healthy body isn’t, can’t, and won’t ever be easy. Heck, even when you THINK you have it all figured out, you don’t. Something in your life changes. You change. So your process has to change.
At that moment, I realized – yes, there really IS a “secret formula” that guarantees success in meeting whatever health or fitness goals have been set. It’s really quite simple:
You have to do the work.
Day in. Day out. Day after day. Consistently sticking to your plan.
Inconsistency in implementation is our greatest enemy when it comes to health and fitness goal achievement.
Too often we get started on something with enthusiasm, only to get tired of the routine and throw it all away before we begin to see results. Remember how busy the gyms were in January? Where are those people now? On to the next thing. No consistency. No change. No results.
I will admit there is a lot of information out there regarding diet and exercise, and it can be overwhelming. Don’t let that stop you from taking steps toward improved fitness. Find a trainer and nutritionist (I happen to know a great one!) to design a plan specifically for you. Together, develop a strategy that is aligned with your life AND your goals and then get moving on it!
This doesn’t have to be an apple cart turnover of your life. This is a journey – a continuous, ongoing process. It WILL NOT occur overnight, so don’t expect it to.
Follow a plan that allows you to make incremental changes – I call them baby steps. What is ONE thing you can do that moves you closer to your goal and is so small that you almost don’t realize the change? THAT is where you start.
Pick a habit that will help you to reach your goal. Determine where this new habit is on a “confidence” scale. On a scale of 1-10, ask yourself: “How confident am I that I can do this habit every day for the next 14 days?”
If you answer a 9 or 10, get started implementing that one little habit into your life immediately!
However, if your answer was less than a 9, either choose a different habit or make your chosen habit easier until you are really confident you can do it. Give yourself permission to make it easier and easier on yourself until you’re at least a 9/10 on the confidence scale. Then just do it.
This is about being truly honest with yourself. Forget about what you think you should be able to do. Instead, what can you do, right now? Start with one easy habit, and then consistently implement it. Day after day after day. Soon that habit will become so naturally ingrained in your life that you will be ready to implement another one. And so on.
Ultimately, this was the “secret to success” tip I gave to the young woman in the locker room that evening. It’s not what she wanted to hear, but it was the best I had to offer.
You have to make changes that are manageable in your life. If it is not manageable, it won’t last. You fall behind, get frustrated, and feel defeated. Then you’re back at square one, trying to figure out the secret formula.
Break the cycle today by making just one change that gets you closer to your goal.
When I finally started to do this in my own life, the changes started to come. There is no simple infographic to follow, and there never will be. I’ve been working on this for years. I continue to be a work in progress. And so will you.
Pick your goal. Develop a plan. Break that plan down into baby steps you are confident you can implement with ease.
And above all, just do the work. Be consistent. You’ve got this.