I hear it all. And good for you for resolving to get fit. We’re all motivated by different things. I think whatever gets you motivated is great….as long as you realize that this kind of goal-setting is completely unsustainable for the long term.
Short term thinking is not going to do it. Long term thinking on the other hand will more likely lead to completely sustainable health and wellness. But are you able to do this? What would it take?
Shooting for long term goals and big picture planning requires quite a bit of letting go. We have to forget about our preoccupation for radical change, dramatic improvement and sensational headlines. We have to welcome our own imperfection while allowing ourselves to believe we deserve the best. But we’d better not be afraid of some hard work and loving self discipline along the way to achieving our best.
Consistency is key. Joy is also key.
If you workout and eat as a form of punishment for all your bad past behavior or your current health condition which you disapprove of and have been made to feel ashamed of, then you might as well just be sitting on a couch and spooning pure unrefined sugar into your mouth because if you’re not happy, there’s no point to the supposed “good behavior” you’re anxiously forcing yourself to engage in.
If you take a wide angle lens to your life using a long term mindset, then your occasional (supposed) transgressions day to day don’t really mean that much in the grand scheme of things. The more you lighten up on yourself for slip ups or deviations from “perfect”, the more room you leave for joyful healthy choices. This doesn’t mean you suddenly become overly permissive with your poor choices, but with the big picture in mind, you realize that there are many more chances ahead of you to choose good health habits to make up for the extra beer you had last night or the extra slice of pizza you had last week. There’s much less self flagellation necessary because these instances are now only minute drops in the bucket. This new-found freedom from self judgment will allow you to spend less time feeling guilty and “bad” and much more energy can be spent towards the long term goal of happy longevity.
What’s my workout program? It includes dog walking, yoga, swimming, resistance training 3-4 days a week. Frequency, intensity and type of exercise depends on the amount of sleep I’ve had, the type of nutrients and the timing of my meals and my work schedule. I happen to feel the most sore two days after my workouts, so I coordinate my exercise sessions accordingly because my work as a chiropractor is physical and if I’m not careful, the quality of my work will suffer if I’m too sore or tired from exercise. Sometimes I don’t get the six and a half to seven hours of sleep that is optimal for me and so I will choose to go to yoga instead of working out at the gym because that can be more restorative. Or I may decide to sleep an extra hour and skip the exercise that day, knowing that I’ll get to it the next time. Once in a while my sinuses get tired of the exposure to chlorine so I decide to skip swimming and use the elliptical trainer for my workout warm up instead.
During exercise, I’m not terribly invested in pushing into high intensity intervals unless I feel a burst of energy during a workout because perhaps I happen to find myself in “the zone” and / or because I’m well rested and I’ve had all the right nutrients in the 24 hours preceding my workout. If it happens – wonderful. If not I’ll listen to my body for that again next time. I’ve got my whole life to interval train. I make sure to do something three to four days a week but primarily I listen to my body as well as the week’s demands personally and professionally in order to decide what combination of things I will do for exercise.
I give you these details just as an example of the thought process that goes into the week’s exercise plan. For now it’s what I’ve decided works best for me. I’m sure it’ll change as the seasons change and years go by and that will be okay.
What works for you will have to be based on your own individual needs for joy, rest, fuel and life circumstance day to day. If aging well is what sounds good to you, give yourself permission to explore this sort of big picture planning for a long, moderate and comfortable life. Stop punishing yourself for not meeting other people’s standards. Start tuning into what standards are best for you and learn to pace yourself for long lived success.
Remembering to stop and appreciate the health you do have at this very moment, can help to let go of all the pressure-filled ideas of where you think your health should be and how you think you should look.
I know it’s not easy but you’re not alone in the struggle of striving for the ever elusive life and health balance in an unbalanced world.
Photo Credit: “Abends am Meer” by Joe Sarembe from Pfungstadt, Germany – Abends am Meer. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abends_am_Meer.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Abends_am_Meer.jpg