About 8 weeks into the start of the COVID lockdown, a good friend of mine stopped by our house to give a socially distanced “Hello.” As I stood outside of his car, I couldn’t help but notice how much leaner his face appeared. I told him I thought he looked great and he replied, “We all have a choice on how we’re going to look coming out of this. People are either going to say ‘Ha, I see you were in quarantine’ or ‘Wow, what did YOU DO in quarantine.’ Me, I’m going to come out of this in the best shape of my life.” I loved the message.
Now, although my friend made his decision sound easy, after 18 years in the fitness industry I know this could not be further from the truth for most. We ALL have baggage to some degree when it comes to fitness and its role in our lives. Whether we avoid exercise altogether and consider taking out the garbage to be cardio or refuse to miss a day for fear of suddenly plumping up overnight, there typically is something underlying our actions or lack thereof with respect to exercise.
Fear is a powerful, compelling emotion. It can keep us from lobbying for that promotion that we know we deserve, asking that special someone out on a date or attempting to get in better shape. At its worst, it can literally cripple our movements to the point of momentary paralysis, leaving one to watch an opportunity pass them by. Merriam-Webster defines fear as: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. In our case, danger being represented by fear of failing to lose weight, fear of the actual pain from a workout or any litany of other fears tied to exercising.
So, what can one do when faced with exercise-induced fear? I say, Be Brave. Now, please be clear that in no way am I insinuating that bravery with exercise is in line with what our first responders or women and men in service must deal with daily. However, I would argue the mindset is the same. A conscious decision must be made to put oneself in a situation that you would immediately rather not be in but ultimately know you should do.
OK, the question begs to be asked, “How exactly can I be brave?” I’d like to propose the following:
Give yourself a S.M.A.R.T. goal
This is probably the most important of all the steps because it literally establishes what it is, you are exercising for. Whether it is to lose a set amount of weight, run a particular distance or feel a certain way, it is important to create a S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Based) goal that will guide you on your fitness journey.
Make yourself uncomfortable
When I speak of being uncomfortable in fitness, I’m speaking of 1) pushing yourself harder than you ordinarily would and/or 2) putting yourself in a position/situation that makes you uncomfortable. After training virtually every type of client imaginable over the last 14 years I’ve observed that most people don’t push themselves to the point of being uncomfortable. There’s an internal struggle that often results in them pausing at a round number even though 1 or 2 more reps are clearly possible or keeping the weight the same day after day, week after week. They fail to realize that if they’re always working in their comfort zone, their bodies will never truly be challenged and therefore won’t be forced to change in order to meet the demands of their workout.
When it comes to putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation, I often advise clients to join a class or sign up for some type of race/event. Fortunately, during this time of year, there are plenty of 5k’s to choose from. The Princeton Trinity Turkey Trot and Mercer County Turkey Trots are staples in the community and great places to start (both are virtual this year!). By joining a group or event, people naturally work harder because they’re now part of a team. Also, sometimes the subtlety of competition can drive an individual to work at a higher level than they typically would by themselves.
Be accountable to someone other than yourself
Have you ever noticed when you commit to working out again first thing Monday morning, it really is a 50/50 chance on whether this will actually happen, however when you have an appointment on your calendar you rarely miss it? Well, that’s what happens when you’re accountable to someone other than yourself. If we miss an appointment or commitment to ourselves, we’ll get over it. However, we generally don’t like to let others down. It just doesn’t feel good. Make yourself accountable to a friend or family member who WILL check in and hold you accountable to your goals. If you don’t have that but possess the means, hire a seasoned, personal trainer. He or she will keep your workouts fresh and interesting while keeping your efforts honest and true. Fortunately, our area has a variety of options to choose from (Life Time Princeton, Princeton Fitness & Wellness and Iron Core Bootcamp) ranging in size from large to small to suit your tastes and needs.
Try something 8 times
I’m often asked “Alex, how do you stay in shape all the time?” I wish I had something truly magical to divulge, you know a silver bullet, but I always come back to the same thing, consistency. I just don’t stop, because if I stopped then I’d have to start again, and that’s ALWAYS the most challenging part of exercise. Whether you exercise 2x’s a week or 5x’s the key for long term success is consistency.
If you’re starting from ground zero, create a habit by committing to working out 8x’s within the next month. That’s twice a week for the next 4 weeks. Put it on your calendar and set a reminder schedule that works for you. If you’re feeling ambitious, make it 3xs a week. Truly make it non-negotiable for 4 weeks. By the second month, your habit of exercise should be in place and it will feel strange NOT exercising.
Buy a new outfit
This might seem trivial but so much about being fit is how we feel in our clothes and the right outfit can make us feel like we can squat with the best of them. If you’re trying to get back on the fitness bandwagon throw out those tired, workout clothes from college and treat yourself to something current. Most likely, it will feel better as materials for fitness clothing have come a long way and you’ll look the part as well. If you have a weight or body shape goal, buy yourself a S.M.A.R.T. goal outfit that you’ll wear when you get there. It’ll give you something tangible to work for and it’ll feel so good when you’re able to celebrate in it! Where to shop in Princeton? Check out Lululemon (Men’s and Women’s), Athleta (Women’s) or Target (Men’s and Women’s) for great styles and options.
Remember, being brave requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. It takes deliberate thought and action on your part to do something that you know will be difficult. However, the rewards of accomplishing your goals and the character you build along the way, make the journey more than worth it.
So, go ahead and be brave. Make a plan, grab a towel and get ready to sweat!
Alexander Obe is an ACE certified personal trainer who has been in the fitness industry for the last 18 years. He was the owner and operator of P.T.S. Health & Fitness for 14 years until he sold it in October of 2019 and currently owns Iron Core Bootcamp, a boutique club offering high energy classes and first-rate personal training for individuals and small groups. Feel free to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.getironcorefit.com for more information.