Below is the latest installment (for the week of 1/20/2013) of my weekly syndicated column THE PARENT ATHLETE. You can read it in print and online in various locations. If you are interested in carrying my column in your own paper or website, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We‘re several weeks into 2013 now and I‘m guessing you may have made a few New Year‘s Resolutions. How are they going? Was something along the lines of “Getting Back In Shape” on your list? It’s one of the highest ranked New Year’s Resolutions annually. It’s also the #1 broken New Year’s Resolution. In fact, statistics show that 33% of those who resolve to get fit will have thrown in the towel by the end of January; over 50% will have called it quits before the time summer rolls around. Not the best odds.
Lots of folks can get themselves to the gym for a week or maybe two, but it’s awfully hard to form new habits. And now that the kids are back in school and work schedules are back in full swing, you might be wondering how on earth you’re going to be able to do this whole “being healthy” thing you swore you’d get around to this year. In other words, you might feel like a “fitness failure.” Guess what? That’s par for the course. If you didn’t think there’d be some failing involved in getting back in shape than you really didn’t think it through.
Here’s the truth. Getting back in shape is hard. Juggling a family and a job and wellness (and, hopefully, retaining some semblance of sanity) is a challenge. It’s rarely glamorous. There seems to be this unspoken belief in our culture that getting back in shape should be fun and sexy (and quick)! After all, that’s how the success stories we see in the media make it seem, right?
The reality is, making healthy adjustments to one’s eating and physical activity is hard. It means breaking some bad habits that we enjoy (like junk food). Unless you are a reality show contestant who can train for 12 hours a day, the “overnight success” view of fitness isn’t practical.
So, allow me to pass along some practical advice that was given to me three years ago when I started my own fitness journey. You ready? Here’s the secret: “getting back in shape” is a long game. It doesn’t happen overnight. And you’re going to fail at it lots and lots of times. You’re going to be too tired; there’s going to be too many dishes that need to get done; the kids are going to come down with the flu… that’s called life. What most people don’t seem to understand is that failing is perfectly normal. Nothing worth doing is easy. If it was than everyone would be doing it. If it was easy than two-thirds of the American population wouldn’t be overweight or obese.
It’s helpful to understand that we can lose weight the same way we put it on in the first place – little by little. It’s a little more exercise here, a little more there, until it becomes a habit coupled with better eating choices. No, it’s not easy. But, this is a case where having a long-term, little-by-little perspective of fitness makes it a lot more manageable. It’s surprising how quickly small lifestyle changes do add up.
Get back up. Try again. And again. And again. Until, you know what? If you keep at this, than there will be a day in the near future (I promise) where you’ll get back from your workout and realize that it went well, and you had fun, and you can’t wait to get back out there again tomorrow.
So, in this “wellness thing”? You have full permission to fail. Everyone does (myself included). It’s perfectly ok and, in fact, it‘s unavoidable. What’s not ok is to stop trying. Get back up, try again. It’ll get easier. I promise.
Ben Murphy is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.