How far are you willing to go to be “fit”?
How far are you willing to go reach your fitness goals? And do you know whether or not your expectations are in line with the work you are willing to put in? For example, do you know what you would have to do to go down two sizes versus what you would have to do to enter a figure competition? Do you know what it would take to be able to complete a marathon versus being able to win a marathon?
With nutrition and exercise, many people think in terms of black and white… good or bad… all or nothing. But the truth is, there is a lot of grey area, and getting where you want to go might require a different strategy than you think.
Let’s take a look at a couple of hypothetical people on opposite ends of the spectrum:
“Sue” would like to have more energy, feel more confident and strong, and lose 40 pounds or so. But “Sue” avoids joining a gym and getting started because she thinks she will be forced by a trainer to exercise 7 days a week, and eat nothing but chicken and asparagus. “Sue” knows she won’t be able to commit to that because she has a full time job, a family at home, and she doesn’t want to give up having a glass of wine a couple of times a week! With her busy schedule she could realistically make it to the gym only two or three times a week, and she’s willing to make some changes to her meals but she’d still likely have to pick up take out a couple of nights a week, but then there’s still… well… also… wine…
“Sue’s” expectations of what is required to reach her goal are off. She doesn’t have to spend every night at the gym, or even give up wine entirely to get where she wants to go. Two or three well designed training sessions a week, and 80% to 90% adherence to a nutrition program that fits her lifestyle could have her there in less than a year! This is great news for “Sue” – it’s not nearly as terrible as she thought!!
On the other end you have “Sheila”. She also has about 40 pounds she’d like to lose, and she wants defined abs when she takes her beach vacation this summer, dammit! “Sheila” doesn’t want to have to worry about what she eats, so she figures if she starts jogging a couple of times a week and doing a few crunches (six pack here we come!) she should start to see the weight come off in no time. She makes sure she gets a jog in on Saturday mornings before her weekly brunch with the girls because, after all, you’ve gotta earn those bottomless mimosas! Where are those abs already, dammit!?
“Sheila’s” expectations also miss the mark, but unfortunately the opposite direction from “Sue’s”. “Sheila’s” goal to lose 40 pounds and have defined abs is going to require more work than “Sue’s” goal to just lose the 40 pounds. “Sheila” is definitely going to have to start paying attention to nutrition (sorry, there is no such thing as an exercise routine that will allow you to eat whatever you want and lose fat) and put in some additional time with her exercise regimen. The question is, what is “Sheila” willing to do? She is either going to have to revise her goals, or her approach to reaching them.
Now, both of these examples are primarily about body composition goals, but of course the same concept applies to other types of fitness goals as well. If you want to win a marathon, you are obviously going to have to put in more effort than if you just want to make it through in one piece. If you want to be a competitive powerlifter on an international level, that is going to require a dedication that goes beyond showing up and doing 9 heavy singles at your local meet. And nutrition and training are just the start – there is sleep, recovery strategies, mental focus, and lifestyle sacrifices that will need to be made the more extreme your goals are.
I think it’s especially important to note that what you want to achieve with your health and fitness is a personal decision, and one that you may need to re-evaluate from time to time. Right now, you might be “Sue”, thinking that what you want is unattainable, not realizing you can get there with some manageable steps. Or you might be surrounded by friends who love being active 7 days a week, and feel you could never keep up with that, so why even start. Or maybe you know lots of “Sheila’s” who expect much but are willing to do little, and you want more from yourself than that.
There isn’t really a right or wrong. It’s just about matching expectations of what you want to get with what you are willing to do to get there, and being honest with yourself about what you really want. If bottomless mimosas every Saturday turn out to be more important than six pack abs and you’re content to just improve your jogging, you do you, “Sheila”. On the journey to better health and fitness, there is a path for everyone… just get started if you haven’t already, or keep going if you already are, and let the path become clearer one step at a time.
Strength and love,