Learn to Walk Before You Run…

Here’s a thought that has been on my mind lately, especially as I read over comments on this blog and spend time on various fitness-related message boards.  It seems nobody is interested in learning to walk before they run.

Case in point: People who have never been able to stick to a diet deciding to do massively-intensive body recomp diets for bodybuilders; or people who have never so much as looked at a weight deciding P90X or Insanity is the program for them; or folks who can finally eke out a mile running and decide not just to train for a marathon, but to use one of the more difficult plans (GUILTY!)  For the 5% of people for whom this approach may work, you end up with vastly more who are burnt out, turned off to diet and exercise or, worse, injured (*WAVES!*)

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t understand the allure.  If you are sitting on the couch with your Cheetos and Shaun T or Tony Horton comes on the TV with a bunch of ripped-ass bunnies and hot bodies, you don’t want to end up looking like someone like you who’s following a sensible diet and fitness plan.  You want to look like THEM… NOW!  (Or yesterday, if possible, but UPS hasn’t figured out TARDIS-enabled shipping yet.)  Here’s the thing, though, this is about creating a better you for life, and making sure those changes will stick.

If you are one of those folks who has the tendency to jump into the deep end, only to find themselves clutching to the side and getting the hell out of the pool nearly as quickly as they got in, let me suggest a different path.

Develop the habits first before you load them with the hard work of the program.  Think of it like this– you probably want to build the bookshelf before you come home with the 100-volume encyclopedia (yes, I am old enough to remember encyclopedias.)

So, how do you know if you are ready for P90X or Insanity? How do you know if an extreme body recomp diet is something you should pursue?  Are you considering it but afraid that it will “just end in failure again.”

Here’s my opinion on how to get to a point where you are ready for an “extreme fitness” program–  I’d love to hear your tips for getting your life ready to take on this kind of commitment, as well:

– Set aside one hour, every day, without fail and get active.  Start with where you are… if this means an hour walking, do that. If it means an hour jogging, all the better. If it means an hour with a “foundation-building” DVD like Power 90, Rockin’ Body, Turbo Jam, Slim in 6, etc. great!  The goal here is twofold- 1) Build a base of fitness, and 2) Learn what it takes to make the time and develop the habit of setting aside one hour every day to dedicate to your fitness.

– Log every bite you eat in a program like The Daily Plate. Don’t worry too much about your carbs vs protein vs fat balance, but do shoot for a 500 calorie-per-day deficit (if weight loss is a goal, if not shoot to eat at your Resting Metabolic Rate.)  During this period, clean up your diet and get rid of processed foods, fast food, and do yourself a favor and learn to cook basic meals like chicken breast and veggie side dishes. Again, the goal is as much for you to develop the habit of logging and cooking as it about what you are logging and cooking.

– Pack your lunch every day or most days. Again, the purpose of this is to get in the habit of taking the time to do it so that you don’t end up in a position where you are putting the pressure on yourself to BOTH eat vastly out-of-habit AND make time where you never have before to pack all this foreign  food.  Develop the habit of packing your lunch so that you know you have the time in your life to commit to doing it before you commit to a plan that requires it.

– Read up!  Become an educated owner of your body. I bet most people know more about how their computer runs than they do about how this machine that gets them through life does. If you think you are going to do P90X, google and read up, visit message boards.  If you think you want to do an extreme bodybuilder’s diet, there are great resources for that. The internet is wonderful in that there is no excuse not to know precisely what you are getting yourself into.  And, the added bonus, once you finally do tackle a drastic change, you’ll already know where to go for help.

If you have chronic “in over your head” syndrome, take a month to commit to those changes before “loading the bookshelf” with the details of a specific program. In doing so, you’ll greatly reduce the likelihood that you fail due to “life getting in the way.”  You’ll have had a month to figure out the work-arounds without the added stress of a physically taxing  fitness regime and potentially confusing new diet guidelines.

Here’s the thing– don’t make this more difficult on yourself than you have to.  I wonder sometimes if people don’t pick “the hardest/most extreme” as a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy*.  To prove to themselves that they can’t stick to things, or prove to themselves that “diets don’t work for them” or “they’re not exercise people.”  Let’s make this easy, shall we?  It really is when you get right down to it.

*Of course, probably the larger reason people decide to go with the biggest/hardest/craziest is that we’ve gotten to a point where nobody thinks anything less than extreme is worth doing, and it’s a real shame. Why lose 1 pound a week when the people on The Biggest Loser lose 12? Why run a 5K when Dean Karnazes runs from the floor of Death Valley to the top of Mt Whitney in the middle of the summer and then sprints and extra 2000 vertical feet just for kicks? This is a topic for another day…

2 thoughts on “Learn to Walk Before You Run…

  1. Great post. Time-wise I’ve been struggling with getting to the gym once a week, but I’m trying not to see that as a failure. Once a week is a good thing, twice a week is better, and if I get three in, excellent! One of the pitfalls of all-or-nothing is that once you don’t get “all,” you’re more likely to opt for “nothing.”

    On a different topic, I’m not thinking of going vegetarian, but I’ve been eating veggie-only lunches since the beginning of Lent. (The exception is leftovers.) I’ve also been doing veggie Fridays. It’d be hard for me to be a vegetarian, but LESS meat, that I can do. Baby steps!

  2. Oh sooo true!! I love how people who, while eating a doughnut or bowl of ice cream & only form of exercise comes from getting off the couch to go to the fridge, ask me what I do to stay in shape. I tell them that I’m working on the P90X routine & how hard it is even for me who has been exercising for years now. “Oh, well, maybe I’ll give that a try”, they say. Listen people, if walking a mile tires you out, P90X isn’t for you right now. Start smaller & work your way up. You’ll burn out before you make any progress going too hard too quick. Great post. I really hope this helps people make the right choices on where to start their weight loss regimen.

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