how do you start with this fitness thing?

when did I get unfit?!

I used to be fit when I was in college
I could spend all day in the sun playing. But now...

This is a common-enough scenario. I've been there. Once we enter the workforce, somehow time slips away from us. As we start making more money, and we move lesser, we inevitably end up getting out of shape. What's worse is we don't know we need to pay attention to this.

Most of us lack any form of physical education. We (wrongly) assume lifting weights is bad for us or we will become beefy and bulky, just like the photos that most gyms use for their ads.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Period.
Photo by Damir Spanic / Unsplash

Not knowing what to do. Not knowing that we should be doing something. Not knowing where to look for advice. And caught in the "I have a career to think about" leads to getting out of shape.

As the wonderful spring that is our youth goes behind us, the years of inactivity, of eating chips and laying about catch up to us. And we wake up to an unrecognisable self in front of the mirror. Is this really you? The person in the mirror clashes with your sense of identity. We used to be active, you used to look good. Climbing stairs, playing/dancing for hours, going on long walks - none of these were ever a challenge. When did we get so old?!?!

Now that our eyes have been opened, let's fix it. We are doers, and we can solve this problem.

fads and falls

Let's not overthink this. We pick a gym. We pick a diet. And we do. The initial days are rough but 4 weeks in, we are feeling rather good. We've lost some weight, and we are feeling physically better with the activity.

Inevitably, life comes about. We land a new project that requires a few more hours of work, just for the next 2 months. And we end up sacrificing our newest habit of going to the gym. With the increased stress, our eating takes a toss as well. That diet was never going to be sustainable anyways.

All the good work we've done is undone. But it is okay, right? Our career is going to really take off after this, and we will have more money to solve our fitness problem.

A few months later, let's try again. We already tried the gym thing, maybe there's something else out there. And what's the latest diet that's going around? Let's do that. Most times, we end up picking a fad workout routine that is short-sighted and lacking science and common sense. But it feels good to sweat it out and feel that burn. But it leaves you feeling so drained. And a few months later, niggles start to show. Is this even worth it?!

Lesser said about the diet, the better. Either we are starving ourselves, or we are eating extremely different from the rest of the family that it is driving everyone insane. Can we not just have some sambhar saadam?!

Confusion reigns.

  • Is this the only way to get fit?
  • How long will it take to get fit? 1 month? 3 months?
  • Is this healthy?
  • Is this practical?
  • Am I hurting myself?
  • This is just way too hard.
  • Tired and hungry. And angry. All the time.

Maybe we should shift over to that new gym that just opened up. And start running as well. Except we barely have time for our career, and our family. Let alone more time and money and effort for this fitness thing.

Muir Woods trails
Photo by Caleb Jones / Unsplash

Somewhere down this path, after repeated failures, we come to a crossroads. Do we persist? Or do we give up?

To persist, and to show real change, we need to find what works for ourselves. That requires us to understand that this is going to take time. It needs to fit in with our life. If we are living in South India, it should not require eating quinoa daily and forgoing sambhar and thayir saadham. It cannot take 10 hours a week - that's hours spent away from our kids, our friends, and our family. And obviously, it needs to get us results.

Those of us who are ready to be patient, ready to commit and be persistent always make it to the end of the road. We realise there's no end of the road but it is a journey, and a fulfilling journey that we want to be on.

Unfortunately, misguided by social media, bad science, and irresponsible reporting, a lot of us also give up and fall on the wayside.

traits

While there are many right answers, there are a lot more wrong answers. What I have seen work for people are a few of the following traits

  1. Patience. There will be ups and downs. Life will get in the way. Our career is important. Our family is important. But then, so is our health.
  2. Finding the right thing for ourself. For some, it is running. For me, it is lifting weights and playing Ultimate. It might be something else for you. You need to figure it out.
  3. Persistence. And we have to keep going. We might fall. We might stumble. We might take the wrong decisions. It is okay. Just get back up and get moving forward.
  4. Balance. Most importantly, what we need to find is sustainability and balance. Our work cannot suffer. More importantly, the time we spend with our friends and family cannot suffer. We cannot not have a beer with our friends. Or go to a restaurant and not have anything to eat because we are on a diet.
  5. Enhance. It should enhance our lives, and allow us to be a better person, a better family member, a better friend and a better individual in the community. It should make our life better. Looking good is just a happy side-effect!

It is possible to figure this fitness thing out. Start slow. Start small. Keep on moving forward.

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