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6814110-stressed-young-man-sitting-at-a-table-among-books-and-laptop-on-a-white-backgroundAt 20 years old I was half way through my third year in college, I was living with my girlfriend, and I was stressed out to the point that I literally fell apart.  I was putting way too much pressure on myself academically, and struggling to fulfill all of the demands others put on me, or those that simply come from playing so many roles in life.  I was anxious and depressed, which strangely enough go together like peanut butter and jelly, and I needed the help of a psychologist to help me work through my issues.  While working with her, there were a number of things I did to turn the corner emotionally.  However, one of the most profound and relatively simple actions I took was to begin focusing on nutrition and physical fitness – – in an effort to simply do something good for myself. Prior to this shift I certainly wasn’t a couch potato.  I surfed, played a number of sports and was active.  However, during this rough period in my life, I literally felt like I was doing everything for someone else, or for extrinsic reasons.  I felt exhausted, spent and as if I weren’t doing anything just for me.

So in 1991, during winter final examinations I started to make changes to my diet, and I went to Big 5 Sporting Goods and bought some free weights, a bench, a weight belt, and some workout gloves.  My theory was that if I started something during such a challenging week, I’d have no good excuse in the future to avoid a workout.  I started my fitness routine small (about 30 minutes, every other day), and my goal was Fotolia_19804534_Subscription_Lnever to transform myself into a Jr. Hulk.  I wanted to feel good, look good and be “functionally fit”.  My personal approach was to link a series of small steps (aka decisions) together to become more healthy, and to be extremely selfish when it came to my workout routine and diet.  Blasphemy I know, but to me it was critical that I make my health a personal priority and protect the time required to create and sustain a routine, at almost any cost.  That meant that my workouts (e.g. weight training, push-ups, crunches and/or runs) were a daily priority, and I would not compromise them.  This is much easier to write than pull off in the real world.  Even those that like the visible signs of fitness try and pull you away from what it takes to be healthy.  Thus, until your girlfriend’s mother is coming into town and dinner’s at 6pm, or someone plans something important and gives you a key role and you’re going to be late – – and your response is “I will join you as soon as I’m done with my workout”, you’re going to struggle.  I didn’t look back.  I kept with it, created a healthy routine (grew to about an hour a day), and I’ve missed very few workouts over the past 22 years.  My routine must be adapted when I travel, and I back off when injured or sick, but I’ve been through at least 6 workout benches, 50+ pairs of gloves, over 40+ pairs of running shoes, and one weight belt…  and I haven’t given up my right to bow out of an evening event while on business travel or otherwise in order to ensure I do what’s right for my body.

read_react_offense_selfishI find it interesting that many who struggle with weight or overall health issues often represent “the giving tree” in human form.  They find themselves completely pulled apart and drained from the many roles they play in life (mother, worker, care-taker, friend, student, etc.), and they have nothing left for themselves.  Often, this manifests itself in poor eating habits (e.g. eating what’s easy/quick) and an inability to carve out the time (or sustain the time) required to build muscle and get that heart beating for a reasonable period of time every day.  They behave so selflessly, they are actually slowly killing themselves.  So for the lucky few who seek an intervention in any form (e.g. personal trainer), part of the transformation requires the development of a healthy level of selfishness.  A really difficult hurdle to jump, particularly given the fact that “selfishness is bad” has been drilled into our psyches from the day we were born.  However, in this case, I believe we all deserve a minimum of 1 hour a day to be selfish and take care of ourselves.

Find hour a day for a workout routine that works for you, and stick with it.  It doesn’t have to be P90X, Cross-Fit, or include a gym membership of any kind (all of which are fine options by the way), because all that really matters is that it works for you, and that you do it consistently – – and never stop.  Allow yourself 1 hour of selfish fitness time every day, and the quality of your other 23 hours will be much better for you and those around you.

Small steps add up!!!

My contribution to the Weekly Writing Challenge from the Daily Post.  A special thanks to my “Blog Yoda” Rarasaur for letting me know about the contest.  If  you haven’t checked out her blog, you’re definitely missing something great.