The summer holidays are coming (winter holiday for our southern hemisphere buddies), and this year in particular, after a year of lockdowns and pandemic stress, people are looking to shape up and start to look and feel good again.
The wrong way to think about the process of getting back in shape is to make it a chore, or even worse, a punishment. Here’s how that kind of thinking goes:
There’s some appeal to this way of thinking. It feels good to face your missteps, get tough with yourself, and feel the righteous sting of self-flagellation. For some people this tough-love, fitness-as-punishment approach works ~ok~, but in our experience, it lets most people down. Usually a fitness effort with this narrative flames out at the two week mark, simply because it’s a huge bummer to cast such negative feelings on yourself all the time. The mind doesn’t like it, and seeks escape any way it can find it. This escape usually expresses itself in diet and exercise cheats, which only make you feel worse, which only causes more cheats, and the effort flounders.
Luckily, there’s a much happier and healthier narrative that you can employ.
Think about riding a rollercoaster. Going up is fun. Going down is fun. Doing the loop is fun. Going into the tunnel is fun. It’s all fun, all the time. This is why people stand in line for hours for one ride.
You can have this same attitude towards your fitness.
Chilling at home, watching movies, hanging out with your family, eating and drinking whatever you like, is a lot of fun. Sleeping in, skipping tough workouts, having time for other interests, it’s fun. Getting out of shape is a lot of fun! We shouldn’t act like it isn’t.
But, here’s the good part. Getting in shape is a lot of fun too!
When you stop eating junk and drinking too much, you feel energized, light, and focused.
Feeling your heart and lungs support you on a walk, run, bike ride, or swim, is fun, even more so if you’re doing it outside in nature. The sensation of muscles pushing hard in a workout is also a lot of fun. It’s exciting and invigorating to feel your muscle tissue flex and burn, and after a good workout you get a rush of feel-good hormones which no amount of chilling on the sofa will ever give you. Fun!
If you keep it up for a few weeks, the real fun begins. Fitting in your clothes better is fun. Seeing your body shape up in the mirror is extremely delightful. And the most enjoyable thing of all is the confidence and inner-peace that bloom inside as you start taking care of yourself.
Once you orient yourself to this way of thinking, your chances of sticking with your fitness plan go up dramatically. Life is hard enough without blaming and punishing yourself for getting out of shape. When you see both sides of the process as fun and rewarding, you feel that 365 days a year are open to you to enjoy your life.
How is this different than an unhealthy yo-yo approach to fitness?
When you’re attuned to the fun of both getting in shape and getting out of shape, you start to sense when you’re pushing the upper and lower limits.
For example, having a week off, eating and drinking whatever you want and enjoying being lazy can be a peak human experience. You can probably think back to vacations or times in between jobs when you’ve had a legendary lazy period. So fun!
But there’s a point where the laziness and lack of food-control takes a dark turn. You’re starting to feel the bad choices take a toll on you. You’re low on energy, low on motivation, and full of excuses. The things that used to be joyful (all those treats and TV shows) feel dull and depressing. It can be hard to make your way out from these holes if you dig them too deep.
Instead, when you start to feel the fun draining from your lazy time, you know it’s time to switch modes and start enjoying the fun of shaping up. In just a few days you’ll be in the groove, loving the way healthy food and daily exercise have jazzed up your life.
This goes the other way too. A person can get too dialed into eating clean and exercising, so that what was once fun starts to feel like a compulsive burden. When you’re not getting any joy from your good diet and exercise, and feel more oppressed than energized, it might be time to take a week or two off and reconnect with the simple pleasures of freely eating and chilling out.
When you’re on the lookout for where the fun begins and ends, you’ll find you’re not spending much time in the extremities of a yo-yo fitness plan, and are instead bobbing closer to the center. Eventually, you can even find an equilibrium where you’ve got the right balance between the two and can cruise for years of stress free, sustainable fitness.
If you’re gearing up for a summer break fitness push, get in the mindset that it’s going to be a BLAST feeling fitter. When you live like this, the fun never ends.
Patrick Reynolds // Kenzai Founder