I often get asked for some advice on starting, and it occurred again recently. I get asked about tips, I get asked for techniques, and I get asked for general “how do I get off the couch” and “how do I make time” advice. On this most recent occasion, I made some of the usual recommendations – recommending them over to peruse my blog, recommending some resources on the Internet that are conveniently referred to on my blog, and recommending other blogs for inspiration that, serendipitously, you can get to from my blog. Aside from all the self-promotion, I did answer the person’s question, but probably not in the fashion they were expecting.
So what were these dreadfully important things I just had to do? Darn, that’s a good question. You’d figure I would remember them. It was probably technological – special calorie counting zipper pull attachments, or motivational shoelace nibs, or something equally important to fitness and my overall wellbeing. Probably something to do with clothing – another reason I hate the gym, by the way, is the intense pressure to be in the latest gym-going fashions… but I digress. I do remember waiting to have a special armband for my brand of MP3 player, and I had to order it off the internet, so therefore I’ve had to wait for it to be delivered. Oh, and once I had that, well, I had to create an elaborate playlist of motivational music, which meant some on-line research. Oh, and I couldn’t start that week because I would be out-of-town at the start of it, and I needed to start on a Monday… you get the idea.
The biggest part is deciding when you will start. When do you want this to happen? When do you want to start changing your life? If you must pick an arbitrary day, pick it.
THEN STICK TO IT.
I apparently needed to do this, and chose January 1, 2010. Many folks will say that the start of January is infused with the hellhound of resolutions, but honestly it’s just as arbitrary a day to start something as February 21 or July 3. If I remember right, it was a Friday, not a Monday. Just pick the day. Give yourself a week or two, and give yourself permission to prepare. Research. Read books, read articles online, read blogs, read whatever you like. If you need new shoes get them now. If you need clothing that lets you move, go and get it. Lay out all of the sports equipment you intend to use and start figuring out what you can keep and what you need to replace. But do it all before your chosen start date.
Spend some time actually setting time sensitive goals – I want to be able to run this distance in 3 months, or swim that number of laps a week in 6 months, or lose 10 pounds by August 31. Your goals are imperative. You have to check in with yourself. You goals also have to be SMART goals – you’ve probably heard of these before:
Set them and don’t forget them. Write them down somewhere that you can see them often. Print them out if you have them on your computer, as you will look at the printed page more regularly. Come back to them, review them, know them, and live them. But above all, make them specific and time bound. Don’t make a goal of “I want to lose weight”, it isn’t specific enough. I started out wanting to lose 30 pounds, and did that and then some. Be specific about what you want to do, and when you want to achieve it by. They will be the single greatest measurement you have, and they are a committment with yourself.
Use that one to two week preparation period to really get yourself ready, mentally and otherwise. Delve into the research, make your workout plan, and then when the day hits, don’t sit on your ass. Attack it when you start. The hardest part for me was the idea of mind over mattress. The feeling of getting up and getting out. The strength of will to push out the door the first time. I’ve not had to dig that deep before, or since. But when I had to dig, I was ready. I had set my goals. I had set my date. I had my stretches bookmarked on my computer. I had the music loaded on my player. I knew the workout plan I was going to start with (and ended up sticking with). I put on my shoes, stretched, and went out the door, much like every single day that I’ve gone for a run since then. I watched the calendar as that start date approached, and I knew for certain when soon was going to be now. When I was going to be running, not going to start running. When I was going to be active, rather than research being active. When the day came, I was set. I truly hit the ground running.The next question that I answer is how do I make time? That one was easy. Once you start, you will make time. Once you fall in love with fitness, with the new you, you will make the time. Your body will insist. You will have to move. You will have more energy than you no what to do with, and you will keep active to channel it. Making time should be a priority – you will have to be prepared to make it, and you will have to be prepared to be committed – but it’s the desire, the commitment, that will lead you straight. How do you make the time? Don’t worry, you will. After only a few weeks of running, a startling realization came to me: this is how things will be for the rest of my life.
You will find that the time is an investment in you. When’s the last time you’ve invested in something so damned valuable as that? You will find the time, believe me. Interestingly, once people see your resolve and dedication, they are more amenable to allowing you the time, to help you to find it. Pick it appropriately, but most people will give you the leeway. I’ve always figured those that don’t are just a little jealous.
So now ask yourself: what are you waiting for? What things are you putting off starting because you need something else to make it perfect? And do you really need it to make it perfect? Can you not start without it – it will only take a few days, or weeks, or a month or so to make it truly perfect, and it’s mostly perfect now. In the meantime, you could be well on the road to meeting your fitness goals. As they said (back when I used to sit on the couch a lot) – ACT NOW! DON’T DELAY!