Truth be told, there’s no magic wand to wave that suddenly gets you in shape. The fact of the matter is it takes a lot of little consistent behaviors that all add up in the end.
And, I’ve finally done it.
I stuck to exercising for more than 2 weeks in a row. That’s 5-6 days out of the week I’ve gotten up and done some enjoyable exercise for an entire month.
I lost 5+ pounds hardly thinking about it. Holy crap. I feel as if I’ve discovered the Holy Grail.
Now, 5 pounds may not sound impressive to you, but a consistent 5 pounds per month is a healthy rate. It’s safer, easier to do, and better than an unhealthy 20 pound drop that you’d gain back in a matter of weeks.
I’ve been scared to share my success in case I would jinx myself, but I can’t stop from sharing any longer. I may not keep it up forever, but it’s comforting to know it’s possible.
Here’s a breakdown of my six pack tips and what’s been working for me…
Here are 84 things that work to get in shape.
- Post signs around that house reminding you that you need to exercise.
- Create some house rules such as “No showering until you exercise.”
- Make it easy to exercise in the morning. Set out your clothes & shoes the night before.
- Sign yourself up for a challenging event several months into the future. Something that you’re gonna hurt for if you don’t train. I’m signed up for the 2013 January SoCal Spartan Race.
- Don’t disallow everything bad.
- …but bad food should be the exception, not the rule.
- Find an activity that you enjoy that naturally involves movement that you can do within 3 blocks of your house by yourself (safely).
- Wait at least 20 minutes before going in for seconds when you’re eating.
- Substitute corn tortillas for flour tortillas.
- Keep a healthy but easy-to-eat tasty option available for those random munchies. I like fruit & nut bars and yogurt.
- Stick to meats, eggs and vegetables as your primary food sources.
- Try out your local farmer’s market for fresh, unprocessed food.
- Pick something a little easier to have self discipline in. I started by establishing a regular habit of cleaning the house in the morning. Adding in exercise was a natural next step.
- Watch less TV. I’ve avoided having a TV screen altogether, but even my online TV watching has been reduced greatly in the last month. Fact: Just the act of not watching TV burns more calories than watching TV. [link]
- Try to eat in smaller portions than you’re used to. Unless you’re hardcore training, chances are you could do with a little less.
- Don’t allow junk food into the house. It’s one thing to snack and treat yourself while you’re out, it’s another to have constant temptation lying around.
- Stop drinking your calories. With the exception of coffee, I’ve been drinking primarily water over the last month and I think it has played a big role.
- Try drinking more water. Dehydration makes you think you’re hungry and stops your body from processing what you eat correctly.
- Drive less, walk more. If it’s less than a mile or two away, try making at least one trip by foot per week that you would have driven otherwise. That’s more money in your wallet saved on $4.50/gallon gas, and less calories sticking to your ass.
- Alternative: Can’t walk the whole way because it’s too far? Park within brisk walking distance instead of driving all the way. Carrying your groceries 3 blocks and around the corner does wonders for your grip and arm strength.
- From my desk jockey days: If you have an office job, go for a walk on your lunch break. When I worked at an office, this was one of my life savers — you feel more energetic after the fact, and you feel like you actually took a break instead of stewing in your own misery.
- Since I don’t have A/C, I have a tendency to open up the windows to let fresh air inside. My standard is now “No fresh air inside till you’ve had fresh air outside.” It helps me get over that first mind block of stepping foot outdoors.
- Find an activity partner to do something fun with for at least 30 minutes once a week. My friend Rachel and I have made it a habit to boogie board every Sunday.
- Spend at least 15 minutes in the sun every day. Vitamin D, baby!
- Invest in a cheap lacrosse ball to work out those sore spots.
- Don’t overcommit. I never go outside thinking “I’m going to do ALL THE SQUATS and ALL THE RUNNING.” I go outside thinking “I’ll walk down to the beach, run a couple laps if I feel like it, and from there I’ll do what feels good.”
- Keep your shoes by the door. Who wants to be searching for their shoes when they hardly want to go outside in the first place?
- Prioritize sleep. I’m the sort who will stay up all night long when I’m excited about a project. That gets me all off schedule for at least three days while I try to normalize again. I’ve made it a huge priority to go to bed before midnight and wake up by 8am, and those precious off-limit hours make all the difference in my mental performance during the day.
- If you’re having a hard time sticking to one fun activity, make a list of interesting things to try and rotate through them — one new idea per week.
- Prepare a list of unique and fun exercises before you leave the house to workout. Whether you write it in pen on your hand (guilty) or on a sheet of paper, getting “creative” on the fly just isn’t going to happen. Be prepared. (Reminder: You’re not committing to the exercises you pick, you’re just giving yourself a menu to choose from if the mood strikes.)
- …on that note, you should spend some time picking out exercises that aren’t boring to you. Sure, it’s good to include your basics like squats and pushups, but how much more fun is it to pretend you’re an animal and play around with bear crawls and broad jumps?
- On your mental attitude: Remember that looking good comes as a byproduct of being badass, not visa versa.
- Make sure at least one of your workouts per week is simply playing rambunctiously. Since I live near the ocean, I like to make up games like “Hop Over the Waves”, “Seaweed Piles Are Obstacles” and “Chase the Waves Out, Then Beat Them Back to Shore”
- Get over your so-called dignity. If you want to get in shape without shelling out hundreds per year for private sessions, people are going. to. see. you. suck. at. exercising. Chances are that they are so concerned with their own petty lives that they won’t remember you by lunchtime.
- Stop talking so much about your efforts. Sure, it’s OK to let in one or two trusted souls in… but stop telling everyone on Facebook. It sounds counterintuitive, but you get so excited just talking all the cool things you’re going to do, that you forget to actually be effective and work hard. It suddenly occurred to me that I’d rather let my increasingly attractive photos do the talking than my pointless “OMG I work out!” statuses.
- Remember that the best workout plan is the one that you follow. The “Top Fat Busters” and “10 Ways to Melt the Arm Flab” mean nothing if you’re not going to stick to any of them. You feel good reading them and planning to do them, but planning doesn’t mean a thing if it never comes to fruition. Quit giving yourself the passive feel-goods and move around already. If you did one squat and five jumping jacks for every exercise article you read, you’d be ripped already.
- Stop making it such a big deal. If you want fitness to be a regular part of life, treat it that way. If you make it a big deal, it takes more mental effort to get yourself to do it.
- Throw out the microwave. Anything you can cook up in the microwave isn’t worth eating. (There are always exceptions, but I don’t even own a microwave so I know you can do without.)
- Eat the bulk of your carbs and protein right after sweating it out. You’ll recover harder, better, faster, stronger. If you’re not careful you may even become Daft Punk. I like to have a protein shake and a half a fruit & nut bar.
- Streeeeetch! Stretching is something that I never plan on doing, but somehow it’s the one thing I always do, every day, even if the only other thing I did was walk a few blocks out and back. Stretch your legs, stretch your arms, stretch your torso. You should feel light and limber when you get back.
- Know the difference between how to stretch before and after a workout.
- …for that matter, read up on sites like NerdFitness to educate yourself about proper training techniques.
- Remember that for every failure you make, you’re going to have way more wins. Giving up altogether when you make a mistake working for your health would be like never drinking liquids again because you accidentally inhaled down the wrong tube one time. Accidents happen, we suffer a bit, and we move on.
- Don’t spend a lot of money when you’re getting started. Invest time & energy first — then splurge on equipment if you really need it and you’ve been active for over a month. When I spend money on equipment, my brain tells me that THAT was my investment… when really it’s the commitment to activity I should be investing.
- For those of you wondering how to get equipment without spending a lot of money, ask friends and family if they have any gym equipment they’re not using that you could borrow. Somebody almost always does. Otherwise, get creative with your own DIY weights and accessories. Or stick to body weight exercises.
- Know whether you need consistency or variance. If you need consistency, train in the same area almost every time. You’ll start associating it with being active, and you’ll feel more energetic just by showing up. If you need variance, Google local paths you can walk/run/hike on. Explore your city!
- Other than signing up for a challenge, you can have a personal aspiration that inspires you to get off your butt. For me, I’d like to reach a level of athleticism that I could do a fitness-and-health themed photoshoot… and be the after shot. I’ve tied that into my challenging event in January — if I could run the race in my sports bra without feeling self conscious, I’ll know I’ve succeeded.
- Season specific: Contrary to the usual “beach body” everyone is always looking for, I’m ramping up my health goals a couple months before the holidays. I like to think of all the people I don’t usually see that I’ll run into, and that I’ll blow their minds with my new look.
- If it doesn’t need refrigeration, there’s a chance you don’t need to eat it. Fresh food is better.
- Better to eat small, nutritious snacks all day than eat 3 big meals and feel super hungry every 4 hours.
- Eat because you’re hungry, not because you’re bored. If you’re bored, you have the time to do 20 jumping jacks, 30 squats, and 40 lunges. Do those instead. If you really can’t stay away, seriously make yourself do 25 squats first — that way your food will get processed more efficiently.
- Run through sand. It’s harder and you get a better workout.
- Run through water. It’s harder than running through sand and you get an even better workout.
- Try jumping up on to things with both legs (a.k.a. box jumps). It’s harder than it looks, and it’s a ton of fun. Do 10 of them whenever you see a stray bench sitting around. You’ll be a ninja before you know it!
- Work on your weaknesses in baby steps, every day. I hate pushups, and I can’t do full ones. Instead of turning my workouts into hate-fests by forcing myself to focus on pushups, I am adding just 5-10 incline pushups on my way back to the house every day. 4 weeks later and I’m thinking I can start making it a little harder for myself (and I hate them a little less).
- If you feel like you can’t even get out of bed, put your shoes on and go stand outside for 5 minutes. Make sure to close the door behind you. Don’t commit to anything else, and you can go back to bed after that if you really want to.
Fun, naturally energetic activities to try:
- Hiking *
- Biking *
- Running around in the ocean waves *
- Ultimate frisbee
- Jump rope *
- Swimming *
- Martial arts *
- Kickboxing *
- Dancing like crazy
- Hula hooping
- Rock climbing
- Roller blading
- Boogie boarding *
The starred activities are the ones I’ve been trying. The rest are on here for me to continue experimenting with as I get tired of the ones I’m already doing!
Resources for Health & Fitness
These are the resources and sites that have kept me in-the-know and motivated.
- NerdFitness — I highly recommend you subscribe to this one, I love Steve Kamb’s take on fitness.
- Marks Daily Apple — This is where I go when I really want the science behind food.
- Beast Skills — This is where I go when I want to learn the progressions to really awesome moves. (Note: It looks like his site is down right now, but I’m going to leave it here in hopes that it gets resolved. Check out Trampolinea for trampoline moves while we wait.)
- Mobility WOD — Remember how I said stretching was important? This is kind of a go-to for hacking your stretching into high gear.
- The Happiness Project — Gretchen Rubin has been a big inspiration for me (and my friend Rachel even got to meet her at her recent book signing in San Diego). While her blog isn’t about fitness, per se, it is about behing happy and doing things that work for YOU. Happy = healthy.
This is what actually has worked for me.
Not everything works for everybody, but I think this is a big enough list that you can pick at least a couple that will work for you.
If you had to add one thing to my list, what would you add?