Today I'd like to cover a topic that you'd think would be a no-brainer when it comes to health and fitness, yet for some reason it always gets pushed to the back of people's minds. It's like there's this evil aura that surrounds the health field, one that people believe they must live within and constantly ward off in order to achieve any REAL results. But there I go with my wordiness again. What I'm really saying is: many people believe that in order to be lean, fit, strong and healthy, they must also be miserable.
Wait...what? Isn't the whole point of being healthy to feel BETTER about yourself, your diet, and your overall physical and mental image? Well, yeah, I think so. But every day I see people at the gym, young and old, who are in torture, hating every second they're on that treadmill, despising every rep on that stupid chest press machine. They go to the gym to leave the gym, and to say to anyone else that they WENT to the gym. That's about it. They eat healthy to say they eat healthy, not because they like eating healthy. I hate to watch people choke down things they hate just because they think that's the only way to do it. It's saddening, depressing, and makes me wonder what the health and fitness world is really coming to.
Listen: in order to be successful, YOU HAVE TO ENJOY WHAT YOU DO! Do you think you'll make any real progress in the gym if you hate its guts? No, because subconsciously on every rep you'll cheat yourself, you'll work slower than you could, lighter than you could, and for shorter amounts of time than you are really capable of. You'll never push yourself to your limits, because that's not where your mind is at. You'll instead be thinking about how much you hate this place and can't wait to leave. If your head's not in the game, you're not going to give it your all, and you're NOT going to see the results you really want.
Same thing goes with diet. Sure, anyone can scarf down a salad, but if you hate everything that's on it, how likely is it that you can make that salad something permanent? More likely in a week or two (or if you've got more dedication it can take a while longer, a month or year perhaps), you'll switch back to a couple slices of pizza for lunch, followed by a cookie, or whatever. That healthy stuff will be far behind you. If you don't like the food you eat, you won't keep eating it.
So the big question is, how do you ensure that going to the gym and eating healthy become enjoyable things? That, my friends, is a GREAT question. And unfortunately I can't give you any super solid answer, BUT I can give you some pretty darn helpful guidelines. The gym's the easy part, I almost guarantee you I could find a way that would make you love to come each day. Here are a few suggestions:
Find Lifts You Like: This may sound stupid, but everyone has certain muscles that feel GOOD to push hard, and work to their limits. I can't tell you exactly which muscles, because everyone is different. I enjoy squats (as you can probably tell by now). They make me feel strong, do my body a hell of a lot of good, and feel GREAT to get right. Yes, they feel good, I'm not lying to you. So there's your first tip. Throughout the week try to work different muscles in different ways, and more than likely you'll find an exercise that makes you feel like a real beast. No, you can't only work that muscle, but hey, it gives you something to look forward to throughout your workout week, and it's not like there will be only one muscle you like working. More than likely you'll find a lift every day that you can at least be content to push hard on. You'll teach your body how to more effectively target muscles, and more than likely more and more lifts will start feeling easier and more fun. Awesome!
Relieving the Pain of Cardio: OK, I'm with you on this one, I HATE CARDIO. Luckily, as a weightlifter, I barely do any =]. But do as I say, not as I do. Unless you're specializing in a weight related sport, cardio is very important. And yes, it sucks. I jogged for many years, and struggled to find enjoyable things about it. But it IS possible. What I've found is that once you hit a good pace, and your body equilibrates to the run, you don't feel so bad. So my first tip is, if cardio is killing you in the first couple minutes, wait a few more, it'll stop hurting so much.
-Second tip? Make it interesting. Run a new route every day, or have a good set of running routes that you can cycle depending on how you feel and what you're in the mood for that particular day. Also, I found that running "down and back" was quite depressing, because when you got to the turnaround point you knew you still had that whole damn stretch you just ran left. My suggestion is to have someone pick you up at the end of your run, so you'll constantly be treading new ground, and things don't get repetitive.
-Third tip? Make it even MORE interesting. And by this I mean, vary the pace. Like I said before, I'm a firm believer in high intensity interval training (HIIT). Jog for a minute, sprint for 15 seconds, then jog again. It feels great to push yourself when you're sprinting (no I'm not lying, it does feel good, try it out) and it makes your run go by a lot quicker. You'll also get awesome results.
-Fourth tip? Do cardio with a friend. My runs with friends were SO much more enjoyable than alone, and the constant distraction removes the feeling of monotony and fatigue. It can be fun to run/bike/walk with others, and more likely you'll push yourself harder and be able to go for longer periods of time. So buddy up and DO IT!
Get With The Program: There are all sorts of other things that can help the gym become a place of new excitement. I personally love setting new records, and that's what keeps me coming back 6-7 days a week. I LOVE IT. Weightlifting is my thing, and hey, if you're interested in it then I suggest finding a weightlifting club near you to try it out. You might love it just as much as I do.
And that's my final tip. Find a program you like. I like weightlifting. You might like gymnastics, or Zumba, or group cardio, or salsa dancing, or spinning classes, or bodybuilding clubs, or WHATEVER! Join up with someone or something and hit it hard! You'll be surprised at how much fun the gym can be.
Now, onto dieting tips. I know people take diets quite seriously, so I'm hoping these can really alleviate a lot of diet depression. Don't get stuck with food you hate and end up chucking any chances of success out the window after a few weeks. Read these tips and see if you can try a few out ASAP:
TRY LOTS OF FOOD: Some people think that healthy foods are few and far between. WRONG! There are thousands and thousands and THOUSANDS of healthy foods out there, waiting to be cooked up and eaten by anyone who cares to. Fruits, veggies, carbs, proteins, fats, they're all there, and there's such a huge spectrum that I can 99.9% guarantee you will find a few foods in it that you will wholeheartedly enjoy. Don't like that salad with carrot shavings you brought for lunch? Fine, bring some chicken breast, apple slices and whole wheat bread with skim milk tomorrow. Didn't like it? (seriously?) Well then, tomorrow bring some shrimp, a portobello mushroom, and maybe an orange or banana. Still no? (wow...) Make yourself up a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with natural peanut butter, and have some cooked peas and carrots on the side, or if you want something sweeter bring some fresh strawberries.
You see? There are so many options, you don't have any excuse to say you hate all healthy food. Read my other articles, find some foods you like, and try them. Then, once you do, find a few more, and start constructing a diet you can't wait to eat. I love what I eat, and it's a very clean diet. I don't feel deprived, depressed, or crave crappy food (and this is coming from a guy who once ate pizza and brownies for breakfast.)
TRY LOTS OF RECIPES: Same concept here. Maybe simple food doesn't quite float your boat yet (it will eventually, if you keep at it.) Until then, try a few complex, healthy recipes. Grill up some fish and garnish it with vinaigrette and a few herbs, or make a healthy bean salad with salsa and corn, or bake some chicken with a coating of nice spices. There are millions of healthy recipes out there, all ready to lose you some fat and build you some muscle. Just do a little searching. I have all sorts of recipes posted already, search through those as a start! Don't be lazy, just spend some time making some awesome food and I bet pretty soon "healthy meal" will be your middle name.
Teach Yourself: This one may not seem like quite as much fun, but it's quite valuable in the long run. The basic concept being if you don't like a certain food, but know it's really good for you, give it one more try, and try to appreciate certain things about it. Like I've said in previous articles, our taste buds are EXTREMELY adaptable, and can learn to enjoy just about anything. I used to hate olives, but kept trying them. I now enjoy them on every salad I have, and look forward to their powerful flavor. Have an open mind, and tell yourself that you WILL like the food you're about to eat. Your brain is powerful, and can do amazing things for you, including make an extremely healthy meal quite palatable. Once you like the foods that you used to hate, it'll be a lot easier to keep eating them, right?
So there you have it, a few tips to make sure that you can actually enjoy a lifestyle of health and fitness, and in turn, strength, beauty and longevity. Ah....doesn't that sound nice? Don't be afraid to change up your routines, your diets, and your overall attempts at health multiple times until you start to find bits and pieces that you really enjoy and can fasten together into a healthier lifestyle. Keep exploring, don't get stuck in a rut. There are healthy things out there for everyone!
Keep it fresh, have an open mind, and this time especially...GOOD LUCK!!!!