Human beings are meant to be in motion. Our early ancestors were extremely active every day they had to be, in order to find food and shelter. They could not just go shopping in the supermarket and drive home to prepare a meal. Their supermarket was their environment and their legs were their means of transportation. Sometimes they ran to catch their food and other times they ran so they would not become food. Their bodies were conditioned to operate at a peak performance, out of the simple need for survival.
But technology and progress have brought us a long way from the days of hunting and gathering. Now, most of us practice survival techniques by sitting at our desks and struggling to bring home our paychecks, or racing through intersection trying to beat the red light. Being fit, which in the earlier days of human evolution was a function of survival and necessity, has become in modern times s function of leisure time and awareness.
I believe we all have the ability to live our lives as fit and healthy people. Our bodies possess inherent wisdom about how we best can thrive in the world, culled from thousands of years of human evolution. This information is passed on from generation to generation through our genetic coding. I believe that all we have to do is tap into that inner knowledge, and then our natural abilities will propel us towards living fit and healthy lives.
We all possess this universal wisdom. It's our birthright, giving to us to use in a positive manner. What we do with this gift in our conscious lives, and how well we take care of it as we journey through life, is up to every one of us individually.
We're All Natural Athletes
I believe we are all Natural Athletes, athletes and our bodies are just waiting for the opportunity to exercise their innate physical abilities. However, somewhere along the way many of us have forgotten these abilities. We forgot them because we didn't use them. Maybe as youngsters we experienced failure at sports, or we never received the right instruction and got frustrated. Or maybe we just never had any good physically fit role models in our families so exercise and athletics became pursuits for other people. Many people have pushed sports and fitness aside, assuming they are not for them because they have never competed or played on a team and enjoyed it.
In recent years in Hawaii, I have noticed a growing number of people are participating in various team sports and even grueling triathlons. Many of these people are in sports for the first time in their lives. At mature age, they have decided to give sports and fitness a shot. It's beautiful to see these people setting goals and achieving their personal best.
Everyone wants to improve their abilities and become better, to expand their potential and achieve their goals. It's what progress is all about, and this drive to improve is what pushes us forward, both as individuals and as a society. We are happy with ourselves when we achieve something, whether it is on a grand scale or on a small one. Whether we build a castle on a hill or grow a rose in our backyard, whether we win an Olympic gold medal or make the cut on our local bowling team, it's all about achievement, and achievement is about putting energy into motion.
Before you can get in motion you need drive, and before you have drive, you need desire. Desire stems from mental awareness, the awareness of knowing what is good for you in your life. It's an outlook an understanding of what is positive and worth having. Becoming aware of the things you want to achieve can make the difference between reaching your potential and letting it waste away. Awareness creates desire, desire creates drive, and drive sets it all in motion. Motion will direct you to expend your energy, and expending your energy on a regular basis, and with direction, you will be moving forward towards achieving your goals.
Mental awareness means making a positive lifestyle choice, setting realistic goals and achieving your personal best. Reaching the desired mental awareness is actually more important than achieving a perfect body. Of course no one is perfect, but trying to bring out the best attributes of yourself is a goal worth pursuing.
I see people lavishing so much care and attention on material things. They take perfect care of their cars and buy only the best clothes, but when it comes to taking care of themselves, the picture could be a lot brighter. It never ceases to amaze me how much attention, time and effort we are willing to on things, yet when it comes to our health, we put ourselves last. We take our health for granted or we don't pay it the attention it deserves.
Taking care of ourselves will actually allow us to take care of things we care about. When we develop an awareness of what is good for us, we can create for ourselves optimal conditions for our lives. Only from a firm foundation can we reach for our personal best.
Making the Commitment
Only you can start the ball rolling on the way to a fitter and healthier lifestyle, and only you can decide that the commitment and dedication are worth the benefits and results. The best motivation for fitness in knowing the benefits and joy it will bring you.
Here is some of the benefits of a lifestyle:
- Greater confidence and self-esteem
- Renewed energy
- Improvement in overall appearance
- Increased strength and endurance
- Better overall health
- Better blood circulation
- Increases metabolic rate
- More efficient and stronger hearth
- Lowered blood pressure
- Healthier mix of cholesterol levels
- Increased muscle mass and less fat
- Lowered blood sugar levels
- Increased endorphin levels
- Reduced risk of disease and illness
If you are starting a program or increasing the intensity of your program, there will always be an initial period of accommodation and discomfort, until the body and mind adjust to new demands. This period should not last more than about three to four weeks. But as you stick it out and work towards your goal, you are building momentum. Soon you realize that you are at the level you set out to achieve-it has become more familiar and it takes a little less effort to do the same tasks that several weeks earlier you could only imagine doing. I'll make a bet with you: If you begin and stick to an exercise program, if you follow it regularly for three to six months, you will find that you've built momentum into your life. In fact, I'll up the wager and bet that once you've built some momentum, you'll feel better and look better than you ever have.
Exercising regularly gives you a wonderful sense of self-control, as well as boosting your self-confidence and self-esteem. Let's be honest: it takes a fair amount of self-discipline to exercise regularly, especially in beginning when it feels uncomfortable and your muscles get sore easily an you think that everyone else is much more advanced than you are. But people who have done it-People who have gotten past this first stage-all have similar stories to tell. People who set and achieve physical goals discover time and time again that by tapping into their powers of perseverance and strength to do so, they suddenly realize greater success in other areas of their lives whether it's building a stronger marriage or advancing in a career. The only way for you to gain control in your life is to start by mastering your own body. The pursuit of health and fitness is a great way to get back what you put into it and more.
Mapping your Program
1. Set realistic goals. Star with a goal you can achieve-work within your own ability to perform. Accomplishing a worthwhile goal takes time. When it comes to your health and fitness, there are no shortcuts and no miracles. Instead, you need to take a step-by-step approach, setting small goals and achieving them one by one.
2. Take a positive approach. Accept yourself. If you are not where you want to be in your fitness level, or with your dietary habits, it's only because it wasn't important enough for you until now. Don't judge yourself. If you accept yourself fully, you will be able to make positive changes in your life more easily. Try to approach your actions with a smile and optimism. Research shows that optimism increases our chances of living longer and healthier lives. Doctors and scientists are paying more respect to the power and potential of optimistic thinking.
3. Measure the goals you set. The best way to stay on track and be able to see your progress is to set goals you can accomplish and measure. That way, you can actually see your progress taking place. When I decided it was time to cut down on my coffee intake, I looked at where I was and where I wanted to be. My starting position was six to nine cups of coffee a day. My first goal, over a period of two weeks, was to drink coffee only with meals and to have only one or one and a half cups per meal. After two weeks I noticed that I could handle that, so I proceeded to my next measurable goal: I had one cup of coffee for every two meals. After another two weeks of being able to accomplish this, I set my final measurable goal. Now I'll only have one cup of coffee a day, and only in the morning. By taking controlled and measurable steps to achieving your goals, you can alter, change or eliminate bad habits. Through the same process, you can introduce and cultivate new good habits in your life.
Define Your Goals
Getting fit requires that you get your body in motion. In order to determine your specific motion, you need to define your goals. What is it you want from a fitness program? What do you want to achieve or improve? What kind of lifestyle changes do you need to make to accommodate your goals? Is it possible for you to make those changes on an on-going basis? Hitting a target you can't see is always a difficult proposition. You need to be very clear on what your going after. Instead of saying I want to get in better shape, you should set a more clearly defined goal one that you can measure. Choose one (or a few) very precise small goals. Do you want to start a walking/running program three times a week? Do you want to run a 10K race in 45 minutes? Do you want to lose some body fat? Do you want to lower your blood pressure? Do you want to eat a higher fiber diet? Do you want to drink less alcohol? Decide on a few changes you want to make. What specifically do you want to get out of your own health and fitness programs?
Build Success into the Process
Be careful not to start with a goal that seems very difficult or unattainable. The key to making any change in your life is to build success into the process, so choose a goal that is within your reach-one that you can succeed at. Start with small goals, achieve small successes; move on to larger goals, achieve larger successes. With a continual series of successes behind you, you will feel positive and motivated toward further success. Winners seldom get discouraged. I tried this technique myself, although I didn't know I was doing it at the time . I was training for the decathlon and there was one event I really struggled with: the 110-meter high hurdles. I tried and tried but I couldn't clear those hurdles as easily as I needed to. Then one day my coach had me train with hurdles set at a much lower height. I was able to clear the lower height easily, which helped build up my confidence. Slowly I started to increase the height of the hurdles. I wouldn't raise them until I could easily clear them with confidence, several times in a row. Soon enough I could clear the hurdles set at their regular height, and it was because I allowed myself to achieve success.
Monitor Your Progress
Monitor your progress week by week. How are you doing? Remember that you do not develop new habits overnight. If a few weeks have passed and you've been unsuccessful at implementing your lifestyle change, maybe you need to re-examine that change. For example, perhaps you realized that your goal to start exercising more by getting up early two mornings a week is too difficult, because you can't stand getting up earlier. Let's face it-your just not a morning person. So instead, you could decide to start exercising for an hour at lunch three days a week. A few weeks later you may see that this lifestyle change really works; you love getting out of the office for your lunchtime workouts. The bottom line is that we all can achieve pretty good results for ourselves in health and fitness if we only make the simple choice that yes, it is important yes, I can find a way to incorporate fitness into my lifestyle.
Don't forget to encourage yourself. It is easy to overlook our small success, and not give ourselves the credit we deserve. Congratulate yourself for all those small changes and successful steps. And if you don't achieve your goal right away, don't give into discouragement because change, large or small, is never an easy process. There are always pitfalls along the way. If you can't follow your fitness program one day for whatever reason, don't feel guilty about it. Let it go and start fresh the next day. Allow yourself the benefits of being able to start again. Do not wallow in self-criticism or harsh self-judgment, and don't let anything make you give up your goal.
For as many billions of people there are the world , there is only one like you. Doesn't that though turn you on? Becoming the best YOU in the world is a tremendous goal and only you can achieve it. If you fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others, you will always be somewhat frustrated because no matter how good you are, there will always be someone out or somehow better than you are.
Forget about all the other competitors out there. Your job is to achieve your personal best, which has nothing to do with what anyone else can achieve.
How to Stay Motivated
Here is some suggestions to help you stay motivated on your fitness program.
Exercise in the way that is most fun for you. Exercise is important, necessary and something people should do on a regular basis, but it should also be fun something you enjoy doing. If it's not fun, you won't be able to make it part of your lifestyle. How do you make it fun? For starters, you should choose a form of exercise you like to do. If you really don't like the way running feels, try swimming or cycling or weight lifting or anything else.
You may find you prefer exercising with a friend, so you can encourage and support each other. You're far less likely to cancel an exercise session if someone else is relying on you to be there. People who exercise in groups are generally better able to sustain their exercise programs over time.
Get trained or train yourself. Consider hiring a personal trainer to work with you, teach you and motivated you. Or you may want to be your own personal trainer monitoring yourself through your workout, keeping records of when you worked out, what exercise you performed, how much weight you lifted, how far you ran and what your time was.
Schedule it in. Definitely schedule a time for your exercise activities. It should be written right there, in your appointment, just as same as taking your kids to piano lessons or meeting with chairman of the board. You will always be able to think of good reason to skip a workout or to not eat a healthful meal. The are always thing to be done that seem more pressing. But you know what? Nothing is more important than taking care of yourself and taking care of your health. That's the most valuable lesson that fitness has tough me.
See yourself achieving your goal. Employ imagery and visualization to picture yourself obtaining your goal. Visualizing your goal simply means creating a mental photograph of what you want to look like, how you feel, or what you want to be doing . You carry that photograph in your mind and you can look at it any time you want to.
Visualization provide strong reinforcement to the brain to guide our behavior toward the goals we want to achieve.
Over a period of time, you're going to have off days. Everyone has them even the most advanced and well-trained athletes. On these days, it's good to your program anyway, but ease off a little to adjust to whatever is happening to you.
Just the other day I went to run which usually takes me about 30 minutes. Just after starting, I knew it was not my day. In fact, this feeling started earlier that day. I thought, This is it. This is the day I'm going to quit in the middle and not finish my workout.. But before I gave up completely I decided to slow down a bit and try to continue. So I did and then I had to slow down even more ..finally got to a jogging pace, and I managed to complete my usual distance.
Expect those off days and more importantly, accept them. And when you have an off day, remind yourself that it is better to do something than do nothing at all.
If You are Very Unfit.
If you are sixty years old and have never exercised, or if you are very overweight, or if you've never before started a fitness program, you may wonder if there is any point in starting now. Of course there is! In fact , the people who achieve the greatest and most noticeable benefits are people that have never exercised before! Many studies have proven that even people in their eighties and beyond can achieve significant physiological improvements in muscle strength, bone mass, lowered body fat and cardiovascular health by beginning an exercise program. Exercise does not discriminate. It's good for everyone.
Before you beginning an exercise program, you may want to check with a doctor. This is specially true if you are over thirty-five, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. If it's been so long since you've been to a doctor that you don't even know if you have any of these things, now might be a good time to go. Chances are that your doctor will congratulate you for wanting to get out there and get your body in motion.
Stress: The Enemy of our Motivation.
In the battle to stay motivated towards living a fit and healthy lifestyle, we find ourselves having to face many and varied opponents.
Living in today's society is not easy. The pace of daily life is very fast. We are constantly called upon to meet new challenge in all aspects of our lives. People today are more goal-oriented then ever before, and the competition out there can be fierce.
Stress is everywhere. It starts with you're alarm clock in the morning and it continues all the way through to the evening news. The truth is that there is really no way to get away from it. But we can learn to be aware of stress and see how it can block our natural flow of energy and interfere with our motivation. I find that most of the time we can take action and do something about it. Being able to cope with stress, just like maintaining a good eating and exercise program, takes a little know-how and a little discipline.
Many times, I store the stress from daily life as pent-up energy. A great way to channel this energy is to have something to do with it. Exercise is a great way to turn stress from a negative to a positive force. Imagine this: You are at the end of your day and you are on your way to your workout class. You're in traffic jam and an angry driver is behind you, constantly honking his horn. Since you, too, have some pent-up energy, you'd really like to roll your window down and give him a piece of your mind, but you have something better to do you have to get to your class. You can save your frustration and let them motivation you in your exercise class.
Anger, frustration and anxiety have major effects on our overall fitness. All of us complain of too much stress in our lives. But what is stress? Stress is the body's response to any demand that is made on it. Demands can be physical, such as workout or playing a sport, but more often the kind of demand that are placed on us are mental or emotional demands.
But, don't forget that stress has a positive side. Stress, like pain, is not an enjoyable part of our lives, but it serves an important purpose. It alerts us to the fact that we must activate our defenses. It compels us to action, just as our ancestors, who when being chased by predators, could suddenly flee or fight, or somehow find a way to safety.
Changes in our lives that lead to stress can also lead to better performance and a sense of accomplishment. When under stress, we can find the physical and the mental reserves to tackle the job, finish the race or solve the problem.
The Stress Response
What happens to our bodies in a stressful situation? First our brain assesses the situation and sends hormones into the bloodstream. The heart pumps more blood to the muscles, and the muscles prepare for action. The lunges push more oxygen into the body. Blood pressure rises and blood vessels change in size. Because the muscles need extra blood and oxygen, blood flow to the digestive system may be cut off. Digestion stops or slows.
We experience these bodily changes as shortness of breath, sudden alertness or even irritability or an upset stomach. When the stressful situation passes, our body releases a different set of hormones that have a calming effect.
The stress cycle is normal for the body, but when it is repeated too frequently and too intensely, it begins to affect our overall health. A body that is constantly subjected to stress will have higher blood pressure, tense muscles, and digestive problems. Continual stress also taxes the immune system, so it becomes harder for us to fight disease. Eventually, too much stress leads to illness and exhaustion.
Coping with Stress
Here are some suggestions to help you handle stress and keep you on a motivated path toward health and fitness:
- Schedule time each day just for yourself. Put it on your calendar, just like you schedule your exercise time. In fact, a good time might be right before or right after your exercise time. But, it doesn't matter when just make sure you make the time for it. You may have just twenty free minutes, but use it for you. Read, think, meditate, relax, listen to music, or just close your eyes for a while. Tell your family or your roommates that you are not to be disturbed during this time.
- Schedule time for recreation. People need to play, and often we forget just to take time for fun.
- Don't submit to the appeal of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and sleeping pills when you are stressed. Any of these will affect your nervous system is tampered with, the greater your stress response will become. Your body actually becomes less able to deal with stress.
- Try to avoid food when you feel stressed. The tendency for many people is to eat too much, or too much of the wrong things, when under stress. You want to eat when you feel calm and in control, and when your digestive system is functioning smoothly.
- Fight off stress with exercise. Don't let a hard day keep you from heading to the gym or the track. Fifteen minutes into your workout, you will feel a lot better.
- Get enough sleep. One of the best coping devices for stress is lots or rest, which can mean either quiet time or plain old sleep. I am often surprised at how many people I meet who say that they are tired all the time, and then tell me that they get only five or six hours of sleep each night. When I ask them if they've ever tried sleeping more, they tell me they don't think they need more.
- Although every person is different, most studies indicate that the average person needs between seven and eight hours of sleep per night. In general, quality of sleep seems more important than quantity.
- Manage your time. Don't fall into the trap of intending to do more than you possibly can do each day, making promises and appointments that you can't keep.
- Change your response to stressful situations. Why grow angry and honk your horn in traffic. It does not help the situation and it only further irritates you.
- Diet, too, contributes to or reduce our level of stress, depending on how we eat it. Many people do not know that eating a cheeseburger and fries, washed down with a large sugary soft drink, actually causes an immediate stress response in the body. Not, so if you have a light meal of easily digested complex carbohydrates, with a little low-fat protein thrown in. Carbohydrates actually cause a relaxation response in the body. See the section on Nutrition. For more information on what to eat for a healthier lifestyle.
- Watch out for over-training. Hopefully you will never have to worry about it, but unfortunately there are people who become obsessed with exercising that they over-train, and their athletic performance actually suffers because of it. Here are some of the warning signs of over-training:
Loss of motivation
Stressed immune system
Muscles soreness and weakness
Elevated resting heart rate of 100% more than normal (5 beats or more)
If you ever find yourself over-training, decrease the frequency, intensity and duration of your workouts. You might even want to take a break altogether from exercise for a week or so. If you've only been doing one form of exercise, this might be a good time to try something different, or switch to cross-training. If you continue to have problem with over-training, seek professional counseling.
As we all know, life has it's ups and downs. Nothing lasts forever. When you are on a roll, it's not everlasting. When you're feeling frustrated or down, that, too has an end. While there is no way to avoid life's ups and downs, there are certainly ways to keep your balance through the constant shifts.
Imagine the cycles of life as a pendulum that moves back and forth. From left to right, with the middle being the point of perfect balance. From physics, we know that the energy of the pendulum moves through it's balance point, all its energy is its highest point, it slows down and stops, but its energy is not lost, it is just being stored, and will soon be used to move the pendulum back in the other direction.
Like the pendulum, the energy in our lives is always in flux. Sometimes there are negative forces in our lives stress, frustration and tensions that slows us down. The important thing is to understand is, like the pendulum, we can channel these forces to help get us moving in the right direction again. I find that through physical exercise, by getting our bodies in motion, we can channel the negative forces of our lives to move us in a positive direction again.
In order to be able to deal with the complexity of the world today, we must be in shape both physically and mentally, and we have to set time aside on a regular basis to do the activities that accommodate our physical and mental well being. Physical activity on a regular basis can have a dramatic positive effect on our lives.