Getting Back In Shape

Those that have tamed themselves to workout throughout their lives all know this feeling. After a particularly nice christmas, or unusually long trip or even just a rough period at work/school/life they find themselves hopelessly out of shape. Now it is relative. What you call out of shape I might call best shape of my life. Out of shape is a state of mind. It's a feeling you get in your bones when doing something that was easy six months ago suddenly feels horrific. And you know what, it sucks.

The common first reaction is to wonder why we do it to ourselves? Why do we let ourselves get to a place where we don't like ourselves anymore? Usually it is some combination of being busy, being lazy and being a little bit unlucky. Ultimately it doesn't matter. The fact that we let ourselves go is more important then why, although it might be healthy to ask why it happened in order to prevent it happening again.

Habit are precious things. The good is that it's easier to get back into a habit than it is to get rid of it. It doesn't matter if it is a good habit or a bad one. If you have had the habit of working out everyday it will be easier to get back into that. All the literature supports that, although Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit does a better job at explaining it than most. If you want to start dissecting why you lost the exercise habit, check that out first.

The first step of getting back in shape is the determination. Thing is, if behavioural science has taught us one thing it is that logic doesn't matter. We are simple creatures. Trigger, Event, Reward, that is all there is to it. Enjoy that fact. It is a blessing in disguise.

What does that mean?

We like to think we are special. We aren't. Not one of us is unique. We all respond to the same triggers. You can use that to your advantage: prepare a trigger. If what you want to do is get up and go for a run in the morning (same logic applies for after work) put those stinky running shoes in a prominent place. Right by the bed if have to. What you want to do is the moment you see those shoes that means you are going out. Which you do.

So you wake up, and you smell of determination. You will not let this go further. You will get back in shape. You get those smelly shoes on (did they really smell that bad four months ago) and you go for a run. You jump out the door with the breathless eagerness of a virgin in a whorehouse. And less than a minute later you find yourself breathless.

You can’t believe it, you have barely gotten started. It can't be that you are already knackered. Can it? This hill was easy such a short time ago. In fact your legs seem to be telling you that you are the cruelest human being since Paul Potts and that you need to stop or die.

Now there are two responses to to this. You can slow down, even stop and rest. You have had enough today, surely. You pat yourself on the back, surely you will return to this tomorrow, right. Except you don't. And three weeks down the line you find yourself wondering why you never got back in shape, while sucking down slurpees and eating oreo cookies.

Or you keep going. It's hard as hell but at least you push yourself. At a certain time you will stop, but you do so because your body is done. No other reason. And pushing through that pain you become mentally stronger, and that's the point of those first few rounds of exercise. Remind that pathetic body of ours who is actually in charge: not the muscles, not the flesh: you. No one else, not the tiredness, You. Before you totally stop, you walk for a while. Tomorrow these horrific 15 minutes will be slightly less horrific and may even be 16 minutes.

And who knows, next time you won’t go so easily out of shape. Because its the mind going soft that is the real problem. A flappy belly can be fixed. A flappy mind will ossify and that is death. But I know you are better than that. I know you are. Hit it with everything you got.

Ultimately it will be up to you. Make the habit of forcing yourself on. Make the habit of being strong. Making of habit of going out for a run, especially when you don't feel like it. You will find that is the nicest habit to get into. You are only one good workout away from a good feeling wherever and whenever you are. It will carry over. Taking complete control of one tiny part of your life will infect over. One of the wonderful things about this human body of ours is that nature builtin reward for hard work. You put in the work and you get last minute squirt of hormones through your body. It can be euphoric. Focus on that feeling. That is the reward for putting those stinky shoes on.

And if you have never been in shape? Start small. Same applies but start by going for a 5-10 minute walk. The same structure applies. You will feel bad and then better. Make the habit and let it make you.


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