Hello to you – the reader – and welcome to this blog which I have decided to create and dedicate to my efforts to improve my own personal health and fitness as I also work over the coming months to qualify as a personal trainer.
Whether it’s to lose weight, overcome personal adversity, beat depression, regain lost health and fitness, or some other personal struggle in your life, I am a strong believer that the only real help you will receive is the help that you give to yourself… although it helps to have the support of others to both start and complete whichever life journey you have chosen to embark upon. It all starts with the seed of an idea that there is something about yourself that you feel a powerful need to change, and finding a strong enough reason, your personal “Why”, that will motivate you to do everything within your power to meet your own personal goal. In order to help you or to try to inspire you in some way, I am offering to give you my own personal journey as a means to try to reach out and connect with you to show you that anything is possible, because if somebody like me can do it, I believe that you can do it too if you are willing to simply try.
In short, I am a middle-aged Caucasian male who has led a largely sedentary lifestyle for most of the past 20 years. Over that time, I put on a large amount of weight, lost much of it, and then regained some of it again. I have been through upheavals in my life, such as the loss of family members (2 nieces, 1 nephew, 2 grandparents, and 1 cousin), a divorce and the subsequent loss of contact with my 2 sons, workplace problems which led to stress induced anxiety and depression, as well as a number of other incidents which I have found to be difficult periods in my life. In many ways, I believe that am not so different from the average person likely to be reading this blog, and I suspect that if you have found me here you are searching for help, information and inspiration to complete your own life-changing journey, so I hope that the articles I publish here will serve to inspire you to achieve your goals no matter how lofty they might be.
My personal journey begins today. It’s the 1st of January 2013, and before you ask it, the answer is “NO, this is not the start of some ill-conceived New Year’s Resolution that I promise to never fulfil”. I’ve been thinking about making a lot of changes in my life for quite some time, and I decided to start making the most significant changes in my life in this new year long before 2012 reached its end. I’ve set myself 3 goals for this year in order to achieve the changes that I would like to bring about in myself. These goals are as follows:
- Find stable employment
- Attain a high level of health and fitness in the shortest possible time.
- Study and complete a certification as a Personal Trainer
For me personally, my 2nd goal is going to be the hardest. This is not because my goal isn’t clearly enough defined, because I actually have time frames and specific outcomes which will indicate to me my relative success. The difficulty is that to improve your health, it’s not enough to simply exercise or try the latest fad diet. This goal requires the greatest changes in my own personal attitude and lifestyle, and if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that people (and especially me) can be very stubborn when it comes to changing something about themselves. Yet in spite of the obvious – to me – difficulty in achieving my 2nd goal, I feel incredibly confident that not only will I reach my goal, I will find it easier than any of my previous failed attempts and I will enjoy doing it!! So why do I feel so good about this and why don’t I dread this journey of self improvement? What has changed in me that makes all of this possible, where in the past I didn’t really try as hard or achieve as much as I wanted? The answer is in my not so secret weapon. It’s my “Why”.
The thing about setting goals is that often we aim to reach for the stars, yet we don’t set any real expectations of ourselves so that we set ourselves up for eventual failure. We set seemingly impossible goals, and most often, we don’t really know in ourselves why we are putting ourselves into a situation where we expect to fail. Now I’m not saying that failures are bad. Quite the opposite in fact as I believe that failure is good because it provides opportunities to learn. What is important however, is how we react to our failures, and how we allow ourselves to feel when failures occur. I’ve always taught my children the following:
There is no shame in failure if you have tried your hardest. Hopefully you will earn valuable experience. If however you know in your heart that you didn’t really make an effort, that in itself might be shameful, and I hope that you use that shame to teach you to be honest with yourself and to try your hardest next time.
There can be enough ups and downs in a person’s life without needing to add feelings of guilt, shame, failure, or self-loathing. I’ve been in that place myself and it isn’t pleasant, however the reality is that the only person to blame for feeling low has always been myself. When these feelings are linked to failures in my life, I believe that at it’s heart I haven’t been totally honest with myself about why I might have failed and more importantly about why I didn’t genuinely try my hardest at the time. When we reach our lowest places, human beings seem to have a huge capacity to lie to themselves. Does any of this sound familiar to you?:
- I got fat because my metabolism is naturally slow.
- I can’t exercise any harder because it hurts when I move like that.
- I lost my job because the boss was an ass-hole.
- I feel sad and depressed all of the time and I don’t know why.
- I can’t eat “healthy” foods because they are [Too expensive/Unavailable/To difficult or time consuming/don’t work/etc…]
I apologise if any of this offends you, however if you say these sorts of things it is most likely that you are making excuses and lying to yourself about your reasons for why your personal situation is a problem for you. Yes, that’s a harsh statement to make, and I’m sure that it’s possible to identify many extenuating circumstances for things going wrong in a person’s life. However, it’s not simply a matter of “getting over it”, rather it is a matter of going some place uncomfortable within yourself, identifying the lies you tell yourself to make yourself feel less vulnerable, and simply calling “bull-shit” and identifying the real reasons for your problems.
Sure, your boss might actually be an A-grade ass-hole, however if you were fired is it because you allowed yourself to react negatively to your boss in some way (eg: work slow, act flippantly/arrogantly, etc)? Is your metabolism really slow, or have you simply forgotten how to eat well, been lazy with your food, or failed to seek help to avoid an eating problem getting out of hand? Did you stop exercising because of an injury, or were you simply to lazy to push yourself to either start again or try to exercise another way? If you find you’ve been lying to yourself, does this motivate you to change something about yourself, or do you simply accept that things are as they are and don’t let it bother you… ever?
With me, I lied to myself about the pain when I exercised. Most of the time I simply didn’t want to get all hot and sweaty. Certain movements resulted in repeating prior injuries, and I didn’t dedicate enough time to maintaining my health and fitness. Sitting around all day at work and at home, I started to feel tired, I got lazy with my food purchases and preparation, and I eventually allowed myself to become slothful. Even worse, when I found myself dealing with depression, I allowed myself to wallow in negative feelings and to blame others for feeling bad about myself. I refused to seek help, and I allowed myself to get worse and worse. My weight gain over the years was not stress related, it was diet and exercise related, and as any psychologist will tell you, you need a healthy diet and lots of exercise to help promote positive feelings within yourself. So how did I “get better”? This is where my “Why” comes in, but first a little background.
I realised one day that I was making my children sad. We’d been through the divorce and I’d been taken to court twice by ex-wife, work was getting me down, I was sleeping only 3 hours per night and was generally tired and short tempered. I finally went to my doctor and convinced him that regardless of the psychological factors that my sleep was a priority and I was given a small supply of sleeping pills which I used for a week to ensure I could get a decent rest. The change was remarkable, and with the clarity brought by being in a better rested state, I arranged to see a psychologist who taught me a little about mindfulness and gave me a clinical rather than “new age” look at meditation. I realised that it was up to me to fix myself, and I’ve worked on my mindset for the last 2 years such that I am now in a place where I am more receptive to recognising the changes that I need to make in myself. With a great deal of self-reflection, I have learned that it is not enough to simply be told that you need to exercise to improve your mental well-being, but that you need to be able to find an appropriate means to be able to achieve this, and there seems to be very little help for people who are depressed to actually do something about it without it costing thousands of dollars that they don’t have to spend, even though they probably really need to.
Suddenly, I had a cause!! Something which energized me enough to look into the issue more closely, and yet this wasn’t enough for me. It wasn’t nearly powerful enough nor motivating enough. I needed a “Why” which would empower me to make big changes in my life for the better. The big turn-around for me was about 3 months ago when after nearly a year of being married, my new partner found a coupon on-line which would allow us to attend Boot-Camp training for 6 weeks at a very reasonable price. We attended together and I found the exercise extremely difficult to keep up with, but I pushed myself because I love my wife and I wanted to be supportive of her as it was really her own personal wish to attend. My younger son was due to stay with me for a weekend, and asked me if he could come to the training as well, which I was delighted to hear, because my son is very overweight and has previously shown very little inclination to do any exercise or to think about what he eats, no matter how much I have tried to encourage him. He has dealt with his own feelings of self-doubt and depression, and it was great to see him ask to do something physical (although I suspect he also wanted to simply spend time with me). When I took my son to the training session, I wasn’t sure he would be allowed to join in with the group as we hadn’t paid for him to attend, so I gave him an exercise routine that would be challenging for him, and I kept waving and calling out my encouragement to him whenever I was nearby. To my son’s credit, he worked his little butt off and was noticed by the Boot Camp instructor who called my son over and asked him to join the group. My son did so and threw himself into the workouts such that he not only impressed the instructor, but he also inspired many of the other adults who seemed to gain encouragement for themselves by calling out their encouragement to my son. I learned some very valuable lessons through this training. Very little of it had to do with exercise, and it reinforced my urge to try and find a better way to help others to get themselves over their problems with health and depression.
So my “Why” is about my family. I am pushing myself to achieve my personal goals this year because I want to live a long, healthy and happy life with my family. I want to improve my chances at starting my new family with my wife, and I wish to inspire my children to beat their own demons and to themselves be healthy and happy individuals. I have this powerful urge to help others, and this starts with my family. However, your reason for pushing yourself to achieve your goals regardless of whatever setback you may encounter must be specific. It’s not enough for me to say that this is for my family, so I’ll state my “Why” specifically:
I am pushing myself to achieve my specific goals because:
- I need to be fit, healthy and motivated enough to inspire my family to be the same. Specifically:
- A healthy BMI of 22, and less than 15% body fat.
- I will inspire my overweight son to shed enough excess weight to be healthy and to improve his self confidence. This means a little tough love, and getting him outdoors and exercising with his dad.
- I will run “The Tan Track” in under 20 minutes.
- I will improve my fitness such that I can get 2 hours out of a tank when I go Scuba diving.
- I will become a qualified Master Personal Trainer, and use my skills to aid others who struggle with depression and poor fitness.
This is my “Why”, and it is powerful enough for me to feel energized and motivated such that I look forward to getting up early in the morning to exercise, and I look forward to learning to improve my nutrition and health. I feel excited about the year ahead and the endless possibilities that are opening up before me, and I know that no matter what the obstacles are that will appear before me and make my personal journey difficult, I will be inspired enough in myself to overcome them, dust myself off, and keep going until I do eventually achieve my goals.
Now that I have been able to clearly identify the reasons why I am so compelled to embark on my self improvement journey, I’m able to define for myself a set of targets and deadlines:
- I will be employed within 6 weeks, even if it’s just flipping burgers or staking supermarket shelves. Pride is no longer an excuse.
- I will commence my studies to become a personal trainer in March 2013, and I will graduate in September.
- I will change my diet. After much reflection and study I’ve chosen to avoid the fad diets/detoxes, and I will be applying the Paleo Diet as this seems to be the least likely to be either disruptive or unachievable, and it is really the only approach that has made any sense to me logically.
- I will commit to a routine of exercise that keeps me active at all times of the day. I am even considering changing my desk/workspace to ensure I spend more time standing than simply sitting.
- I will stop obsessively weighing myself every day. Instead, I will commit to my program, and I will weigh myself each month to track my weight-loss progress.
- I will take a couple of fitness tests monthly, such as the 60 second press-up test, and the 20 meter shuttle-run, to help me evaluate my improvements in strength and fitness.
- I will visit my doctor for blood tests and a physical every 2 months to help me to identify any issues that may arise from my changed diet and physical exercise. At the very least, I’d like to see my cholesterol levels to improve over the course of my training.
- I will reduce my BMI to 22 (presently 26) by the 1st of September 2013.
- I will achieve my 20 minute Tan Track goal by the 1st of April 2013.
It won’t be easy. I expect to shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the coming months, and yet I am looking forward to this not merely as a challenge, but also because I can see a path forward to a future where I can look back and feel proud of the things that I will achieve over the next few months.
In about 13 weeks, I will post before and after photos of myself showing how my body will have changed over the time, and I will be making regular updates to this blog to track my journey, identify the problems and solutions, and to show how I will have improved over time. I will be inviting readers to contribute their own stories and goals, or perhaps to join me from today on their own individual journeys to improve their health and well-being, and I would like to begin that today by inviting you to add a comment below, identifying a specific goal, and a “Why” that is specific and powerful to you.
Good luck to you on your own personal journey. 🙂