More Informed, Less Active
In today’s day and age, there is more information now than ever about the benefits of exercise, being at a healthy weight, and just living an active life. We know more now than we ever did that our quality of life improves with fitness and healthy eating, and we have research to prove that it extends our life, reduces likelihood of disease, and increases our overall happiness on a day in and day out basis.
In stark contrast with our awareness of the benefits of healthy diet and routine exercise is the historic highs of obesity and addiction to medication to alter our moods and happiness. So where is the disconnect? We know a proven way to increase our quality of life yet we make a conscious decision to NOT go down the path of diet and exercise.
There are several reasons we avoid exercise. Some of the most common:
- We don’t like being inconvenienced and uncomfortable during our workouts or healthy eating
- We understand the benefits but lack the overall motivation to take action (until things reach a breaking point which requires action such as a tough talk with our doctor)
- We “don’t have the time” so we try to take a short cut via fad diets, and easy alternatives which we’re told will benefit us just like healthy diet and exercise
- We want to take action, but in the past we’ve failed and thus we’ve resigned to the mindset that we lack control of our circumstances
The Mindset of No Control
Of these, the predominant mindset I have come across with my clients over the last 7 years is the perception of a “lack of control”. Sadly, many of us have made a valiant effort to start down a healthy path only to fall short and waive the white flag of defeat. Of the excuses we make to not exercise, a lack of control is probably the most justified if we have actually tried and failed.
So–we came, we saw, we failed, and then we resigned. Why did we fail? Was it a lack of motivation? Perhaps it was poor planning, or we bit off more than we could chew? Often times, the truth is we actually did not fail. Our perception is that we failed and so we grew impatient and gave up too early to realize actual results. In our minds, we expect that if we put in the work on a short term basis, we should see near immediate progress towards our goals—which are often related to movement on the scale or something we see in the mirror.
We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. In order to see results, we need to put in the work; but when we put in the work and don’t see the results we reach the conclusion that we must not actually have control of our weight or appearance– otherwise we’d have seen progress. To make matters worse, the only way we are likely to change our perception that we “lack control” is to have proven that we can in fact meet/progress towards a goal and see results personally.
The key to changing the outcome of previous failure is actually changing how we evaluate success. If we evaluate our success criteria which previously led to failure, the goal is often too big and unrealistic for a short period of time. We can’t expect to see large scale changes in the mirror or with our weight in short order. Instead, we should evaluate on small measurable goals. If we can prove to ourselves that we are able to change our bodies or health in any way on a small scale, then we can reason that we do in fact have control and we can affect change on a larger scale.
Pick something small that you can see near immediate results—something that in three weeks or less you should see some positive and measurable movement from where you started to where you are now. Force yourself to measure each aspect of what you are working on so you can prove that you don’t in fact lack control. If you realize success at any level, it’s MUCH easier to stick with it in the long run and begin to see those giant goals of “Lose 50 pounds” or “Look better in the mirror” met. We are more patient with ourselves if we have a deep belief that what we are doing is actually working. The only way to believe we have control is to see that we can change.
While there are numerous ways to set these short term measurable goals, many fitness programs out there today fall woefully short. They expect to give you a vanilla approach to exercise and hope that even though you aren’t realizing your long term goals just yet, their programs will be engaging or fun enough that you’ll stick with it and ultimately see the change you hoped to. In some ways, these programs are justified in thinking that way because doing just about any exercise consistently you will see change over the long run. The problem is: we don’t want to wait around 4-6 months to see if that program is actually working.
Changing the Perception
Cerus Fitness was designed so people would be forced to measure short term results so they could believe in their own ability to affect change in their weight, health, and fitness. We force you to “test in” and “test out”, so you can establish a baseline of where you start on an individual skill and then measure exactly how much you can impact that skill on a short 3-4 week basis. By focusing on one skill at a time we can take a much needed break from only judging ourselves on our progress towards long term goals, while we measure our improvement on our short term goals.
Whatever program you set out on, take a minute to pair a series of short term goals along with your long term goals. Try not to be easily discouraged or dissuaded from the belief that you can control how you look and feel through consistent diet and exercise. Increase your belief in your ability to create change for yourself by measuring everything you are working on so you can see if the work you’re putting in does point towards the direction you hoped it would.
About the Author-Chris
Chris Johnson is the founder of Cerus Fitness. Chris's personal journey in fitness started nearly 10 years--and 70 pounds--ago, when he was overweight and seeking to make life changes after a series of short lived attempts using unsustainable techniques. Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer who has worked with professional and amateur athletes since 2010 in a variety of fields: boxing, basketball, football, marathon running, triathlons, obstacle course racing, kick-boxing and others.