If you’ve ever felt like maintaining a healthy lifestyle is too difficult, restrictive, or confusing you are definitely not alone. You get two or three weeks into an eating plan, or workout routine, then something happens. Work, illness, family, even natural disasters. You spend years thinking that low fat is the way to go, then you find out that bacon is OK. We hear this from people all the time. They get thrown off their routine by normal life events and are not able to stick to the plan. Or they are confused by conflicting health and fitness recommendations, so they do nothing.
When I was a kid, my dad used to take me skeet shooting. We also did archery, which was target shooting. These are two very different activities. When you shoot skeet, the clay pigeon is released from the thrower and you are supposed to shoot while it’s flying through the air. There was no way to know exactly where it will go. Archery, on the other hand, was very precise. The target was still and we had to refine and replicate our technique.
I propose that staying healthy & fit over the course of a lifetime is much more like skeet shooting. Essentially, you are learning to hit a moving target. It’s always difficult to manage eating, exercise, and stress when life hands you an interruption. And new research regarding health and wellness has definitely made us change the way we think about these important factors in our lives.
The key to staying on track is to anticipate life changes and have motivation and a plan to help you reset when interruptions happen. Here are three things that will help you stay healthy & fit for life.
1. Find your “Hot Button”. Your “hot button” is something that makes you feel vulnerable and moves you to take action. For instance, if you discover you have high blood pressure, your health might be your “hot button.” If you can’t fit into last year’s jeans, your clothes might be your “hot button.”
In his book Start Strong, Finish Strong Kenneth Cooper identified 14 basic motivators that people can use to help them stay in the game of health and wellness. What is the true reason, deep down, that makes you hit the gym or push back from the table? This may require a little soul searching, but we have found that the people who identify their “why” have much more resilience when it comes to overcoming life obstacles. (Check out our cheat sheet. Which “hot buttons” do you have? How can you use them to stay in for the long haul?)
2. Recognize the ebb & flow of a truly healthy lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with a diet, a fitness class, a meditation group, etc. The magic, however, doesn’t happen in those programs. The magic happens when you give up the idea that any one thing will keep you set for life. The magic happens when you decide to take responsibility for staying healthy and fit, and stay curious about what will work for you. The magic happens when you are having fun with it! When the program is over (or you get bored with it) you still need to keep working and playing with your health and fitness plan. Programs will come and go, but a spunky attitude about self-care can keep you going for life.
3. Implement a few systems that work for you. At X Factor, we have always said that there is no one-size-fits-all program. People don’t really like that because they want to be told what they need to do. They want guaranteed results. Unfortunately, health and fitness doesn’t really work that way. The college athlete needs to eat and work out differently from the sedentary corporate executive. The weekend marathon runner has different conditioning needs than the person who is recovering from a back injury.
That doesn’t mean that you have to start from scratch. We have lots of tips and tools that might be the answer for you. And we love to share them. The key here though, is to know yourself and adopt habits that match up with the person you are. For example, when it comes to calendaring your workout you hear the advice “Do it in the morning.” But you know, deep down, that you are not a morning person. That’s OK. What time of day is your sweet spot? Calendar your workout then. Adopt the system that will work long term. You are playing the long game. Another way to say it – life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Staying healthy and fit is about the most important thing you can do for yourself. Regardless of where you are starting, you truly can move the needle in the right direction. Don’t get discouraged if you’ve missed the mark in the past. Understand the nature of the game and you’ll find the motivation and tools to win.
Don't forget to download the "Hot Button Cheat Sheet" and identify your most important motivators. Make sure to let us know what you find out. We would love to hear!
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