The proverbial road to hell is paved with lots of people who want to become more fit. Their motivation might be to keep their heart healthy, climb a mountain, or play more with their kids. And much ink has been spilled on the subject. There is no shortage of research or advice into how to be healthy and get fit: most people that fail are plagued with myths, unhelpful mindsets, and bad behaviors. They’re stuck in routines and have given themselves plenty of good reasons to not get out of them.
There are hundreds of books that promise the perfect map for losing weight, if only you follow the path they lay out for you. Many of these roads will lead you to your goal if you follow them. But most don’t. People guess that the latest diet or routine may help them, and so they try it out. Similar to other problems, a guessing strategy often fails. After these failures, most people give up, make excuses, or just heap blame on themselves.
But getting fit isn’t something you can do by following some rote path someone has laid out for you. One-size-fits-all solutions are great for easy problems, but for many people, getting fit is a hard problem. To solve hard problems, you need to adopt new problem-solving behaviors.
Believe in a Simple Solution
Fear plays a big role in keeping people from being fit. Many people don’t see themselves as “athletes.” They’re afraid of being judged by others, or of being seen as a fraud. They’re afraid to change their routine, of being uncomfortable, of failing. It takes courage to commit to get fit.
Many hard problems can be solved by a simple solution, if the problem-solving is good. Before you get started, picture that simple solution. Picture yourself as someone who enjoys their workout, and enjoys their new identity as an athlete, a health nut, an outdoorsman, an adventurer–whatever vision works for you. Identify the perks that go along with it: better cholesterol numbers, a smaller clothing size, or more energy to play with your kids.
Start with goals that you have the confidence you can hit–the next step should be a simple one. If you want a run a marathon, but have never run, start with making a habit of running; perhaps even start by walking and then build up to a run When you’ve mastered a 20 minute morning run, set a goal for a 5k, then a 10k, and so on. Your confidence will grow each time you hit a milestone.
When you find the fitness plan that works for you, it won’t be hard. In fact, you’ll enjoy it and might even become addicted to it. That’s how fit people stay fit: it becomes, very simply, a part of their life that they enjoy and cherish.
Dig Into the Fundamentals
Fitness and psychology are fields that have vast scientific literature to help you understand the nuances of each discipline. The science of the body and the brain has yielded many new insights over the past few decades about how we can better keep ourselves fit. Unfortunately, few people do the reading.
One recent example from neuroscience: if you remove friction and decision-making from your workout routine, you’re far more likely to do it. You could go to bed with your workout clothes on and your sneakers by the bed. Or you could put an ab roller and yoga mat in your bedroom so you do a core circuit every night.
Strategies like these, as well as strategies for eating or maximizing the impact of your workout, are a quick read away. Never in human history has it been easier to learn. Don’t be intimidated: most of these studies have been translated into language we mere mortals can understand. Go dig into the fundamentals and find one that resonates with you!
Smell the Problem
To solve the problems holding you back from your fitness goals, you need to learn yourself and understand these problems better. If you’re having trouble finding time for the gym, record how you’re using your time. If you’re having trouble eating well, record what you eat. Keep a journal and take notes. You’ll be able to observe patterns about your behavior that can be critical to changing your habits and routine.
Often, people know what new diets or habits are helpful, or have set up time to work out, but simply haven’t done so. Something psychological might be holding you back: take stock of how you’re feeling before and after you eat something you don’t want to eat, or when you skip a workout. Write these feelings down, and you’ll understand some of the psychological or subconscious problems standing between you and what you want. Likewise make sure you notice every time you get a creative idea, come up with a solution to a tough problem, or feel a runner’s high during your workout. The benefits (carrot) are as powerful as the bad feelings (stick).
Blaze Your Own Trail
Your path to fitness may not be completely unique, but it won’t be the same one that others took. You’ll need to blaze your own trail, rather than walk a path that someone else has trodden for you. You can solve the problems holding you back from your fitness goals, if you approach them like a great problem solver.
This article was co-authored by Nat Greene and Patrick Sweeney. Patrick Sweeney is a full time adventurer helping millions of people find their adventurer within. He’s also a TV host and former serial entrepreneur, launching and selling three technology companies worth millions of dollars. He was an Olympic-level and international champion rower, and is now a world record holder and global adventurer. Find Patrick at www.PJSweeney.com, on Twitter at @pjsweeney, and/or on Facebook.