How to NOT Suck at Getting In Shape

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This post title pays homage to Baker’s “How NOT to Suck at Blogging” over at ManVsDebt.com.  Baker’s the man, so make sure you check out his stuff!

Do you suck at getting in shape?

It seems like everybody is trying to get in shape these days but nobody is actually succeeding.  Ask anybody, and 9 out of 10 will say “I’m trying,” or “I’m on a diet,” or “I’d like to lose a few pounds.”  However, considering two thirds of the United States is overweight…it seems like everybody sucks at this stuff.  Most reasons fall into these categories:

  • I don’t care
  • I don’t have time
  • I lack the motivation
  • I don’t know what I’m doing

If you’re not in shape, it’s probably due to one, two, three, or four of the reasons listed above.  I want to address each of these individually and see if we can suck-proof your plan to get in shape.

The “I Don’t Care” Crowd

For a lot of people who are overweight and out of shape, getting healthy is the last thing on their mind.  They’re too busy wrapped up in their job, their families, World of Warcraft, etc. and getting in shape is NOT a priority.  I’d guess that for a lot of these people, they are extremely unhappy with how they look and feel, but have hit a point of giving up and instead hide behind a “I don’t care” shield.  I don’t want you to be one of these people.

You need to find a reason to care:

  • People that are in shape are more successful in life. Let’s not tip-toe around this issue: good looking people go farther in life.  It’s true – it’s not fair, it sucks, but it’s true.  There’s a reason everybody is after plastic surgery, lipo-suction, and ‘the Hollywood look’.  Everything else being equal, the good looking guy/girl will get the job.  The good looking dude will get the girl.  The good looking guy will be a better salesman.  That’s how life works.  If you want to be successful, you should care about your appearance if you want to keep up.  Yes, I know it’s not fair, but that’s how it works.
  • Do you have kids? Do you want to see your kids graduate high school?  Do you want to see your grand kids?  If you do, you better get started down the path to being healthy today.  I don’t have kids yet, but I want to be around to see my great-grandchildren.  I know a lot of you readers are young (20s) and probably haven’t even thought that far down the road.  Think of this like a 401k investment – if you start investing now, you’ll be loaded by the time you’re 65 (as long as the economy doesn’t collapse again) thanks to all that extra time for your savings to grow.  If you start eating healthy and exercising now, before you have health issues, you’ll be in much better shape later on.  Don’t try to play catch-up after the damage has already been done.
  • Being unhealthy is freaking expensive. I haven’t been to a doctor for anything health related in years.  No co-pays, no expensive medicines, no stupid forms to fill out.  The only time I ever get sick is generally during my day-job’s cruise season, when I go four or five days straight on minimal sleep.  Our nations health care debt is spiraling out of control, and instead of attacking the source (prevention), we’re dumping money into treatment.  Why continue to put band-aids on a cut when you can stop the cut from happening in the first place?

I’m going to guess that very few of you are in the “I don’t care” club, because you probably wouldn’t be reading a fitness website if you were.  If you ARE in that club, here’s what you need to do to stop sucking:

  • FIND A WAY TO CARE. I don’t care if it’s your doctor telling you to get in shape, your kids poking you in the gut and saying “daddy you’re fat,” or just taking a long look at yourself in the mirror.
  • Be selfish and vain – You know what?  I want to live as long as possible, and I want to look as good as possible.  I’m sure you do too.  I don’t care what your reasons are: maybe you want to pick up chicks, look better at the beach, and live long enough until they figure out cryogenic freezing.  Whatever your reasons are for getting in shape, if it gets you in shape I’m all for it.  The ends justify the means in this case.
  • Be smart – I just read “Spark,” a book that talks about exercise and the brain.  I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s the gist of it: you’re an idiot if you don’t exercise.  From making you more alert in school and at your job to helping stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia when you’re older, exercise has WAY more benefits than just making you look good.  It can make you smarter too.

The “I Don’t Have Time” Crowd

This one is my favorite, because I don’t buy it for a second.  After hearing story after story about single mothers with two jobs who find the time to exercise and venture capitalists who work 80-hour weeks and still squeeze in a morning jog, I find it hard to believe that people can’t find 20 lousy minutes a day to get in shape.  My guess is, “too busy” involves at least an hour or two of television at night and mindless hours spent crawling Wikipedia and YouTube.  If you really analyze your day, I have no doubt that you have time:

Make time – There’s no excuse.  I don’t care what yours is, because nobody will listen.  Put it in your daily planner, add it to your Google calendar, schedule it as a “Meeting with Major Pain” or whatever.  They say those who find success are often too busy to be looking for it.

Exercise in the morning – According to the studies referenced in the previously mentioned Spark, people that exercise in the morning retain a ****-ton more information in the hours after exercise than those who don’t exercise.  Here’s another reason why you should exercise in the morning: how many times have you made a plan to exercise after work, and then you get stuck at your desk for an extra two hours, or you come home and your friends have broken into your house and are playing Halo on your TV (this happens at my house approximately twice a week), and suddenly all that exercise time you just had to go out is now gone.  This is what you need to do:

Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier – While your wife is sleeping, while your kids are asleep, while your roommates are asleep, get your ass out of bed, and get your 30 minutes of exercise done.  You’ll be more alert at work, you won’t drag ass through your morning meetings, and your afternoons are free to do whatever the hell you want (like playing Halo with the aforementioned roommates that break into your house).

Don’t think you can get a workout done in 20 minutes? Try 20 minutes of interval running and then tell me you’re not worn out.  Not enough?  One of the actors from 300 completed the 300 challenge in under 20 minutes.  Only have 5 minutes?  Do some Tabata. Just don’t come crying to me after.

I think everybody who says they don’t have time either fall into the previous “I don’t care” category or the “No motivation” category and are just hiding under the “I don’t have time” clause.  let’s talk about why that group sucks, and how to get out of it.

The “No Motivation” Crowd

I bet quite a few of you have been in this crowd before.  You’ve tried to get in shape, you had a good two weeks where you went to the gym every day, you ate right, and you lost 10 pounds!  Then, it rained, a new video game came out, you got sick, whatever, and all of a sudden you’re right back to where you started.  Your heart is in the right place, but something just didn’t line up.

What didn’t work last time? What is going to be different this time?  You’re a smart person (this might be a stretch, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you are), so you need to determine why you failed last time.  That way, when the same thing happens this time, you can recognize it and plow through it.  Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Find your motivation – You’ve seen Rocky IV, right?  When Rocky arrived in Russia, he put a picture of Drago on the mirror that he looked at every morning.  Every freaking day, Rocky would wake up, probably at 4AM, load on four layers of clothing and go run in three feet of snow.  Why did he do it? Because Drago killed his best friend!  Maybe you don’t have a giant Russian man that you’ve sworn revenge against, but I bet there’s a picture of something you can hang up to make you hungry for success.

I’m going to be honest, I sat down last night after a long day of work and didn’t want to write today’s blog post.  I sat at my desk, stared at a blank Word doc, and then read the sign I have hanging above my computer:

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – The Shawshank Redemption

If you’ve met me, you’re probably aware of my unhealthy obsession with The Shawshank Redemption.  This movie is the reason I made the move to Atlanta, it’s the reason I started Nerd Fitness, and it’s the reason I have my current day job at Sixthman (the absolute best company in the world to work for).  Every morning, I wake up and read this quote before I go out the door.  It’s this quote that makes me want to make something of myself and appreciate what I have.

Whatever your motivation is, find a way to live it every single day.

Set Specific Goals – To reference Shawshank again, the main character Andy Dufresne had specific goals in mind.  He wanted to:

  • Break out of Prison
  • Move to Zihuatanejo
  • Open a hotel on the coast
  • Fix up an old boat
  • Play chess with his friend Red

It’s these goals and  dreams that kept Andy going for 19 YEARS while he sat wrongfully imprisoned.  Without those goals, I bet Andy would have been given up in that tiny jail cell.  Instead, he ended up with everything he ever wanted (spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie). What are you specific goals?  Don’t tell me you want to ‘lose weight,” I want to hear something like, “I want to lose 50 pounds by June, I want to do 10 pull ups, I want to fit into a pair of jeans with a 34 inch waist, and I want to finally ask out the cute girl at the coffee shop that I go to every morning.”  Get specific, and then work every day towards those goals.

Tell Everybody – When you have people counting on you to pull through, you pretty much have to do it.  Last week, I didn’t post a blog on Friday because I was home for vacation and simply too tired and worn out to write anything.  That day on Facebook (become a Nerd Fitness fan), NF reader Jack jokingly (I hope) left the comment, No Friday post. I feel like a blind man this weekend.”

I’m sorry Jack!  It won’t happen again, because I HATE letting people down – hopefully today’s post will get you through the weekend.  Want to see what accountability can do for somebody’s health?  Check out Tyler over at 344pounds.com, who has lost over 125 pounds since January, Steve over at 265andfalling.com, and Juncti at ScatterShotMind.  Accountability works.

If you don’t want to start a website, then tell all of your coworkers, your friends, and have them keep you accountable.  Don’t suck!

The “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing” Crowd

This one is tough.  You care, you have time, and you’re motivated, but you’re still not losing weight.  You think you’re eating right, you go to the gym, but the weight just doesn’t seem to come off.  That means something ain’t workin’.  Luckily, you have the three toughest reasons for sucking out of the way, let’s take care of the fourth.

You Can’t Outrun Your Fork. I’ve said it before, I’m saying it now, I’ll say it again – you can’t outrun a bad diet.  It can take you an hour to burn 500 calories, and then 2 minutes to put them all right back.  I’ve already written 2000+ words on how to NOT suck at losing weight; to sum up those 2000 words in two sentences: stop eating junk food, stop eating fake food, start eating fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.  Cut out the sugar, processed grains, simple carbs, and soda.

Do you really know how many calories you’re eating? If you’re overweight, I’d wager that you’re probably underestimating how many calories you eat on a daily basis.  That handful of animal crackers, 5 Hershey’s Kisses, and half a can of soda all add to your calorie total for the day.  Keep track of your calories for a week, and if your weight didn’t go down, find a way to knock off 500 calories a day and you’ll start to lose a pound a week.

Get Better – Your diet is probably 80-90% of your success or failure, so just fixing that will fix 80-90% of your issues.  However, if you’re interested in building some muscle while losing fat, you’re going to need to do some strength building exercises.  If you don’t have a gym membership, start doing some of these body weight exercises.  If you do have a gym membership, make sure you don’t suck at working out.  Whatever it is you’re doing, make sure you’re getting better or faster at it over time.  There’s only one way to know if that’s happening…

WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN – Did you get stronger or weaker since your last workout?  Faster or slower?  The only way you’ll know this is if you keep track of what you did last time.  I don’t care if it takes you 20 minutes to walk a mile.  The next time better take you 19:59 or less.  Everybody has to start somewhere – make sure you always know where that “somewhere” is so you can do better than that next time time.

What did I leave out?

These are the four biggest reasons I could think of.  What other reasons are out there for why people suck at getting in shape?  Have you been in one of these groups and worked your way out?  How did you do it?

-Steve

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Picture from:  MikeBaird

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