Why People Suck at Getting Healthy and What to Do About It.

We’re in trouble.

WALL-E knows it too, which is why he looks so sad.

Poor WALL-E 🙁

We are spending more money on fitness quick-fixes, gym memberships, “health food”, personal trainers, and other ‘life improvement’ products than ever before. Thanks to the power of the Internet, we’re hit on a daily basis with “Top 10 healthy foods,” “foods to avoid for optimum health,” “6-pack abs in 15 minutes a day!,” and millions upon million fitness sites extolling expert advice.  Super markets like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and even healthy “fast food” places are popping up everywhere that make it incredibly simple to eat healthy foods.

Despite ALL of this, we continue to get bigger, slower, and lazier.

More than 2/3rds of America is overweight, over 33% of us are considered obese, and the numbers continue to grow with each passing year.  At this rate, we could be headed for an actual WALL-E type future within a few decades.

Ruh roh, Shaggy.

I’ve been running Nerd Fitness for over three years now, and I can say without a doubt that the question I get asked above ALL else goes something like this:

“I know what I should do, I just can’t motivate myself to do it. Can you help?”

My answer has always been “I can’t give you motivation, only the tools to use once you FIND your motivation.”

However, I’ve come to a realization over the past few weeks – although I cannot provide you with motivation, there is another way I can help.

Today, you’re gonna learn why most people suck at getting in shape, and how to avoid that trap.

Admiral Akbar would be proud.  

Be More Like Yoda

yoda

Personal finance blogger Ramit Sethi (one of my blogging/finance Yodas, whose book completely changed how I looked at finances) talks extensively about the concept of “motivation” and “should” when it comes to self improvement.

Essentially, when you read an article about exercise and fitness and diet, if you say “man I really should do that,” you’ve already lost.

“Should” is a defeatist word.

And here’s why:

You are a smart person.

You know what needs to be done in order to get in shape.

You know that you should eat REAL food and stop eating junk food. You even know that a majority of “healthy” foods out there are crap. You know that your diet is 80% of your success or failure. You know HOW to build a workout, or you at least know that there are free workout resources available through the site. There are even products available through the Nerd Fitness Store that do everything short of holding your hand when getting started with exercise!

On top of all of that, we ALL know that eating better and exercising improves your life in about a MILLION ways, so I won’t even bother listing them.  

And yet, people come to me every day and say “I know I should exercise, and I know I should eat better, but I just don’t have the motivation and don’t know where to find it.”

My goal with Nerd Fitness is to remove every single barrier and excuse you might have to level up your life.  I try to write motivating articles that inspire action and give you the desire to change, but I know their influence can fade as soon as the laptop closes and the Xbox/Netflix/Hulu beckons.

Today’s article is for the people who know they SHOULD change but don’t.

Yoda said it best: 

“Do or do not.  There is no try.”

There is NO “should” either! 

It’s time to stop sucking, stop saying should, and start DOING it.

Start here: Every time you say “should,” drop and give me 10 push ups.  I don’t care where you are or what you’re doing.  Trust me, it’ll be funny.

Stop searching for motivation, start building systems

Do any of these situations sound familiar?

  • “Just one peanut M&M” or “Just one piece of cake” becomes the entire bag/plate.
  • “I skipped yesterday’s workout, why bother today? It’s useless.”
  • “Meh, next month is better for me anyways.”

Most out of shape folks have said at one point or another, “I should get in shape but I __________.” Whatever your excuse may be, we BOTH know that you’re the only person who believes it.  We might tell ourselves that we don’t have time, or that we had a bad day at work, or that we just don’t feel like exercising or eating right for whatever reason.

It’s at this point we start to question our willpower, wondering how to get “motivation” or “inspiration.”

It’s not just a lack of willpower – it’s a lack of proper preparation and systems!

Although we can’t automate our workouts and our diets, we CAN automate our thinking to promote positive habit change.

As Leo will tell you, it takes around 30 days or so for a new habit to form.  By automating our thinking for the first few weeks, we can remove emotion from the equation until we start to see positive change and build momentum.

As we also know from Sir Isaac Newton (All praise his scientific name!), “an object at rest tends to stay at rest,” and “an object in motion tends to stay in motion.”

In our case “somebody who sucks at being in shape will continue to suck being in shape…” until he/she becomes somebody who “is good at getting in shape will stay in shape.”

By automating your thinking, you can power through the slow, momentum-less weeks until you hit your stride.  

[side note: I’ve already covered how to NOT suck at setting goals, so I’ll assume you already have that squared away.  Today’s focus is on actually accomplishing those goals.]

Fix your diet

Banana boat rescuing a lego man

Your diet is 80-90% of your success when it comes to getting healthy and looking better.

Seriously, it’s that important.  

We know from the Rules of the Rebellion that you can’t outrun your fork, and you can’t out train a poor diet.

And yet, we’ve all said at one point in our lives, “I should start eating better” while polishing off a bag of Doritos/popcorn/Skittles.

#Fail.

“I should (eat better)(eat less)(clean up my diet)” is a useless phrase that will result in no positive action.  So stop saying SHOULD.

Instead, put systems and practices in place that remove any thought or action from your decision-process until you’ve heard “hey, have you lost weight?” and “you look great.”  Once momentum is on your side, nothing can stop you.

If you are reading this right now and thinking “I should start eating better tomorrow,” I will slap you in the mouth.    

Not tomorrow.  Not tonight.  Now.  I can see that donut in your mouth, you know.

RIGHT NOW.

Build a system that removes emotion from the equation.  

Create a yes/no list

Darth vader eating a turkey leg

Create a list of foods right now that you have zero self control over and or foods that you know are bad for you.

If you know those foods are derailing your efforts, then remove temptation and emotion from the equation by making a rule that YOU CANNOT EAT THEM.  

Part of the reason the Paleo Diet is so successful for so many people is that it removes ALL of the guesswork!  “No, I can’t eat that because it’s not paleo” makes everything incredibly simple!   People on the paleo diet know they can eat meat, fish, fowl, veggies, fruits, and nuts. That’s it. If it doesn’t fit into one of those categories, then they can’t eat it.

It’s no longer a question of willpower, it’s just what you are doing.

If you want to start eating better and you know certain foods are bad for you, build a list that says what you can and can’t eat. If you’re a person that struggles with self control when it comes to unhealthy food (and we all are, to an extent), then “just one” doesn’t work.

“But Steve, people will give me funny looks for not eating birthday cake at the office, and I’ll get made fun for not eating the bun on my burger and replacing french fries with a salad.” A strong majority of this country is overweight, out of shape, in debt, and unhappy…do you really care what they think about you?  Do what you need to do to only eat the foods on your approved list.  Staci told everyone at her office that she developed a food allergy to avoid all of the unhealthy temptations at work.  While lying sucks, they never asked again, and it made it super easy to bring in whatever she wanted without getting weird looks.

“But Steve, I eat out all the time, mostly at American style places with big portions. How am I supposed to eat healthy there?”   As soon as your food comes to you, set aside 1/2 or 1/3rd of it as “not touchable.” Ask for a to-go box right away and put that portion in there.  Don’t feel like taking it home but know you’ll nibble at it?  Dump a pound of salt on it after you’re done

“But Steve, people will think I’m weird!” EMBRACE THE WEIRD. Fitting in with everybody else got you where you are now. Maybe doing things that others think is weird is precisely what you need to get back on the right path.

“No thank you” is a freaking powerful combination of words – learn to use them.

Clean house

Lego men eating bread

Now that you have your list of “yes” and “no” foods, it’s time to remove temptation from the equation.  

I know that if I’m in the same room as Goldfish crackers or Sourpatch Kids, I will not be able to focus on anything else until I have eaten every single one of them, so I make sure I’m not within a 500 foot radius of them. If you’re at your office and you can’t have just one peanut M&M, stop walking by the desk of the person who has a jumbo jar on their desk for the next two weeks!  It doesn’t make you a bad person or weak if you can’t have just one; it makes you smart to avoid them.

“Just one” is no longer an option.

The same goes for unhealthy food that you can’t help but snack on in between healthy meals.  So, go home today and throw out every single piece of unhealthy food from your house. If you can’t be in the same room as ice cream without eating an entire tub of it, DON’T be in the same room with ice cream!

I can already hear your excuses.  Seriously, my hearing is that good.  All the way from Ecuador.  What’s up.

“But Steve, I already paid for it, I need to eat it.” At this point, it’s a sunk cost.  Eating it because you already paid for it just compounds the unhealthy problem…if you’re truly serious about turning your life around, the few bucks you spent on this junk food is a small price to pay. Throw it away, give it to neighbors, donate it to a food shelter, whatever you need to do.  Get rid of it, and maybe only go out ONCE this week, or bring your lunch in twice to make up for the extra money spent.

“But Steve, I can’t afford healthy food.” Really? Or is it just easier to say “I can’t afford it” than it would be calculate how much money is wasted on soda, chips, candy, coffee, drive-through meals, vending machine stops, etc. each week? HMMMMM!?  Yes you can!

“But Steve, my family still eats these things, I can’t just throw them out.” Have you had a talk with your family about the NEW YOU yet? Have you proposed trying to get the whole family eating better yet? Maybe your family will be eating differently than you…work with them and have them help keep you accountable.

“But Steve, my roommates still eat these things!” Ask them to keep these foods in their rooms or in a cabinet that’s not yours. Create a rule that says “I will not eat anything that I did not pay for.”

Don’t leave exercise up to your brain

Exercising lego men

We nerds are smart, but we’re also quite imaginative – which means there’s no limit to the number of excuses we can create to justify not working out “just today.” 

First are foremost, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: Yes, you do have time to work out.

Anybody who says they cannot find 30-45 minutes a day is full of crap.  Your workout might have to be early in the morning, in the afternoon, during your lunch break, or at night after the kids have gone to bed, but I guarantee if you do a TRUE evaluation of where you’re spending your time, you can find 30-45 minutes.

That might mean one less episode of _______ each night on Netflix. Or, it might mean during every comercial break you have to do five pushup, three pullups, and ten squats.

Even if it’s spread out during the day, it is better than nothing!

Okay, so we know you HAVE time, but it’s still tough for you to get yourself off your butt and into workout mode, right?

Which means we need to remove the “yes/no” option from your brain.  Instead of focusing on the misery of the workout until you start to see progress, put your focus on building good habits, not accepting ANY excuse, and just doing it.  It’s what Joe did – 10 months and 128 pounds later, he’s a completely different person.

These are my suggestions:

Start small – Commit to five minutes of exercise a day. Five minutes of push ups, pull ups, and/or squats. That’s it! No matter what happens, every day, you need to do 5 minutes of exercise. You’ll quickly learn that getting started is the hardest part – once you finish your five minutes it’ll be easy to keep going.

Work out in the morning.  Sleep with your running shoes next to your bed, and in your workout clothes.  When you wake up, there is NO thought involved.  You are going for a run/yoga/to the gym and that’s that.  If you wait until the afternoon, life is bound to get in the way and excuses are easier to sink in.

Flip it. This is a trick I learned from Leo as well.  Right now, the pain associated with working out and the benefit of sitting on your couch is what keeps you sedentary.  Make a mental shift: focus on how GOOD a workout can make you feel, and how painful SKIPPING a workout can be.

“How can skipping a workout be painful?”  you’re wondering… 

Have an accountability system.  Tell your friends that you are going to get in shape, start a blog and publicly declare your intentions.  Send one of your friends $200 on PayPal. Every time you work out and check in with them, they will send you $10 back. Every time you skip a workout, he gets $10. Do you really want to fund your friend’s drinking money for the weekend? Do you want to see the smug “I told you so” look on his face a month from now when you’ve given up?  Hell no!

My friend Saint said he would pay his friends $500 if he didn’t get to a certain body fat percentage by June. After two years of struggle and lack of results, Saint…faced with the prospect of giving up $500 he didn’t have….realized that NOT working out was going to cost him a lot more than working out….so he sucked it up, started training with conviction, and hit his goals weeks ahead of schedule.  Now he’s a new man, in search of another dragon to slay.

Make it impossible to bail.  Sign up for a class with your friends and make sure they keep you accountable.  Sign up for personal trainer sessions and pay for them in advance.  Even if you have to scam and trick yourself into working out, get your butt off the couch and doing something productive.

Adjust your targets – “I want to lose weight” is useless…but “I want to lose 50 lbs” can be equally crushing. The scale lies, and it’s easy to freak out if the scale doesn’t change or (gasp!) moves in the wrong direction for a day or two. Rather than dealing with numbers that don’t tell the whole story, put your focus on healthy habit building then you will build momentum.

    • I will work out 3 times a week and walk 3 times a week.”
    • I will eat only foods on the YES list for every meal except two, every week.
    • I will check in at the gym 3 times a week on four square. For every missed check in, I will donate $20 to a local charity.

Bring it all together, you will

To recap:

  • Stop saying should.  Penalize yourself with push ups every time you do.
  • Create rules for yourself about what you can eat and what you can’t eat.  Follow these rules without exception, and remove emotion from the equation.
  • Get rid of the foods that are holding you back.  It’s really tough to eat something if it’s not in your cabinet.
  • Build in fail-safes and accountability systems that make it impossible to skip a workout.  Make it suck more to skip than to not skip.

The first few weeks of getting in shape can be incredibly difficult.  By planning and building in proper systems to avoid the pitfalls that trip everybody up, you can power through the slow-roll stage until your momentum and positive behavior start to snowball into an avalanche of awesome.

Yes, you heard me. An avalanche of awesome.  Feel free to use it wherever 🙂

If you remember getting through the tough first few weeks, how did YOU succeed? What were your systems?

Help out your fellow rebels!

If you are stuck in the “I know what I should do, but I can’t do it” phase, what are you going to do RIGHT NOW to get started?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

-Steve

###

photo sources – WALL-E, X-Tyler , Schtumple, Robbie_V, icedsoul photographynettsu, lucidtech, e.r.w.i.n. 

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  • Trader0126

    Great post. Love the Lemmings graphic. LOL

  • http://www.fit4less.nl/ Herman

    I’m losing weight right now, because I changed work. Where in the past I was sitting behind a desk, I nowadays have to walk a lot. I used to go to the gym 3 times a week, but this didn’t make me loose any weight. Now I’m getting rid of many pounds without any extra effort. So in the end it’s all about an active lifestyle.

  • goodwince

    There are multiple ways to get it to work. If you don’t have the energy to workout in the morning, Lacy’s comment on training himself to bring his bag everyday is so true. We have to reduce the barriers that keep us from working out. Steve mentions working out in the morning, what I do is I bring my bag to work everyday (need or no need). This habit means I never forget my bag on the days I do need it and immediately after leaving work I work out. I treat it as the beginning of my off-time. 

    It makes it so much easier.

  • goodwince

    I would add to your post learning from failure!! Your post is about building a system that works for us. Try out different methods that make you get the job done. 

    Often times when we fail to workout we internalize it as a lack of discipline. Failure is not all our fault! What is our fault is failing and then trying to do the same thing over and over again, blaming ourselves for lack of discipline! That isn’t the case always! 
    Granted. We have to do a little bit of work, but Steve mentions 5 minutes a day workout. Make it easy. When you fail try to understand why you fail (that’s a lot of fail), think about why and block that barrier in the future. Perhaps you want to workout for 30 minutes everyday, but lack the time? Well build a backup routine that’s five minutes of HIIT. Didn’t have a planned 5 minute routine? Choose one exercise and just go with it! Always have easy, fallbacks that still have you improving. More importantly don’t make excuses.

  • Khoffmaster

    You are absolutely correct!  You have to make time and make it suck if you don’t do it!  Once you get into the groove, it’s easier to resist temptation and working out becomes something fun.  And I don’t really care if people think I’m weird.  The ladies I work with think I have awesome willpower for not eating all the junk that they do!  Yes, they might also think I’m stuck up for not going out to eat with them and indulging in treats all the time, but I don’t care.  I feel better than I ever have and couldn’t care less what they really think!  I’m healthier and more confident and it could happen to you too!  I’m spreading this article around so others can get a clue!

  • http://roadtofightnight.wordpress.com/ Kelsey

    I’m currently in the “should” camp when it comes to eating clean. My diet isn’t terrible, but it isn’t as clean as I want it to be to get the results that I want. I like the idea of having a yes/no list.

    This past week I’ve been writing down what I eat to get an overall picture of my diet, and I’ve realized that I’ve got to stop eating unhealthy snacks during snack time at work. (I’m a pre-k teacher. I consider eating snack with the kids a perk.) Sometimes families send in healthy snacks… but today we had fruit snacks. Yesterday we had muffins. Those are now on my “no” list. The kids may need a snack, but *I* will survive without one. (Or bring a better alternative with me.)

    So, what I’m going to do now and make a yes/no list for food.

  • K

    I have a serious question for you Rebels, relating to this from the article:
    “Make a mental shift: focus on how GOOD a workout can make you feel, and how painful SKIPPING a workout can be.”
    I have never, in many years of exercising, *never* felt good from working out. All I ever get from it is tired and sore, and I dread it. I hate doing it, but I suffer through it out of necessity.
    Do you guys honestly feel better from it, or is it just one of those things we all say because it’s expected of us and the others will look at you funny if you don’t go along with it? 🙂

  • James

    So epic.  NF should consider printing that on a sweatshirt!

  • Cavandermeulen

    Awesome post, and perfect timing Steve! I’ve been going hardcore for 2 months and hit a mental wall this week – how I powered through it? Motivating coworkers to get in shape…now it rekindled my motivation!! Ra! Let’s do this!!

  • Cavandermeulen

    I used to be the exact same way, K… until I found a routine I ENJOY! Now I can honestly say I feel amazing afterwards!

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  • Daniel Aiken

    I knew grains were bad for your weight! and no-one I told believed me, this article has given me the motivation to set my diet straight. I was just wondering what your ethos is on alcohol? i.e. how much would be acceptable to drink? or is it that bad I should cut it out altogether?

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  • ericwangpharmd

    Hey Steve,

    I just wanted to let you know that I featured you on my blog at
    healthdemystified.com in my latest post:

     

    http://healthdemystified.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/top-5-bullshit-free-tips-for-guaranteed-weight-loss/

     

    Keep up the awesome work you’re doing. Just want to let you know that
    your work is really making a difference in people’s lives – including mine!

     

    -Eric

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  • http://www.thenewyorkpersonaltrainers.com/New-York-Personal-Trainer.html New York Personal Trainer

    This blog contain brief and vital information . I like it and read it care fully .
    Health is wealth and it great impact on our daily life and enjoyment .
    This blog information guide me to right destination and i hope this information give me reasonable benefits . 

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  • Temujin

    But Steve! I can’t do pushups I had a cist on my wrist now when I put pressure on its it hurts ALOT :Steve. I don’t give a fuck!!! Don’t stop till yo hip don’t hop anymore Bitch!! : me yes sir!! Ima live or die trying!!

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  • http://blog.superbootcamps.co.uk/ George Harris

    My take on some of these:

    “Stop saying should.  Penalize yourself with push ups every time you do.I’m a little sceptical about this, as this sets up a kind of association with exercise and punishment. ”

    Is this really what we want to be doing?Surely it would be nicer to find a way of smiling ruefully at yourself when you catch the ‘should’ing’?

    That would take it down a few notches and make it much easier to change….Create rules for yourself about what you can eat and what you can’t eat. 

    “Follow these rules without exception, and remove emotion from the equation.”

    It’s worth remembering that some people just love to break rules, and for others, when one rule is broken, all hell also breaks lose.
    Just be aware if this is right for you!

    “Get rid of the foods that are holding you back.  It’s really tough to eat something if it’s not in your cabinet.”

    RIght on! I’m totally on board with this.

    All in all a great article, thanks from the UK!
    George

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  • http://www.jodimade.com/ Jodi Wade

    Change what you are doing! I was never really into exercising but a few months back I start going to pole dance classes. It’s so much fun!! And it’s a great workout. I always leave the classes with a huge smile on my face. Suddenly I found myself going to the gym to do weights because I need to be stronger to do certain tricks. Find something you enjoy!

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  • Brandon Eason

    Agree with this so much.  I can get hardcore for a while, but if my mentality is too hardcore, then I beat myself up too much for my failures and don’t start again.  I have had to learn to be a little easier on myself and forgive myself for mistakes.  Hardcore is no good if it means a single slip up = failure.

  • Steeve

    I’m the same. I dont feel good or get this so called ‘buzz’ from exercising. Its probably why I struggle with motivation as I find the gym so boring.

  • Steeve

    Motivation is the key to success and having goals does not produce motivation. I can easily set a goal of going to the gym 3 times a week. There, I’ve just said it so that is now my goal. I dont feel like going to the gym though because its boring, full of idiots & I’ve got no energy. If I dont meet my goal, so what? Whats gonna happen?! Nothing. You see, if I was motivated, I’d make the effort to go. As it is though, I always intend on going (keep my gym kit in my car) but often I’ll arrive at the gym & just cant bring myself to go in. So I’ll sit in the car for 15 minutes thinking about it & then drive home.

  • http://blog.superbootcamps.co.uk/ George Harris

    I’ve got two potential answers for you guys:

    1: You’ve not tried sufficient types of exercise to find the one that your body and mind love. Of course, I’ve no idea how many different types of exercise/activity you’ve tried, but you sure ain’t tried them all 🙂

    2: You’re hindered by the restrictive learnings and experiences from your time at school. Again, I’ve no idea if this applies to you guys (it applies to many people I’ve worked with in my hypnotherapy practice, it seems school has a lot to answer for in our culture of insufficient exercise). The good news is that you can break through these learnings with the right techniques and experiences.

    Feel free to ask any more questions you might have.

    Hope this helps,
    George

  • Steeve

    Personally, I’d drink as much or as little as you like. You’ll know within yourself if you drink too much. Life’s too short to worry about strict guidelines.

  • http://blog.superbootcamps.co.uk/ George Harris

    And if I had your experience I’d also struggle to have the motivation to actually enter the gym. After all, why would you want to do something that you don’t like, with people you also don’t like?

    If you could find a way of increasing your consequences for not doing some exercise (note how I didn’t say ‘go to the gym’) then you’d find it easier to work out. For me, having low energy, increasing my chances of dying from painful disease and illness, and being over fat are massive motivators, but still smaller than my desire to feel good, both during and after exercise.

    Remember that you’ve actually sort of done the hard part (going to the gym with your kit) but you don’t want to get over that last hurdle, and why would you? It’s not something that gives you pleasure, and when it comes to it, no amount of pain avoidance is going to get over that hurdle in the long term. The key, as I said in my last reply, is to find a mode of exercise that you enjoy, purely for its own benefit. The health and fitness benefits are then side benefits, not the main reason for doing it.

    Keep the comments coming, and the questions too.

    Hope this helps,
    George

  • Steeve

    Not sure school has anything to do with how I am motivated NOW & how I dont get a buzz from exercise NOW. I used to do every sport under the sun at school & was super fit. Plus when you’re young you have that energy & metabolism to not need to go to a gym.

    Yes, there are other types of exercise/sport that I would enjoy but I either do not have access to them or just dread going to a new group activity too much to want to do it.

  • Meredith Brown

    As far as eating goes, I decided to have amazing oral hygiene, which leads to multiple brushings a day, complete with flossing and mouthwash. I basically brush my teeth immediately after I eat which eliminates the “picking” at my food that I used to do, and once my mouth is fresh I’m far less likely to mindlessly eat because I want to maintain the fresh taste and keep my teeth cavity-and-plaque-free.
    With exercise, I try to tell my boyfriend when I work out and he makes me feel so badass for doing it that I want to do it all the time. Also, trying to emulate the bodies/abilities of your favorite anime/video game/fantasy or sci-fi novel/movie/whatever character is super helpful for me. I also try to only do exercises that make me happy, like running around on the beach with a puppy or swimming with friends or whatever.

  • Reyes B’Cal

    Hi! I love your style of writing – telling it to us straight!! It’s my first time here and I’m loving the Lego animations too!!

    I’ve had a learning curve the last couple of months realizing that exercise alone was not going to do it for me, so I dropped it, felt disheartened and then joined Weight Watchers. Going good so far? Yes, but now I have to bring back the exercise and your ‘Preparation’ tip is what’s next – to work out a ‘build-back-up’ exercise plan.

    Thank you 🙂

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  • Kasey

    I use GymPact – it automatically transfers $5 for each workout I miss, but If i make all of my workouts for the week, I get some (usually about a dollar) which is from the people who missed working out. Pretty motivational – and i think you can up the cost if $5 isn’t much for you.

  • Irishlawman

    “Aristotle said that if you want to become courageous, you need to do things that require courage. He would say the same thing about resilience. One must be willing to get out of one’s comfort-zone, and stretch one’s ability to adapt to a different environment, if one wants to develop greater resilience under stress or adversity. In other words, one must subject oneself to the stress of not being comfortable. In today’s culture, there is a temptation to find a comfortable niche, settle into a ‘comfort-zone’ and fight never to leave it. We commit to career, marriage, family, community, mortgage – what one young friend of mine called ‘the whole catastrophe.‘ We seek stability, predictability, and… we get comfortable” (Schoultz, 2011)
    Climbing out of the “Comfort Huggie”
    Getting out of the comfort zone can be the hardest thing you have ever done because it means setting down your ego, walking up to a perfect stranger and asking for help. It means asking a lot of questions in a group setting when you would rather hang back and mimic it or worse- fake it. It means focusing attention away from the group, where we are all comfortable, and on to you. It is uncomfortable. But it is do able. If you can build some mental toughness. Your body can achieve much more than you think you can. If you can get that pesky ego out of the way.
    Embracing self over Ego
    Ego is a real thing. I will be honest, after being surrounded by the “best of the best” during two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with Special Operations, I was my own worst enemy. When I started Crossfit, I was more concerned with the myth of me then the man. I convinced myself that after a lifetime of military service, I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. I looked at my Crossfit Community as Them Vs. Me. My dedication flagged, I did not track my performance and every WOD was something to be endured. I didn’t like being paired up. I whined a lot, which is not in character for me and I was just not happy. What I realized one day was I had lost my sense of community, my team, my family. It forced me to pull off my comfort huggie and ask for help. I also researched and read about mental toughness. I laid out some goals and broke them down into sane, achievable blocks and I embraced the CFSA community. It is still a little uncomfortable, but honest and sometimes brutal self evaluation, a positive attitude and asking for “buddy checks” does wonders. I found it is not much different than my military experience in the universal truth is the team is always stronger than the individual. During Crossfit 2RM/ 5RM, I was going for PR way past my goal. Midway through the lift, as my body was about to quit, I heard someone yell “Get it” and I continued till I did. The voice outside my head telling me I could do it was much louder than the one inside my head telling me I couldn’t. You just have to know who to listen to. Eventually, through setting and achieving goals, the voice inside your head will be just as loud. There is nothing like success and achievement to have your inner monologue repeating, “Ah, I CAN do this”. They don’t even have to be huge goals, but you do have to set them. Then go after them. Even failure, when you get back up and try it again helps your achieve that resilience which is the foundation of mental toughness. Face it, there are going to be times of high stress and pressure when that is the only voice you will hear. You can harness it, rely on the muscle memory, stay focused, maintain attention to detail and use it to push you harder and farther than your body thinks possible…or ignore it and push on. But it can be done.
    Special Thanks: CAPT Bob Schoultz (SEAL, USN Ret.) He has an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Stanford University and an MA in National Security Affairs from the Naval War College where he also served on the faculty as the first chair for Special Operations. Schoultz retired from the Navy in July 2005 as a captain after a 30 year career, nearly all in Naval Special Warfare. Bob Schoultz’s insights can be found on his Blog, “Bob Schoultz’s Corner”: http://bobscorner.wordpress.com

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  • dani052566 .

    Excellent article/blog. Entertaining but informative. I’ve been struggling for a while especially with motivation, despite having too many situations where one alone should have been enough motivation and it wasn’t. I write a blog (https://daniellereaume.wordpress.com/) about my weight loss journey, including the struggles and I hope you don’t mind but I posted the URL to this blog to share with my readers. Thanks, Steve. 🙂

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  • Josh

    I really should start working out. 🙂

  • Tom Bradley

    Since last November I have lost 50 lbs but the last month and a half notthing. Last week finally I was down another 3 lbs and was elated and motivated! Today one week later I am up 8 Lbs! WTF? I am so discouraged. I knew I did have a couple slips but never had it make me gain in the last months but now 8 Lbs? I am so pissed but not giving up! Cracking down and creating new systems starting not today or tomorrow but NOW! Damn it next Friday I will be back where I was and lose more the following week and I will do it!