‘Fitter’. I’ve heard the word said often when people are just starting out, when we’re contemplating doing something different, when they realise things could be better, want to be a little more physical, have more energy or be more active.
Being ‘fitter’ is a perfectly reasonable and desirable thing to want to do. Nobody should ever be criticised for wanting to be fitter, however when we’re looking to drive real change and make significant progress that choice of word might not necessarily get us where we actually want to be.
‘I don’t want to get too big, I just want to be a bit fitter.’ ‘I don’t want to run a marathon, I just want to be a bit fitter.’ ‘I don’t want to lift all those heavy weights, I just want to be fitter.’
When I hear someone say ‘fitter’ I typically suggest it might be better to reconsider their definition of what it is they want to achieve. If being fitter is your goal and a routine of regular physical activity, a solid nutrition plan and good sleep habits are absent from your life, you could simply do this for the next 7 days: drink one extra glass of water every morning you wake up and take yourself out for a couple of 20 minute walks and get into bed 5 minutes early each night.
Done. That’s it.
The questioning begins: ‘Why just one glass of water? Do I have to drink the water first thing in the morning or can I drink it later in the day? Don’t I have to do more exercise, isn’t more better?’
Honestly? You could replace the full glass with just a half-glass, drink it whenever you like and do just one 20 minute walk or get to bed earlier once or twice in that week.
In this particular case, it is not what we’re doing, it is simply that we are doing something. The issue with just wanting to get fitter is… how will you know when you get there? There’s no international standard, no check box, certificate or stamp that says ‘Yup, this one’s fit.’ and there’s also no ceiling cap so how fit actually is fitter?
Do you really want to be fitter, which implies you are already fit, or do you want to be capable of doing something you are unable to do right now? How do you define fit and how will you know when you are? How we define victory can make a significant difference to the consistency of follow-through on the actions required to achieve our outcome.
To increase our chances of success we need to fully understand what it is we want and to define it in a way that means we are absolutely certain we have achieved the goal when we get there.
Do you want to be able to walk up a flight of stairs or play with your kids in the garden without being out of breath, to drop a dress size, to perform a pull-up or bench press you own bodyweight? All of the above are clear, simply defined outcomes that you’ll know for sure when you’ve achieved them.
A word of caution: If you want to lose 10lb so you feel you can take your t-shirt off at the beach without feeling embarrassed it is important to ask yourself which of the two you are focusing on, losing 10lbs or feeling embarrassed? If it is the former, depending on your current position, it might take a combination of willpower, actions, decisions and time. If it is the latter it might be possible to do immediately by changing the way you feel about yourself. Not easy, just possible, and requires a different set of thoughts and focus. If you lose the 10lb and still feel embarrassed, what happens then? Are the two directly linked or could you do one without the other? The key is to understand your outcome and define your victory.
Decide exactly what is you want to do:
- I want to be able to run a mile
- I want to perform 10 strict pull-ups
- I want to put on 10lbs of muscle
- I want to reduce my body fat to 12%
- I want to put an inch on my arms
- I want a sub-5-minute Fran time.
Whatever your outcome, make it absolutely clear.
Then where do you start? With a single step. You may have a long journey ahead of you. Show up, decide, commit, then take action.
It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing-pedal-to-the metal from day one. In fact. I’d advise against it. It works for some and if that’s you, good for you, high-five and keep at it! For the majority it’s often a recipe for mental and physical burnout, disappointment and ultimately failure.
Once you know what you really want and define it in a way that means you’ll know when you’ve got there it will be far simpler to figure out what you actually might need to do and make that first critical move… to begin.