Fitness journeys are almost never linear. Ups and downs in a fitness journey are as predictable as ups and downs in life. Instead of thinking of fitness backslides as failures, consider them building blocks for the healthy habits that will help you be even more successful in your lifelong fitness journey. Below are five lessons you can learn from making exercise a habit.
Learn to Embrace Failure (and Even Strive for It)
If you never fail, how will you know what your current limits are? And how will you know when you eventually break through them? So many of us (myself definitely included!) sandbag ourselves by not wanting to see how far we can actually go by reaching to the point of failure. Maybe it is because we were taught when we were young that failure was “bad” and something to be avoided. But that is not true. Failure just means that you tried as hard as you could and went as far as you could go FOR NOW. Setting goals and developing a plan to reach them is a way a to learn to eventually break through that failure in the future. Albert Einstein is quoted as having said “if you have never failed, you have never tried anything new”.
Learn to Adapt
Not all plans work. Just because you set a goal and have a plan, does not mean you will succeed. In her book, A Woman Makes a Plan, 71 year-old supermodel Maye Musk (mother of entrepreneur Elon and two other children) gives the following advice: “If your plan isn’t working, make a new plan”. Learning to adapt is important not only in fitness, but in life. Learning to adapt makes us stronger and more successful individuals. If what you are currently doing is not working for you (in fitness or otherwise), it may be time to try something new.
Learn to Prioritize
Instead of getting overwhelmed, learn how to work on one thing at a time. There are so many things to learn when trying to acquire a new habits and skills. Take one step at the time. Have you ever tried to get to from the bottom to the top of a flight of stairs in one step? We all know it does not work that way. You have to step on each individual step to get to the top of the staircase. Trying to skip steps (both literally and figuratively) will dramatically increase your chances of injury.
Learn to Listen to Your Body
Our bodies talk to us all the time. Often, we interpret what they say as “I can’t do this” or “I’m too old” or “I’m too out of shape”. But what if our interpretation is wrong? What if what they really are saying is in fact tips to help us do better, feel younger, and get into better shape? Your body know what it needs. Maybe when it talks to you it is trying to communicate what it needs.
My cat Jake has a habit of nipping at my calf when he wants something. It is a super annoying (and sometimes painful) habit, I hate it, and I am doing everything I can to teach him to abandon the habit. However, I must admit, that after he nips at me (and he only ever does it once at the time), I start paying more attention to him and trying to figure out what he needs. While getting nipped may be very unpleasant for me, it is very effective for him. He eventually gets what he wants!
So maybe that back pain you have been experiencing is your body’s way of telling you that you need to strengthen your core muscles. Maybe that pain in the bottom of your foot is your body’s way of encouraging you to stretch your calves more often. And maybe that tightness in your jaw is your body telling you to focus more on self-care.
Learn How to Be (and Stay) Consistent
There is a saying in the fitness world: the only bad workout is the one you did not do. Not every workout can be great, but every workout teaches you something and benefits you in some way. Even bad days have their place in life. Learn to see the good in everything you do (even if it feels like a failure) because staying consistent will eventually help you reach your goals. Quitting never does.