Twenty years ago I was invited to join my workplace football. This was nothing too serious, just an informal kick around, but by the time I was finished I was coughing up the air trying to gather precious breaths. Yeah, I was never much of an athlete at school but I didn’t quite realise how much I’d let myself go since those days.
One of the team asked me how I was, and through my sweaty red face I managed to stumble out a few words to show everyone I was okay. It wasn’t okay and it was on that day I took the decision that would change my life forever… pursuing a journey of health and fitness.
I joined my first gym, and since then it’s pushed me to the peak of my physical abilities, and given me the confidence to try new hobbies like karate and climbing, encouraged me to race in competitions, and gave me purpose to set and achieve goals at times when I didn’t really have much else going for me.
During those years I’ve learnt a few things, and I wanted to share my manifesto – advice for those who are starting their own fitness journey.
Focus on yourself
A mistake EVERYONE makes at some point is to look too much at what someone else is doing.
You’ll see someone who is stronger, faster, fitter or, on the flipside someone who is weaker, slower and unfit. Either way you make judgements on both, either way this is a waste of your time and attention.
It’s irrelevant what the person next you is doing because their results has no impact on your own personal success.
Get into the habit of going into the zone, a state of mind where you are too busy focusing on your own improvement to notice what is going on around you.
Don’t compare your day one to someone’s day one thousand.
One of the first things you’ll be amazed by when starting your fitness journey, is the ability of those around you.
I still have a distinct memory of being astonished at someone repping out 40kg on the shoulder press machine and thinking how I’d never be able to do that (I was wrong!)
The reality was this person had been going to the gym much longer than I, so it was silly to compare – of course someone who has been at it for years longer is going to have the advantage.
Yes, use experienced and successful people to inspire you and challenge your self-imposed beliefs of what is possible, but don’t fall into the trap of seeing someone’s success as making your own insignificant.
For example, if you’ve managed to run a 10 minute mile for the first time, this achievement isn’t made any less because there are people who can run it in five!
Not every day will be a high
When you first commit to your fitness journey, you’ll see some obvious results in a short period of time. This is known as “beginner gains” (newbie gains), and is a phenomena that happens because your body is hyper responsive to a new stimulus being brought into your lifestyle.
However, as you continue, your progress will slow down – it becomes harder to cut your run times down, weights lifted go up in tiny increments, weight loss stops as your new routine becomes normal. Sometimes it feels like you’re getting worse.
This is a key challenge on the fitness journey and how you respond. As a former karate instructor, I always saw this in students – they liked the early stages because they were rewarded with lots of belts, in a shorter amount of time, but as they progressed the belts were rewarded less, because the higher you get, the higher the expectation of having to demonstrate deserving it!
As a result, people got frustrated from not continuing to be validate with a bit of fabric and would quit. The question is, in these times will you get dispondent, or will you press on recognising the internal good you’re doing?
Crush each task you set out to do.
During my fitness journey my focus has shifted to different priorities – I’ve wanted to lose weight, attract the opposite sex, train for competitions, personal wellbeing, and now I focus on strength and power.
It’s important to recognise, whatever the goals are, your fitness manifesto says you need to perform whatever you are doing to the best of your abilities, and don’t allow yourself to sabotage this progress.
Make time to learn and improve
Work smarter, not harder as they say.
It’s easy to fall into a knowledge stagnation, and just get into the habit of ‘throwing muscle’ into it. If you are spending your time doing something you enjoy, then isn’t it worthwhile applying a bit of time to understand how you can be more effective?
I was always amazed watching how some people could deadlift two, three times their bodyweight, especially as I would experience back problems if I lifted anything above the 100kg mark. I took the time to learn better technique, relying less on shunting the weight, and getting a better understanding of the mechanics to lift more, and most importantly protect my body.
There is always so much more you can learn in your fitness journey – read books, articles, watch videos or find a good coach who can educate you towards your end goal.
Be your authentic self
There is nothing to gain with pretending to be something that you are not. Follow a philosophy of accountability and recognising your weaknesses will do wonders with your growth.
I’ve competed against someone who always lied about their run times, I assume this was an attempt to impress or make me feel inferior. In reality I ended up smoking them so badly at the next race, that I had plenty of time to run to a nice vantage point on a hill to see them coming in, before heading back to the finish line to cheer them on.
Basically, if you pretend to be someone that you are not, you’ll get exposed eventually and you won’t be happy when you pretending to be something your not.
Have goals that lift and inspire you
If you don’t enjoy lifting weights, then you’re not going to be committed, despite someone imposing their own strength standards how they view physical fitness.
When engaging on your fitness journey, you might not necessary know what you want when you start, but you can focus on setting goals that interest you, it doesn’t matter what it is, just find someone that will push your fitness.
These are the main tips I have undertaking your fitness journey.
Wishing you the best in your success.
James @Perfect Manifesto