If you’re in your twenties, you may laugh at this post. It is easy at this age to stay fit. However, when you get to middle age, it takes a lot more effort. The age is what seperates boys from men. I admire and hold a great respect for people who keep up a fit and trim figure in their 40s, 50s and beyond.
I always look around and talk to people trying to suss out what motivates them to exercise. However, more often than not, I get the other side of the coin – namely, a bunch of excuses why they are not in shape. The most common one is that they don’t have time. My program only takes about 20 minutes per day, even every second day is enough. To be entirely honest, if I do interval training, I can do 6 sprints of 15 seconds each, so total training is one and a half minute! There are rests in between, but the fitter you get the faster you recover. Once I state my case, however, the excuse changes – now it’s “I hate running”, or “it’s too much effort”, or “I’m too old for this” etc.
Anyway, I though it would be a good idea to say a few words on how to stay in shape and fit. Exercise is of course important. So is the diet. However, there is something that goes beyond these two and it controls the choices you make. I am talking about attitude.
Attitude is the most important factor in getting fit or losing weight. If you don’t have the fit attitude, then you need to develop it. It will be a conscious effort at first, but after a while your mind will take it as a habit and it will become unconscious – just like any other skill that you have learnt. Take driving, for example. At first, you would get in the car and consciously think about adjusting the mirror, put seat-belt on, start the engine, indicate, press the clutch (if manual), put in gear, look if the road is clear, slowly release the clutch while gently pressing the accelerator with the other foot, turn the steering wheel… and so on. But after doing this for some time, you no longer think about doing all these tasks. You still do them, but the execution of them is automatic. You can apply the same principles to stay in shape.
So, first things first. You need to set priorities. How important is being in shape for you? I know people who do not care about it at all. However, being about 50 yo, way too owerweight and having a pre-teen child, this particular person will not be playing with his grandchildren. Chances are they might not be alive by then. Don’t you think this is important enough? I know I do. In my other post, Stay in shape in body and finances, I spoke about the financial benefits of staying in shape. Hopefully, these should convince you of the importance, so let’s move on.
Once you establish the importance of it, you can define the priorities. Of course, everyone is busy and if you can achieve the same in shorter time, the better. You’ll definitely learn some good tips on this blog to help you become more efficient. For a start, anything is good. But don’t think that you have to dedicate a lot of time to it – you don’t. Just dedicate some effort to develop the attitiude.
My motto is “use it or lose it”. This applies to muscles as well as fittness in general. To say it in other words, use your muscles as much as possible – or simply: move it. If you need to get something from a local store which is just around the corner, don’t drive – walk or take the bike. If you can take a bike to work instead of car, that’s even better. When I used to watch tv, I would get down on the floor on each commercial break and do some push-ups or sit-ups. My ex would always ask me to get this or that from the other floor (I am not sure if she was too lazy or just thought that a man should be doing this for a woman) but I would go up and down the stairs many times a day with one thing at a time while she would stack the dishes, for example, and take the whole lot once. Now she’s overweight and I’m not. (This is not to be taken as derogatory towards my ex in any way, but it proves my point.)
A friend of mine who used to train martial arts in his young days does not work out any more to stay fit and flexible. Whenever he gets a chance, he does it the difficult way – for example, at his workshop, he makes a maximum stretch from picking even simple things up. Instead of simply bending down, he makes it into a straight leg hamstring stretch. It takes attitude to keep doing this all the time and for him now it is like a second nature.
Take a stretch break instead of coffee break (or do both). Try to get up 15 minutes earlier and do some stretching – a flexible body is a younger body. I, myself, do not like strenious exercise in the morning, but if you do then by all means go for a run, or do something more energetic than stretching. Spend some time playing with your kids or pets – they will love you more for it and you’ll get fitter, so it’s a win-win situation.
The same principles apply to your diet. You can go to the movies and buy an extra large bucket of pop-corn and coke, or you can take some fruit instead. I usually can survive 2 hours without munching on anything. Same thing when driving. I stopped at the lights the other day and looked in the rear-view mirror and what did I see? The driver behind me was munching on something. I see this a lot actually and not just while being stationary at the traffic lights. It’s not only unnecessary but also dangerous. Having food in the car takes your focus away from driving, it’s distracting. Besides, your stomach also deserves a break after each meal.
Here, I will use my ex as another example. She liked to watch tv in bed and would always have some munchies close at hand. I preferred to keep the tv confined to the living room and, one, not eat in bed, and two, found snacking and munching unnecessary. These could just be habits developed in childhood, but it helps to be aware of them.
Another motto of mine is “simple things in life are often the best” and it applies to choice of food. A piece of steak is always healthier than a sausage or hot-dog. You just don’t know what goes into the latter. When lunching out, I choose simple meals like rice-paper rolls or sushi rolls. They’re not only healthier than a lot of more elaborate meals, but also cheaper. Of course, I don’t live on just sushi and rice-paper rolls alone – I still eat McDonalds, fish and chips, pizza and other junk food, I just don’t make a habit of it. As an added benefit, I actually enjoy eating junk food, but if I ate that stuff every day it would lose its appeal.
Anyway, as you can see, attitude is made up of many little things that become habits. Those habits will have effect on your choices. And choices will have consequences on your body.