In my last stay in shape post, I talked about how in order to reach my fitness goals I had to stop making excuses. Back when I wrote that post, I had just run a 10k. Now I have a casual birthday half marathon under my belt and am training for an actual half marathon race in October. Not making excuses has been a really important part of making it to that point!
But, it’s not the only thing I’ve learned; far from it, in fact. So here’s part two – with another really important lesson: it’s going to suck at first. Probably for a while. Keep doing it anyway.
Keep Going Even Though It’s Terrible, You Hate It, and You Really Want to Stop
When I very first started going to the gym (because it was winter and cold so I ran on an elliptical instead of outside), it was really only a matter of finding the time and telling myself I needed to go. If I could do that, and I could because I set an exact schedule, then I made it to the gym every day that I intended to go. It was easy. But it only lasted two or three weeks.
Eventually, around the same time that I think everyone gives up on their diets and/or workouts, it started to suck. I was spending an hour at the gym, five days a week, and adding the time it took me to get dressed, get there and back, stretch, and shower, it was taking up a huge portion of my time – like ten hours a week. Specifically, ten hours a week that I could no longer use for other things.
As a college student, I still had to do my homework and study. And I still had to go to work at my part-time job. And I still had to sleep, and eat, and go to class. So ultimately what I had to give up was the time I had previously used to hang out with my friends, and after a few weeks I was really feeling that sacrifice. About a month into it, I nearly had a mental breakdown because I felt like I wasn’t making any significant progress (I think I’d lost two or three pounds, but couldn’t see a noticeable difference), didn’t feel any better, and was never getting to see my friends because I was using all my time doing something I didn’t even enjoy doing.
I really, really wanted to stop. There were two or three occasions in my first two months where I called my boyfriend, in tears, frustrated because I felt I’d been particularly slow or tired that day at the gym and I didn’t like going and I didn’t look skinnier and it was time consuming and I wanted to quit. He’d say I was doing great, and that I should stick with it. And I did. And it continued to be terrible. But I continued to do it anyway.
Eventually, I noticed that I started to feel really good, mentally, after a trip to the gym. And when I injured my knee and had to stop running, I noticed, to my surprise, that I actually really missed it. I started doing strength training instead because I felt lazy and icky on days where I didn’t do anything, and physical activity made me feel much better. When I was eventually able to start running again, I actually found myself enjoying it. And that was the major breakthrough: I started running because I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to.
This progression can apply with any sort of goal. The same thing was true when I started counting calories. It was difficult, and frustrating, and I had to make a lot of sacrifices. But once it became a habit, and once I’d established a long enough time period without exceeding my daily allowance, it was like second nature. And now I refuse to go over my budget because I don’t want to break my eight month streak – not because I’m afraid it will make me gain weight (although that part is still relevant).
The point is, making changes in your life to be healthier is rarely going to be easy. By nature, it involves hard work and sacrifice. And that’s not fun. But stick with it. If you can keep it up for long enough, you’ll find that you’ll eventually adjust and it will become a lot easier. That, and having goals that make you feel like you’re making sacrifices because you want to, not because you have to. But more on that next time.