Monday, September 12, 2011

Consistency vs. Instant Gratification

by Robin White

Living with Tom for more than two years now has taught me a lot of things about fitness. I have learned much about anatomy, fat distribution, nutrition, what exercises are more efficient, and countless other things. But probably the most important thing to learn about fitness for me is the lesson of consistency and patience. Without it, there are no results.

I find that most people, (myself included) can stay on an exercise regimen for a month or so, and then they slowly revert back to getting caught up with work, kids, vacation, illnesses and a myriad of other life challenges.

We need to be aware that humans were made to move and to be challenged physically every day. Does this mean we need to run a marathon every day, or go to the gym every day? No, this would be abusing your body. The body also needs to rest and recover for maximum growth and maintenance.

Think back to our ancestors who hunted, climbed and chased. They exerted their bodies. Then they would have a feast, hang out for a while in a safe spot until the food ran out, then get back on the hunt. Later, they worked farms, rode horseback or loaded ships. Our ancestors used their bodies like machines. That's all they had, their bodies were their most precious resource, capable of building homes, carrying children, picking fruit, everything. They succumbed to disease and infection, but there was far less obesity. Most obese individuals were either the wealthy or royalty who had servants to do their footwork. This should provide real clues for us.

Lifting weights, pulling, pushing, forcing with the body allows the body to dissipate stress, and the tugging of the ligaments on the bone actually causes bones to become stronger and denser. Exercise also causes muscles to increase slightly in size. In women, there is a limit. Every woman I know is afraid she will look like Hulk Hogan if she lifts weights. This is never going to happen without injections of testosterone, so ladies stop worrying about this, I beg you.

The adding or maintaining of muscle fiber to the body is significant for two important reasons. It helps the immune system, and it burns calories at a slightly higher rate. Does this allow you to sit down and polish off a bag of donuts? No. You can never outwork a bad diet.

Firstly, I think we need to sit with ourselves in a moment free of distraction and contemplate where we are in our lives. How do we really feel? Are we in pain? Pain is a strong indicator that something is wrong in our system.

Chronic pain depletes the system by putting stress on the body. This produces more cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol causes the body to crave more food. See where this is going? The more you eat, the less you want to move, and before too long, you are in a downward spiral.

If you are taking drugs to feel good, you are doing nothing more than putting a band aid on the problem. You need to slowly get yourself on a better diet, and start adding small amounts of exercise and work up very slowly. I notice that people who have pain, blown discs, any injury at all think they cannot do any exercise. Doctors do not help the situation, by making them fearful due to possible litigation or other insanities. The body was meant to move. If you stop moving and exerting, you are slowly dying. There is no better way to put it.

Now to the real point of this article. What is the one thing that is going to kill off all this well meaning, well thought out train of thought? Lack of consistency.

We cannot maintain. Why? I can think of two reasons. There may be others. First, You are not accountable. Jerry Seinfeld had a wonderful technique he used to stay on top of his writing career. He put a piece of paper on the wall. Every day he wrote, he made a small red line, he kept doing it every day, he kept the line going. Maybe you can develop your own, but make it "breathable", make it flexible. This is NOT boot camp, it's for life, so make it livable.

Second, people love to revert to extremes, as a way of sabotaging the process. They say, "oh it's just too much for me, I can't do it", and they quit. As with everything in life there are two "evil" polar opposites, and then there is the rational, accomplishable middle ground. Which of the three do you think works?

Here's something to contemplate. If you start to move your body in an enjoyable way at least 3 days per week, and you cut back on some of those bad foods, and little less food intake every week (assuming you are heavier than you want to be), at the end of one year you will be a leaner, fitter, healthier person. Your body will have de-aged, and you will have started a wonderful new habit trail for a lifetime. Really think about the impact this could have on your life. Imagine yourself really accomplishing this.

If you put too much pressure on yourself in order to get "instant gratification", you WILL fail. This is a "process" and you MUST be patient. It is a process of turning bad habits into better ones, but it IS gradual. Life has many challenges for us, we cannot always be perfect. But, if we "trend" upwards in a positive motion every day, little by little, magic WILL happen. You need not kill yourself. Think to yourself "Forward, upward, little by little". Do not sabotage. Be kind with yourself, do not judge yourself. Keep your eye on the goal. You must repeat this to yourself, sometimes it's harder than others. Develop little reminders, tricks, helpful aids to your success. Be patient, it IS a process. Don't give up on yourself.

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