You might remember the last time I was given the opportunity to write here, I wrote about reasons to stop exercising.
Because I like balance, today I will give you my top ten tips to help you START exercising and making healthier lifestyle choices. The amount of information regarding exercise and diet is overwhelming. Sometimes so much so that we don't even know where to start, or we simply decide it's not worth it. Chin up, friend.
Here are my tips, not in any certain order:
- Motivation: I would argue that if you have tried an exercise program or a specific diet plan in the past and failed, it's not a new program you need but new motivation. And I'm not talking about a vacation that's coming up, or a reunion or a wedding - I'm talking about a heart shift. If you have failed in the past, or have only chosen the healthier route for just a brief time because of a superficial reason, my guess is that you are right where you started or even worse off. Now hear me out, getting in shape for your sister's wedding, or wanting to look better for a family reunion is not wrong, but if that's the end point, if that's why you start in the first place and then you have no other reason to continue, you will have to start all over next year for the next reunion or your brother's wedding. I've never been a fan of the yo-yo or rollercoasters, especially when it comes to choosing a healthy lifestyle. 1 Timothy 4:8 tells us:
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
I think maybe when we read this passage we overlook the first part too quickly. Yes, training for heaven is of greater value than physical training, but God says here that there is value in it. And I want to do things God deems valuable.
- Set a Goal: I like to always be working towards a goal or I notice that my fitness and discipline suffers. I would suggest you do the same. Start with a daily goal, like drinking enough water for your body weight. Then make a weekly goal. It could be something like scheduling ahead of time how many days each week you will commit to exercise. Then set a goal for an entire month, i.e. packing your lunch every day (or not getting that mid afternoon latte) and then begin to think even more long term. Maybe you sign up for a 5K, 10K, bike ride, duathlon, triathlon, or some event that is months away, giving you time to work towards it.
- Tell Someone: When you make these goals for yourself, first tell Jesus and talk with Him about them, discerning if they are His goals for you, and second tell your spouse, friend, mom, neighbor, co-worker or your sister. Or all of the above. My theory is, the more people you tell, the more you will hold yourself accountable to the goal. Maybe even ask one of them to help you stick to it by texting you a quick, "hey, how many ounces of water have you drank today", or "how was your run today?". Accountability is key and biblical. Ecclesiastes 4:12:
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
- Get a Coach/Mentor: If you set a goal, it's important to create a plan to work toward that goal. In order to do that, it's important to seek advice and counsel from people who have already met that goal. This does not necessarily mean hiring someone. In my experience, people are more than willing to share their successes and how they accomplished their goals.
- Write out the Plan: And not just in your head. Physically writing it out somewhere in the house, or multiple places in the house, will ensure success. You will be reminded about your goal and the task that is assigned to you on any given day to help you achieve that goal. It can even be a family affair. My kids love lists and white boards and calendars. If your kids do too, get them involved in creating the plan. Give most kids a marker and I can almost guarantee they would love to add their artistry to any medium.
- Pray: Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I learned this in a recent leadership study I did on the book of Nehemiah. The People's Bible Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther by Dr John Brug says this about Nehemiah's prayer in chapter two, verse four:
"In that moment while his heart was pounding with fear, Nehemiah directed a brief silent prayer to the lord. This was very typical of Nehemiah, who is shown as a man of prayer throughout the book. Nehemiah's prayer demonstrates the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Nehemiah had no time for lengthy or formal prayer, but he showed that continual prayer is basically an attitude of the heart. It is trusting in God at all times and facing each new situation with an awareness of our dependence on God's help".
- Establish Your 'No Matter Whats': Go into any change with the understanding that things come up and your plan has to be altered. You will miss a scheduled workout. You will make an unhealthy food choice. It will happen. I just caution that you note how many times you deviate from the plan and be honest with yourself about the reasoning. But go into the change and new lifestyle with three 'no matter whats'. This means that you will always do these three things each day - no matter what. My three are pray for God's guidance and discernment about my health choices, drink 100 ounces of water everyday, and drink Shakeology everyday. If everything else I had planned for myself on any given day doesn't happen, I know that these three will.
- Incentives: If you reach a goal, it's okay to reward yourself with something. Maybe a new pair of exercise pants, new shoes, a fancy water bottle that you can add fruit to and it infuses your water for you, a new book, a new bag, a new hat - you get the picture. Be sure to keep the incentives in line with your goals. Rewarding yourself for your exercise session completion with a bowl of ice cream is counterproductive.
- Don't Compare: You cannot compare your efforts, your journey, your decisions or your results with anyone else. Ever. This is exactly what the devil wants you to do. When you start to compare yourself to others, that will likely lead to jealousy, pride, insecurity, fear, control issues, or a slew of other sins. Don't compare. Ever.
- Allow Yourself to Fail: Don't expect to be perfect at starting out something new, whatever that may be. If you do not allow yourself to fail, you will not succeed. Meaning, if you expect perfection and tell yourself. 'this time I'm not making any mistakes', and you load a bunch of pressure on yourself, you are doomed. Fail this morning. Start this afternoon. Fail this afternoon. Start tonight. Fail tonight. Start tomorrow. That is grace.