Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Do What Works for You

You may have seen on Facebook this week that I posted about my friend Patrick, who's committed himself to repairing his weight and overall health.

That got me thinking. I've already talked about where we Regular Guys find our motivation, and how I really hate the same kind of pressure Patrick is talking about. In my article, I did touch on the idea of doing what works for you -- which is exactly what he's doing. But now I want to talk about that a little more in depth.

There are a lot of aspects to this. It's more than just finding the kind of exercise you like. And depending on your current fitness level, that's probably not even really part of the conversation, to be honest.

First, you have to figure out what you're capable of. 
Patrick's weight precludes him from running yet, so he's walking. If you're just starting a fitness program, it's very easy to bite off more than you can chew. That's why Resolutionaries get ridiculed so much at the gym: They go gung-ho for two weeks, wind up hurt, sick or fatigued, and give up. I'm not applauding judgmental gym rats -- far from it. I believe the pressure to do too much too fast is the biggest factor in why people quit. One study I found says that six months after joining, 44 percent of people go to the gym less than once a week.

Any good fitness coach will tell you the same thing: The best exercise program is the one you'll keep doing. Have a little patience. You're not going to see results overnight, but they'll come quicker than you realize, and what seems impossible now will come to you eventually.

Let's talk about what kind of exercise you want to do.
Every Regular Guy is going to find his own niche. I'm a runner, so I enjoy various types of runs: longs, speedwork, hills, trails, etc. And my strength training is pointed toward improvement in my running -- in other words, heavy on core strength.

But that may not be your thing. I know plenty of people who like to "pick things up and put them down," and as long as you're getting your heart rate up some of the time, that's great. You might prefer the elliptical to running for your cardio -- a perfectly reasonable swap. Maybe you love to swim -- great exercise and impact free! And you also have to factor in any past injuries that would keep you from doing something. But again, if you absolutely hate it, it's not that you don't like exercise, it's that you don't like that exercise. Try something else!

What's your exercise style?
You know that guy who's shares all his workouts on Facebook, belongs to a running club, posts regularly on message boards and is seemingly always talking about fitness? (Yeah, OK, that's me.) It's just the way he keeps things moving. He learns by talking to other people, he finds support in like-minded people, and he keeps himself accountable by taking things into the public realm. If that's you in other aspects of your life, embrace it here, too. Don't be embarrassed -- everyone has to start somewhere!

Some Regular Guys rely on regimented scheduling. For runners, that might mean long runs on Sunday, interval training on Tuesday, base runs on Wednesday, tempo on Thursday and hill work on Saturday. For lifters, perhaps Monday is arms and chest, Tuesday is core, Thursday is legs, Friday is back... Again, if this is you in life, it's probably you when it comes to fitness. Experts say sticking to a schedule is a great way to keep up with your regimen. But one caveat: As a Regular Guy, you can't be completely rigid. Sometimes life, injury or fatigue gets in the way of the best of us. Don't push when you know you shouldn't.

Some Regular Guys need a trainer to get the most out of their gym memberships. Some would rather keep private. Both are reasonable, if that's who you are. Some of us are early birds, and others are night owls -- don't fight a losing battle there. If you're not the social type, you're not going to ask for a spot, and free weights probably aren't for you. Some people wear headphones to keep pumped up, others like to hear what's going on around them.

Bottom line: Who you are the other 160 or so hours a week is who you'll be in your fitness routines. Don't fight it; work with it to get your best results.

But don't look at things in absolutes.
As I mentioned above, don't be a slave to your schedule. If you keep to yourself at the gym, sometimes you may need a bit of advice or help -- don't hurt yourself instead of asking. And most important: Don't be a one-trick pony. You need both cardio and strength training if you're going to reach your goals, so find a way -- and find the resolve -- to mix it in.

So do what works for you.
As I wrote above, the best exercise plan is the one you're going to stick with. So regardless of what your goals are, you have to figure out a plan that will fit your life. You have to be realistic about what you can do now, and about how much time and energy you have to devote to exercise. You need to figure out what you enjoy, because you'll never get moving if you dread it. And you need to adopt a plan that fits your personality, because you're not going to become a different person simply by walking through the gym door.

So, Regular Guys, let's hear it. What have you learned about yourself through your commitment to fitness? How have you made it work for you? And what totally didn't work for you? How did you figure it all out -- or haven't you yet? Comment here, on Facebook or on Twitter!

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