Sunday, December 14, 2014

Motivation for the Regular Guy

If you're anything like me, your friends cover the spectrum of fitness levels -- everything from amazing on down to obese.

My feeling is that most people would like to improve their lives. But I think we get inundated with insane, unrealistic notions of what it means to be fit.

Check out this tweet I ran across the other day:
I actually replied. If you're already knocking it out of the park, stuff like that might puff up your chest and make you feel like a rock star. But to me, it sounds like a lot of guilt-laying and self-aggrandizing. It's not going to motivate anyone who's not already motivated.

Try Googling the term "fitspo" -- or worse, check it out on Pinterest. What will you find? Hundreds or even thousands of slogans like that tweet, generally in memes with photos of unrealistic bodies. The obvious implication: If you want to look like this, you have to put in the work. The other implication: If you don't look like this, you must be a fat, lazy slob who's unwilling to make any effort to improve your health or your life.

Now how is that supposed to motivate anyone?

Have unrealistic expectations, coupled with a huge dose of guilt, ever gotten anyone to do anything? Let's be real: 99 percent of us are never going to get to the point where we can be a fitspo meme on Pinterest. The fact is, if you're a Regular Guy, you simply don't have the time. But that doesn't mean you can't make a positive change in your life.

I think a lot of people don't get started because it just seems like too far a leap to get fit. It's really like anything in life: If you're destined to fail, why make any effort in the first place, right? I can say that was true for me for a long, long time.

I say it's time to hit the reset button on expectations. And that's where a Regular Guy's motivation should come from. The bottom line here is that motivation is really just a matter of seeing a clear path from where you are to where you'd like to be.

Here's a great article about exactly what kind of lifestyle choices you'll have to make for various levels of fitness. Take a look at the chart -- in particular, the second example. Doesn't that sound like something you'd like to experience? Improved sleep, improved energy, looking good? Heck yeah! And here's something not everyone knows: If you can average a deficit of 100 calories a day, you'll take off 10 pounds in a year. 100 calories -- you can do that, easy!

This is the part where I say, "I'm living proof that anyone can do this." Because this isn't impossible.

This means making a few changes to your diet, like a little bit of portion control and trading off a few unhealthy foods for more nutrient-dense ones. You cut a few calories, and you make sure that the ones you do eat count -- for the most part.

This means finding a little bit of time for exercise. You don't have to train for a marathon. You don't have to try to bench press 400 pounds. You don't even really have to spend any money on a gym membership or fancy equipment. All you really need is decent pair of sneakers, a T-shirt and gym shorts, and some clear space somewhere in your house. Push-ups, crunches, lunges, squats -- these are things I do all the time. You have 20 minutes in the morning. That's all it takes, really.

That's all it takes because we're Regular Guys. We just want to feel better -- mentally and physically -- and look a little better. So set aside those unrealistic expectations. Don't let them get between you and making some positive changes. You can do this!

Here are some specific suggestions that have worked for me:
  • Do what works for you. I have a friend who's made a commitment to get healthier from what is, in all honesty, a dangerously high weight. He's blogging about it at What's my friend doing? He's monitoring his calorie intake and making the effort to walk more. And it's working -- he's down close to 30 pounds. Why is it working? Because it's something he knows he can do and will do.
  • Get yourself ready for work the night before. Lunch ready to go if you brown-bag it, clothes organized, laptop charged -- whatever needs doing, get it all done so that it isn't a fire drill in the morning.
  • Go to bed! There's no rule that says grown-ups have to stay up for the 11:00 news. Rest is a key component of health. If you need an extra 20-30 minutes in the morning for exercise, go to bed a half-hour earlier so you can get up.
  • Don't cook so much dinner. This seems pretty obvious, but I believe that a big part of portion control is not having it in front of you. If you're anything like me, it's hard to watch food go to waste. So rather than throw it in the garbage, you throw it down your throat. Figure out what's a realistic portion -- don't be skimpy -- and cook what you need. If you brown-bag leftovers, account for that, but put it away ASAP.
  • Greek yogurt. I can't think of a single food that's made more of a difference for me than this. It's satisfying and it's full of protein! But get the plain stuff and mix in your own fruit -- a lot of those single-serve ones have a ton of calories from added sugar.
  • Get a fitness-tracking app like MapMyRun. Even if you don't share your activity with anyone, the app makes it easy to log what you're doing -- and seeing it in black and white will make you feel more accountable to yourself.
  • Don't deprive yourself. Keep a six-pack of beer in the fridge. Have a few chips, or some cheese and crackers. It's OK. The point is to be fit and enjoy life. 
I'd love to hear some of the ways you Regular Guys get motivated or keep motivated. What are your little tricks to keeping up with your fitness regimen? To keep your calories where you want them? And what are your pitfalls? (Mine is hummus.) Sound off!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful advice. I had never actually heard the term "fitspo." I think a lot of depression in our culture is related to this very thing. In reality, those who feel the need to post such pics of themselves (as the ideal) are in reality looking for affirmation because of low self-esteem. Not to mention the fact that some are making money off of the clicks. What a vicious circle. No wonder so many are confused and give up so easily trying to obtain the unobtainable! Great post & Greek yogurt is the bomb!