As most of you know, I’m a creature of habit. Once I fall into a routine I find it almost effortless to maintain it. The trick, of course, is to develop and maintain good habits. A decade ago we all saw the results of what my bad habits did to me and, conversely, how developing healthy habits completely changed my life.
The foundation of a healthy lifestyle must be Diet and Exercise. Cliché? Sure. But also spot-on.
When it comes to exercise, for a very long time I found that lifting weights and doing cardio was an enjoyable way to keep in shape. After being out of shape for so long, seeing my body change, grow and harden was more than enough “reward” for my hard work in the gym.
For a long time after my initial transformation I was into bodybuilding. I wanted to get bigger and bigger. Why? I guess because bigger = progress. Big muscles served as tangible proof that my hard work was paying off, and that I was doing it right.
Bodybuilding requires a tremendous amount of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. It truly is a lifestyle, and not something you can just “sort of do”. While I love lifting weights, over the years I started to get tired of the bodybuilding lifestyle. I was sick of following an ultra-strict preplanned diet all the time. Counting every calorie. Analyzing each meal’s macros. Feeling guilty if I was 10 minutes late for one of my 6 or 7 meals (or, dare I even say it, miss a meal entirely). Missing a workout was not an option. All this to get bigger muscles.
Do not misunderstand: I have tremendous respect for bodybuilders. I know how hard they work. For me, though, I found that I was no longer enjoying lifting and eating with the goal of getting big. In fact, I realized I didn’t even want to be “big”.
So I adapted. I found something that I looked forward to doing: mountain biking. Mountain biking led to road cycling, and now I love both of those activities. I still lift weights, but I do it because I enjoy it.
In 2013 I’ve maintained my weight and body fat percentage without counting a single calorie, logging a single workout or planning a meal. 95% of the time I eat very healthy, because I enjoy eating that way and it makes me feel good. But I can also take off for a week-long mountain biking trip and eat (and drink) whatever I feel like without so much as a second thought. Three or four years ago the mere thought of doing something like that would have been unfathomable to me. Back then I stressed if I had a work meeting that interfered with one of my meals.
Are you one of those people who buckle down for a few months, get back in shape, fall off the wagon and then repeat the process? Ask yourself something, and be honest: why do you do this to yourself? It’s probably because you don’t really enjoy your diet and exercise plan. If you force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy, you’re going to stop doing that thing eventually.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to mimic bodybuilders to lose fat and get in shape. That’s certainly one way of doing things (and, I might add, a very effective way), but it’s not the only way.
Don’t be afraid to try something else… and please make sure you’re having fun along the way. Life is short and, as they say, this is not a dress rehearsal.