The Fitness Journey
What will your journey to fit as a fighter look like?
Every time you start toward a new fitness goal you start The Fitness Journey all over again. As someone who is always taking on the next challenge, I have started this journey more times then I can even describe.
To name a few: working toward my black belt, trying to get back to that First Degree Black Belt Test fitness level, learning to snowboard, trying to build up the fitness and energy to snowboard from first chair to last, starting to rock climb or mountain bike, building up towards climbing at a semi-pro level :this journey is one I am intimately familiar with
And knowing the path that I will take makes it easier to reach the "end".
This is often (always) the part that is the hardest because it is not just when you decide to make the change.
You have to get started when you decide there is a change to be made. You get started again when it comes time to implement that change. When the new week starts and your brain says it is a new you too, you get started again. And, when it is time to do the next workout, you get started over and over again.
This is hard because you have all the time in the world to think about how hard it will be to do. That short term memory of yours remembers all the sweat and how sore you were during, but forgets how great you felt when you were done.
Getting Started is the hard part but we can make it easier.
First, be ok with not knowing everything. Moving into the fog is terrifying but at some point you have to accept that you made the path as clear as you can. It is time to start walking! Remember Execution Is Everything.
Second, be careful how much you commit to out of the gate. We both know that you can make it through that whole workout, not to mention the whole hike. But, when it comes time to start, your procrastinating, little kid brain will tell you that it will be too hard, take too long, or some other "too" that you will have to over come. Committing to a little reduces the "toos".
Finally, don't punish yourself when you don't meet your expectations. All that will do is make it even harder to get started in the future. Instead, you need to figure out what went wrong and do better tomorrow. Forgive Your Failures.
Initial Progress is the best!
The initial progress is when you make the fastest change. (Notice I did not say fast. It might be but it might not) You will see that most change because you have the most change to make.
Initial progress feels absolutely fantastic when you focus your mind on on the progress you are making.
You can do 10 Lunges now with out losing form? Pat yourself on the back! Getting up off the floor is easier then ever? Do a little dance! And you can hike up hill for a whole 5 minutes without feeling too winded? Hug it out with your hiking buddy and get dessert tonight!!!
When you start feeling that initial progress make sure you are celebrating those little victories.
You will have to choose to keep you focus on these small improvements because at first your brain is going to want to focus on how far you still have to go. It is going to want to say "yeah but....(something that makes you feel bad about yourself)". When this happens, it is up to you to say "that may be true for now but I am on my way to making that past me's problem". Always bring your Focus On To The Right Things.
I wish I could get the thunder and ominous lightning to crash as you read the heading of this section. It feel like this is the section that shall not be named.
Plateaus are definitely the villain of The Fitness Journey.
They are times when you don't get to make any real progress, times when you can slip farther from your goals, and times when motivation goes away faster then freeze pops on 90 degree day. (I know you're an adult but you also know that you aren't going to turn down a freeze pop when it is so hot outside, the neighbors pool is evaporating before your eyes.)
Plateaus don't have to be all bad though. You can use them.
While they are horrendous, evil things. A plateau is a sign that you need to adapt, that you are ready to take it up a notch, and that it is time to re-evaluate what you are currently doing.
Hitting a plateau means that you have done so well in your current program that it is no longer awesome enough to keep up with how great you are. (at least this the most optimistic way of describing it) When you hit one, it means that you get to change things up.
This means that you need to re-evaluate your path, decide what changes to make, and (more importantly) decide if your original goal is still the right thing for you. Your priorities will change. What better time to evaluate your destination than when you are at a forced slow down?
After you fight through a plateau you start making that sweet, sweet progress towards your goal again.
This feels oh so good but has a slightly different struggle than the first time you felt that amazing feeling of progress. This time you are much closer to your goal so thinking about how far you have left might be a motivator instead of a downer.
You ready for the down side? You are much closer to your goal so fitness progress will be slower. You are already pretty fit now and instead of making mental and physical changes, you are only making physical ones.
That means instead of getting better at the technique and building muscle you are only building muscle. This means slightly slower progress and is why we have mid and short term goals to go with our long term ones. Please, set good goals when you are Setting Goals.
The Final Stretch
The final stretch is more about your mentality then anything else.
You can choose to keep chugging along like The Little Engine That Could or you can dig deep find a little extra energy and finish strong.
When you get Fit as a Fighter you finish strong. You learn to finish strong in your workouts, in you programs, and you make the last one the best one.
We can phone it in at the end or we can surprise ourselves. You should read What You're Looking For to learn what Fit as a Fighter is.
Completing a goal is a time for celebration. A time for rest. And most importantly a time to set or find the next goal.
Your rest time is important. It is how you recharge your batteries. How you recharge is going to be up to you though.
Your rest time could be spent reading a book, playing a video game, or hiking a mountain. Do not let anyone tell you that you are resting wrong, but do pay attention to how feel during and afterward.
I often recover when I am active, like when I am rock climbing or snowboarding. But, eventually I have to recover from these things too because my body can't handle it anymore.
Picking Your Next Goal
The next goal is important, even if it is to still be at X level of fitness on January 1st of next year.
A goal does not have to mean that you are making crazy gains in the gym, dojo, or at work. They should just be something that takes some time and gives you something to do or work towards.
Pick the next goal, set the next destination, and continue to expand your boundaries.
A Quick Summary
The Fitness Journey, whether you are getting Fit as a Fighter or Hiking a specific mountain, is going to be very similar across the board.
- You have to Get Started
- You will make Initial Progress
- A Plateau will be hit
- Progress will come Again
- The Final Stretch will leave you with a choice
- And you will Achieve Your Goal
Knowing how this journey will play out will help maintain the motivation to actually make the changes you set out to make.