It’s often been said by the most successful people in the world, “When you do what you love, it’s not work.” Throughout the course of history, the people who do what they love can put passion into their work and commit themselves to excellence. When their goals are achieved, fame and fortune will soon follow.
The same thing can be said for getting fit and committing to some sort of exercise. Master what you love doing, and that 6-pack stomach will follow. When people try to force themselves into fitness, whether through diet or a training program, often times they will fall short of their goals or give up completely. Why does this happen?
I attribute it to people doing something they do not like doing. They want something so bad that they are not willing to accept the fact that the means they are using to get there is not right for them. Why do people who hate cabbage try to lose weight on a cabbage diet? Why people who hate running run to try to get into shape?
A perfect example of this is me and running. I have not been to a gym for about 8 months. My gym membership expired, it was too far away with gas prices soaring, and I ended up not renewing it. I figured, “Hey, I’ll just run myself into shape.” I have a treadmill and miles of open road around my house, so why not?
Obviously that did not work. As much as I enjoyed the feeling of a successful run, which wasn’t that far anyway, I could never get into a groove to run everyday. About 2-3 times a week was the best I could do, while most of the time I never ran. I just hated it so much that I spent more time trying to convince myself to run than I did actual running. Once I got to running, I didn’t mind it too much, but good luck getting me to do it again tomorrow.
This week, I joined a new gym that was built very close to my house. I have gotten so out of shape and lazy this year, I yearned for something to get me sweating again. I yearned for the endorphin rush that happens after an hour-long workout. I couldn’t take it anymore. I just had to sign up. So I did. And it was the best thing I did all year.
The second I touched a weight in the gym, I remembered, “Oh yeah, this is what I love to do.” I’m no bodybuilder by any means, but when it comes to fitness, weightlifting is one thing I am good at and know how to do, and one thing I really love to do. I was excited and looked forward to my next day in the gym working out a different muscle group.
Imagine if you were excited and looked forward to going into work everyday. How fast would you be promoted?
Face it. You’re not going to get in shape doing something you absolutely hate doing. 90% of people don’t have the willpower to stick to and master something they do not want to do, let alone something that would take 6 months to do like losing 30 pounds.
Do you love lifting weights like I do? Then get back in the gym. Do you love boxing? You better join a boxing club and find a sparring partner. Did you love riding your bike as a kid? Get a new bicycle. Love to run but feet hurt too much and you can’t run that far? Get yourself some top quality running shoes and learn the techniques that allow top runners to attain the “runner’s high.”
Be honest. You’re not bullshitting anyone but yourself. You won’t be able to “lie” yourself into fitness.
The goal is to find something you love and to dedicate yourself to it 100%. When you begin to master an activity, you find more pleasure in it. You begin to look forward to challenging yourself to beat your previous records and times. When your skills are on par for the challenge ahead, you begin to find your flow.
People fail at exercise and fitness plans because the challenges put before them are too great for their skill set. No matter what it is, if our skills are not up to par, we feel anxiety and dread – which are the worst emotions to have when trying to commit to any activity.
This whole post is inspired by this book, Finding Flow, which I recommend to anyone that can read. It doesn’t necessarily teach you how to do anything, but you will begin to understand the fundamental reasons why people love or hate what they are doing. This article simply focuses on the flow of exercise and fitness.
Don’t get me wrong. You should set goals. But most fitness goals are along the lines of “Lose X amount pounds.” Does that goal have anything to do with what you love doing? Not exactly. While that kind of goal can work if you fall in love with the idea of losing weight, wouldn’t it be better if your goal were something like; Run a 5 minute mile or Squat 350 pounds? Attain the goals of what you love to do and a better body will follow.
But don’t always focus on the ultimate goal. Each day is a challenge that you have to focus on. When a boxer is aiming for being a champion in his weight division, he has to move up the ranks. When he is fighting those exhibition fights, is that boxer focusing on knocking out the guy he’s fighting with, or is his focusing on that championship fight months away? If his mind isn’t 100% on the fight at hand, he’s going to suckered in the face and lose.
When rock climbers summit a huge rock wall, they don’t have the option of thinking about anything else. Their mind must be 100% focused on the climb, otherwise they can fall to their deaths. Nothing else matters but the goal in front of them.
What if you want to win the Boston Marathon? You have to complete many successive goals, which would be smaller marathons or runs. You don’t focus on what your time could be in Boston. You focus on beating your time today!
There are only two reasons why doing what you love can become mundane and unbearable. You have either mastered the skill, or your skills are not up to par.
If you love biking but are only semi-experienced, then trying to cycle the Tour de France will be an overwhelming challenge. In that case, your skills are not ready for the challenge. Start with something smaller than you actually have a chance at accomplishing.
On the other hand, you may have mastered something you love to do and the challenge has become too easy. In this case, you have to increase the challenge. Have you been doing the same workout routing in the gym for 6 months. It’s no wonder you’ve become numb to it. With weightlifting, there are a thousand and one exercises you can come up with or read about. There are always new challenges. Tired of cycling the same 12 mile route around your neighborhood? Switch it up and create new routes with new scenery and new challenges.
The whole point of this is article is to get you out there and to do something you love. When your heart is in something, you want to do it. When you are forcing yourself to do something, then you half the battle is just getting started, and the rest of the time you’re not enjoying it, making it more likely that you will give up.