Four Steps To Getting In Shape (Even If Fitness Makes You Miserable)
Lots of people have resolved to get in shape with the coming of the new year. Right now, these people still feel energetic and full of purpose, but by February they will be full only of pancakes, because three-fourths of these resolutions end in disaster. These people are all of us, at least metaphorically, because we all make outlandish goals we know we'll never live up to. Here are some ways to keep your goals somewhat more inlandish, and doomed to only a moderate amount of disaster.
Note: My fitness qualifications are that I make snide observations about fitness on the Internet, and I can bench twice someone else's weight, if that person is a baby.
1.) Develop real goals.
Wait, don't leave! Normally, anybody blathering at you about goals is doing so onstage at a high school auditorium, and is awful. In fact, if you read the above link, you know that these self-help people are actually responsible for increased failure. "Visualize the stars! Believe in a rainbow, and achieve a puppy!" they tell you. "Yeah!!" you say, and you do those things, and nothing happens, because all that stuff did was make you feel like you did something, which you didn't.
When it comes to fitness, actual goals are important, and they shouldn't even be impressive goals. The only way you're losing 50 pounds by summer is if a shark eats your leg, and you're only adding 30 pounds of muscle mass if you do so from atop a spacefaring unicorn, from within the realm of complete fiction.
Unless you have completely broken genetics, this stuff takes forever. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try; it just means that instead of wanting to do a billion sit-ups, you should want to do like five more sit-ups than you can do right now, and then five more than that. And years from now, once that additive routine has become part of how you live, you'll look in the mirror and call the police because there's some hot stranger in your bathroom.
2.) Use the right gear.
In January, gyms fill up with middle-aged guys in loafers and jeans who awkwardly writhe around in the machines like they are tired of having functional spines. Their lack of the right attire isn't what prevents their resolutions from moving forward, but it certainly contributes, and it makes it clear that they haven't really though any of this through.
If you want to make this process as easy as it can be, wear some clothes that make you somewhat more flexible than a Robocop. Buy shoes designed to make your feet less miserable. Heck, even just bringing music makes a big difference—if it really helps you to listen to speed metal about pallid Nordic vampires, then the gym's Top 40 music about cute boys is unlikely to motivate you.
3.) Work out with friends. Or without friends.
There are two wholly different personalities when it comes to working out. Some people really do need that other lifting buddy urging them to push the burn and feel the envelope, or they'll give up and go home and die from tacos and leave behind a weak and unattractive corpse. For other guys, having someone blurt platitudes at you just makes the whole thing feel like a cheesy '80s montage, and you almost expect an old man to lock you in a freezer and demand that you punch some meat, non-metaphorically.
If you're new to this, try it both ways. If friends motivate you, then awesome. If they just distract you, then crank up Norseferatu Vampocalypse and go into your own little world, because you're allowed to pursue this as a personal, meditative kind of experience, too.
4.) Track your progress.
If you find this whole thing grueling and fruitless, well, this is the step that reduces the gruel and increases the fruit. It's what makes those rational goals from #1 actually matter. Nobody goes from President of Stamp Collecting to Captain Humungous in one year, but people absolutely do make that transition in ten. The thing is, nobody at all would manage that goal if weights were labeled with question marks, and machines had sliders that went from "nothing" to "a lot."
Sometimes you'll feel like you haven't accomplishing anything from week to week, and hey, sometimes you don't. But you do make progress from month to month or year to year, and tracking it lets you quantify that. You're not going to wake up tomorrow morning and have your mom say, "Oh my, it's the Norse god Thor! What have you done with my son?" But you will wake up slightly more capable at something than you are today, which is what this is all about in the first place.
Do you work out?