It’s January again and it seems every time this year we usually find ourselves making a New Years Resolution.   We are focused on getting in better shape, losing weight, getting “Shredded”, or any other myriad of  things we can say to describe our fitness goals.  Many of us, and believe me you aren’t alone if this is you, usually stick with it a month or two and slowly taper back to our normal lifestyle.

I’ve been involved in the fitness industry for over 20 years and have worked for multiple gyms in the Madison area.  There are lots of great gyms around this town.  We are actually lucky to live in a such a healthy place.  Madison embraces a healthy lifestyle.  It shows in our selections of restaurants, our outdoor activities, and definitely in the number of fitness centers we have.  But with all that, it can still be really difficult to live the healthy lifestyle that we know we should.  So today I want to talk about some of the ways we can make healthy a “Habit”

My use of the word habit is very important.  Most of the time, when you hear people talking about fitness or their diet, you’ll here the words “I HAVE TO”.  Usually the tone used when saying those words is anything but excited.  If you are not excited about something, you will never stick with it long enough to make it a habit.  Force of habit is defined as— the tendency for something done very frequently to become automatic.  Once something becomes habit, we no longer have to think about doing it, we just do it.  Being healthy needs to be a habit, not a “HAVE TO”.

Full confession here, I don’t come from the best genetics!  My family genetics definitely err on the side of gaining weight easily.  I was overweight as a teen and young adult.  I can admit it and I don’t say it with any sort of shame or judgment on myself or anyone else.  But when I look back, I wish I would have made “health” a habit earlier in my life.    Being that I keep myself in better health now, people sometimes like to tell me that “I don’t know what it is like to be overweight or to not be able to stop eating”.  I know exactly what it is like.  As if somehow being in better shape means I like Pizza or Burgers any less than the next person, Ha Ha.  I do have to work hard to keep myself in the shape I am in now.   I do make sacrifices with some of the foods I would love to eat.  But now it has become mostly habit.  Sounds difficult, right?  My goal is to try and make people realize we can make small changes that become habit, small changes become big changes, big changes lead to a better, healthier life.

Exercise:  In all honesty I’d love to say that Diet is the first step, as I personally believe it to be the most important.  But Diet is usually the last thing people want to address and again, I get it.  Taking food away from me is like trying to take food away from a hungry dog, you’ll probably get bitten!  So let’s start easier.  Let’s start with exercise.  You don’t enjoy exercise you say?  There in lies the first problem.  If you don’t enjoy something, you’ll never make it a habit.  So try to find something you LIKE to do.  Part of the thinking, in creating the facility that we did at Twisted Fitness, was to provide different options of “Fitness”.  Personally, BJJ or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, was the thing that finally made me turn my life around.  I was never a good student in school and always lacked focus for everything I did.  BJJ was the one thing I found that finally held my attention.  Lucky for me it was also a physical activity.  The more obsessed I got with BJJ, the more I wanted to focus on being healthier.  I wanted to perform well on the mats, so I knew I had to improve my over all lifestyle.  That little motivation for me was the catalyst to a better, healthier life.  Now, I’m not saying that BJJ is the cure for everyone.  I’d love to think that it is, but I also understand there are other paths to follow.  At Twisted Fitness Gym, along from an absolutely outstanding Workout Facility, we offer BJJ, Muay Thai Kickboxing, and CrossFit.  The goal being, offer several things that might help people find a new hobby which will hopefully become a habit.  Maybe none of those are for you, and that is OK. Maybe you like biking, rowing, swimming, hiking, dancing, etc.  These are all things which require physical activity, but are also enjoyable.  Being healthy isn’t a “one size fits all” mindset.  We need to find things we enjoy that involve us being active, that’s step one.

Convenience:  Convenience is also a big factor.  When people ho have never worked out before ask about choosing a gym, once of the things I always suggest is pick something between work and home.  That way you will stop at the gym on the way home from work.  Let’s face it, we get home and there are a million other things to do besides work out.  And if you click on the TV and grab something to snack on, you might as well forget about your workout.   I know that I get real comfortable in a hurry and can easily find reasons to NOT go back out to the gym.  So stop after work, get your workout done, then go home to have the rest of your evening to unwind, eat, relax, and prepare for tomorrow.

Set realistic goals for yourself:  Sometimes people start and they say I want to lose 50 lbs.  Great, but let’s start with 5, then maybe 10, etc etc.  Small, realistic goals do a few things for us.  First, we can usually hit those smaller goals a little quicker.  Losing 50 lbs might take you a year, whereas 5 lbs may take only a few weeks.  So we are able to hit goals more frequently and also make adjustments accordingly.  We all have a reward system in our brains and it is hungry to accomplish goals, so we should feed it regularly.  The constant motivation of achieving and setting new goals keeps us involved and helps us stay on track.

Rest and Recover:  You can and should take days off.  Sleep and rest are important to your over all health and for your muscles to recover from the work you are doing.  Also sometimes we just feel like our body is a little exhausted or overwhelmed.  It is important to listen to your body, but we also need to push our selves, so it can be a bit of a balancing act.   Diet is also going to fall into this category.  Our body is a machine and needs fuel.  People will often compare it to putting premium gas in a car.  While this is true, much of the American diet today wouldn’t even qualify as “Gas”.  It’d be more like putting mud into your gas tank and expecting your car to start.  I’m definitely not going to preach any diet here.  Eating right involves different things for everyone and while there is some consensus on what might and might not work for us, we are all different.  The one thing I’ll say about diet is do the research and pick something you think you can stick with.

In the end, find the things that suit you.  What are your goals, your wants, your needs, etc.  Workouts can differ, diets can differ, but we all need to be healthy in the long term.  It’s not just about living a long life, but an enjoyable one.

Mark Plavcan is a Black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a Level 1 CrossFit trainer and a former ACE group fitness instructor.   He has over 20 years in the Health and fitness industry and has a passion for helping people find their health through Martial Arts and Fitness.