Several times I drove past the LA|Fitness center about 1/4-mile from my home. I kept thinking, “Oh, those poor suckers in there killing themselves lifting weights and running on treadmills.” What I failed to realize that I was killing myself with poor eating habits and a lack of exercise.
I succinctly remember the conversation with my endocrinologist. “You have metabolic syndrome and are on the verge of type 2 diabetes. If you don’t start exercising, eating properly and lose weight, you will be on insulin within the next few months.” As I was driving home from that appointment, I was thinking of my dad and how he ducks into the bathroom to inject his insulin. And I remembered talking to my dad’s heart surgeon a few years back as my dad was being wheeled into the operating room for a quintuple heart by-pass. “You have your dad’s genes and if you don’t lose weight, I’ll be seeing you in here in a few years.”
As I approached LA|Fitness on the way home from my doctor appointment, I felt a type of gravitational pull. I made the left turn into the parking lot and went inside. I didn’t see unhappy people. I saw people working hard and sweating. I saw people having fun conversations and smiling. I saw people in a zone on the treadmill while listing to their mp3 players. I realized that I was the one who was miserable and they were the happy ones.
I signed up, hired a personal trainer and came back the next day ready to begin my new fitness program.
The first workout sucked. I was told to warm up on the treadmill at 3.5 mph at a 3.5% incline for 7 minutes. My lungs burned, my heart was pounding out of my chest and I felt like I was running a marathon. I then completed about eight upper- and lower-body exercises using either dumbbells or machines. And I did some walking lunges. I was exhausted… but exhilarated at the same time. My body was waking up.
I woke up the next moring barely able to walk or move my arms. But, I went back the next day, and the next, and the next… And I’ve been working out six days a week every since March 17, 2010. Even when I have been on vacation or had to travel, I’ve worked out in the hotel or have taken exercise equipment with me. Now, I RUN 3+ miles on the treadmill in about 30 minutes or less.
I am a completely different person today. The physiological and psychological changes have been extraordinary. (Read more on my About page).
Now I am a certified personal trainer, helping others accomplish their health and fitness goals. During my studies, I’ve learned that people have different motivations for starting a fitness program. They either do it because they “want” to do it (intrinsic motivation) or because they “need” to do it (extrinsic) motivation. My initial motivation was extrinsic because my doctor told me I needed to get healthy, or else… Today, my motivation for going to the gym is intrinsic because I thoroughly enjoy my workouts and hanging around with other positive, healthy people. There is a premise that we are the average of the people we hang around with most. I’m surrounding myself with people that are healthy, positive and make me feel good about myself.
There are also phases that people go through when they change their beliefs and behaviours toward health. Precontemplation, the first phase in the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, is when people don’t see the benefits of adopting a healthy lifestyle. Those are the people that probably aren’t reading this post right now. The next phase is Contemplation where people start thinking they need to do something to get healthy. You might be in this phase right now. The third phase, Preparation, is when a person starts looking at gym memberships, researching better nutrition, or even taking short walks or doing some type of activity. Action is the phase where a person actually engages in physical activity on a regular basis for about six months. The final phase is Maintenance. People don’t reach this phase until they have been successful in implementing a regular fitness program for at least six months. There is always a chance of relapse, where a person can either lose motivation, suffer an injury or medical condition, have a change in their schedule, or be affected by another situation. People can move in and out of these phases.
Determine what your level of motivation and commitment are. Are you concerned about your health like I was? If you are healthy, is there an life event like an upcoming wedding or vacation? Are you training to run a 10K or participate in a triathlon?
Part II of this post will look at implementing a fitness program and avoiding burnout.
Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.