Fitness is more than the gym. Health is more than eating salad. The perception seems to have evolved that you need to be a regular gym-goer and eat salad everyday in order to be earn your stripes as being ‘fit’ and ‘healthy’; this is simply not the case.
We, as a society, seem to have disregarded the ‘outdoor’ aspect of fitness, yet a lot of professional sports are played outside; football; athletics; tennis; baseball… to name just a few! You see very few posts and pictures on social media of people exercising outside. Instead, you are inundated with numerous photos and videos of how to manipulate a variety of gym equipment to hit the glutes. Not a day goes by on Instagram that I see somebody doing some obscure exercise on a machine that they swear is the latest way to build a booty, yet the pictures and videos I personally enjoy the most are people demonstrating strength, passion, accomplishment and enjoyment. I search for the pictures of people achieving PRs; I watch videos on repeat of people doing some impressive calisthenics and it makes me smile to see an action shot of an outdoor bike ride or half marathon race. To me, these posts demonstrate fitness. These people ARE fit; to progress and to achieve these successes, hard work and regular practice at these movements must have happened.
I, personally, love lifting weights, much more than I love running, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate that the same level of passion and work has gone into achieving running accomplishments as I demonstreate in the gym. You don’t HAVE to lift weights if you don’t enjoy it. You don’t HAVE to go into a gym if you don’t like the atmosphere.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think everyone should exercise in some form! Not only is it good for your general health and wellness, but it also demonstrates you value yourself and your wellbeing.
If you don’t enjoy the gym, find something you DO enjoy – my sister goes rock climbing and does yoga; my brother plays tennis and goes to the gym; my Mum goes to the gym, she gardens, walks the dog and foam rolls/stretches and my Dad goes for a 3pm swim and walks the dog. All of these activities are just that…active, in other words, exercise. Each member of my family has found what exercise they enjoy. Do they all go to the gym? No. But why should they?
Your primary goals when exercising should be to find something you both enjoy and can make part of your lifestyle, permanently. Fleeting ‘bursts’ of going to the gym twice a day for a week is not ‘fitness’; making the effort to go for a lunchtime walk everyday is a much bigger leap into being ‘fit’. Too many people think extremes are needed to achieve results. If you currently do nothing, aim to do something. Focus on small adaptations; permanent adaptations. If you love having thick cream in your coffee, don’t vow to get rid of it. If you love a 3pm sweet snack, don’t stop. Instead, focus on other parts of your daily routine that you ‘just do’, but don’t provide you any pleasure. If you sit all evening in front of the television because of habit, rather than because you want to watch a particular show, change that! If you have cream in your coffee because your boyfriend does and not because YOU really enjoy having cream, then change it. Experiment. You will not get it right first time. Or even the fourth time. But, you didn’t walk the first time you tried either.
Being healthy and fit is SO much more than the occasional sweaty selfie. It is a permanent investment in yourself; a commitment and a promise that you are going to make changes that improve your quality of life; for now and for later. Not everyone can be passionate about fitness. Not everyone can view fitness as one of their greatest pleasures. It doesn’t make you unhealthy, or unfit. What does make you unhealthy and unfit is going through your day mindlessly eating and mindlessly remaining inactive. Choose to eat something healthy. Choose to eat something unhealthy. Choose to exercise. Choose to relax. Being more pro-active and demonstrating metacognition IS a step towards being healthier. No-one can ever completely embody health and fitness, so don’t even try. Perfection is not the goal. Getting the best quality of life for yourself is.