Thursday, August 6, 2009

Living the active lifestyle

The difference between being on a training program for a specific goal and living an active lifestyle is huge. The first doesn't exactly entail long term results, while the second does. Sure, being on a specific program for a while as a part of your active lifestyle will probably guarantee that you will keep the desired gains for a long time and build on them, too. But what happens to all the people who get on a program, then get off it, then try program A, DVD B or group class X, then get off them and try yet something else that works "while they were doing it"? They don't learn the active lifestyle, they don't adopt lasting nutrition habits and ultimately end up fighting the same 20 lbs they fought before.

I believe, deep in my heart and mind, that all the people who don't have an active lifestyle wish they could do it, because it would ultimately lead to a healthier and happier life and a more enjoyable physique. Yet, few manage to find the thing that ''motivates'' them to hang in there for the long haul.

There are a number of reasons why these people find themselves in the midst of the frustrating reality of A) not being in shape and B) being tired of trying things, somehow getting in shape and then going back to how they used to be. Here are some I often see:

1. Annie wants to lose weight. She starts a diet and starts a training program. She hits it hard in the gym and undereats. Initially, she drops some weight, then the loss stalls. She slides into old habits since she needs nutrients to recover and she doesn't know how to eat outside her diet, so she just eats the old satisfying way. She gives up, knowing she can do the diet again and train again to lose those pounds whenever she wants.

2. Lilly is eating very healthy. She eats all sorts of organic foods, makes her own meals and avoids alcohol. She hikes and bikes and hits the gym three times a week. Initially she dropped some weight, but now she feels heavy and doesn't understand what went wrong.

3. Peter works out religiously in April and May, getting ready for the summer. He eats low carb and prides himself in his visible abs. Come summer, parties start and he slides into the chip and dip habit, with a few beers to boot. Pretty soon, no abs are seen and Peter resorts to the fact he'll have to wait for his Adonis physique to reemerge next spring, when he'll do what he always does and knows it always works.

Fat loss aside, stopping exercise can affect your sense of well being, ability to concentrate on mental tasks, it can bring back all sorts of desk job related back pain. The only secret to seeing a lifelong lasting change in your physique is to make exercise a part of your daily life and live the active lifestyle. Think of all the hours you spend sitting, driving, standing, waiting, think of all the hours our great grandparents spent walking, working the land, hauling water, hunting, gathering...think of how many of the modern day diseases can be improved with exercise, and realize that living an active lifestyle is actually the only way out of the yo yo drama of spring flush diets, miracle pills and useless home shopping network gadgets.

Suppose you didn't grow up in the family of gym teachers? How the $%#%$@# do you adopt an active lifestyle? With your job, your kids, your responsibilities? How do you stick to you 7 am spin class when all sorts of things come up?

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Choose an activity that you will enjoy. You might enjoy the process of spin class, or you might enjoy the end result. Either way, get enjoyment out of it. You dislike the indoors? Then hike twice a week. You may take your car to a trail and do an hour boulder climb, or take friends on a fun walk with a picnic at the end.

2. Do something active every day. It could be planned, like a personal trainer session, or unplanned, like a walk in the park, or a trip to the mall, or walking the dog for an hour, but logging in some sort of activity that has the purpose and end result of getting you to feel like you enjoyed moving your body is key.

3. Understand how calories and activity work hand in hand. Sometimes you will start an active lifestyle, thinking that you can exercise and eat "healthy'' and drop a few pounds, but then end up frustrated that your plan is not working for you. Healthy food is great, but it still contains calories. Make sure you are aware of how much you expend through activity and how much you can afford to eat, if you want to keep dropping fat. Also know that even the most effective exercise eventually burns less calories, since you become efficient at it, so keep challenging yourself with new things to do.

4. Find active buddies. Socializing in an active way can burn a ton of energy especially compared to long dinner and late drinks in bars with people you love. Take up bowling or golfing, biking or hiking, and see how many of your friends will support you.

5. Use exercise as personal time to celebrate the body and its ability to learn, practice and develop. Think how lucky you are to be healthy to move and call those feelings every time you exercise. Using the gym or the track as some kind of dirty money to pay for all the food you regret eating is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. The active lifestyle is about eating well, moving with pleasure and being able to maintain an enjoyment so you can improve your quality of life and influence the lives of others.

6. Be flexible. If you cannot make your gym class because you kid had to come home from school, run around the house 100 times, do a bodyweight circuit or walk the dog. Think of skipping dessert. Make up for that time tomorrow, but don't give up on your active lifestyle, because life happened. Things will always happen, you just need to learn ways to deal with them.

So what is your secret, how do you stay active?

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