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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Getting in Shape (To Get in Shape)

Robert Manni - Sunday, April 21, 2019

If you watch as many films as I do, you know that if a movie sucks during the first twenty minutes, it’s not going to improve. The same can be said for most important aspects and experiences of our lives life. You need to get things off on the right foot, and that means being prepared to nail the beginning...of anything. This also goes for fitness and wellness and diet. If you want to run a marathon, you’ll need to log two long, grueling twenty-mile practice runs prior to running the big race. And if you are smart, you don’t take on a major challenge until you’ve put down a solid, unbreakable foundation based on proper preparation. 

Whether it’s New Year’s or the first day of spring, people get that urge and inspiration to get into shape. It might be the New Year marking new beginnings or a precursor to upcoming bikini season. But too often aspiring athletes try to cram a six-month program into a few weeks and fail. They jump in with great enthusiasm, maybe going to the gym and getting crushed in a few hardcore spin or body sculpting classes before petering out. It’s often the case of trying to do too much in too little time. People get injured, discouraged, distracted and far too often give up before ever getting to the meat of their program.

They start out like the hare and speed ahead, but many soon realize it’s better to be the tortoise than the hare.  Fast starts are not necessarily effective unless you are prepared. But, to get prepared you need to get prepared to get prepared. Huh?

I mean you need to start slow and stay steady until you are in good enough shape to dial things up. But patience is a rare commodity, especially in the big city. Lots of us start a new workout program, go nuts for a week or two before finding a plethora of potential excuses to break the routine. Sometimes our bodies and minds are simply not ready for the trauma we put ourselves through. As a result we often get injured when going balls out before our bodies are ready for the pain. The truth is, the older we get and the longer breaks we take in maintaining a diet or fitness regimes, the rate of failure increases. And the more we fail, the longer and harder it gets to succeed. It’s a vicious cycle that many of us fall victim to, even people with the best of intentions.

Ever notice how many injuries occur during spring training and the pre-season? Even the best athletes can jump back into their training program too quickly and as a result experience a pulled hammy or another nagging, lingering injury. The key is to get and stay in shape, but often that’s easier said than done in our busy lives. So if you find yourself falling off your wellness program, take it easy on yourself when getting back in the saddle. That means starting slow and steady until you’re ready to take off and soar again.

There are ways of developing and sticking to a successful diet and fitness program without all the unnecessary drama and anxiety. I call it “getting into shape to get in shape”. You may ask, “WTF, Guy’s Guy?” Hold it right there, amigo. As always, there is a method to my madness. I have been able to maintain my fitness level, fighting weight while staying in relatively good shape for the past three decades using this concept effectively. Like anyone, there may be reasons that at times I might fall out of my usual workout routine and diet travel, job pressures, family and relationship issues, stress or just plain laziness. But, I always pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. I know what it takes to win. I take my time and rebuild my routines and programs up slowly. That means not going nuts for a few weeks, maybe injuring myself and giving up. Getting into top physical and mental shape takes time. Take it from your Guy’s Guy. If you have defined an achievable objective and play the long game, everything can work out just as you planned.

If you take the time to grow into your program, in a month to six weeks you will start feeling it, increasing your strength and endurance and getting into your zone. If you can do this, soon you’ll be working out like a demon and compounding your results. If you start out slow and steady and stay consistent, you can succeed. But you have to start somewhere, and be mindful about your approach. That’s where I come in and put together an easy-to-follow plan for “getting into shape to get in shape”.

Drum roll, please…

1. Step on the scale – People want to lose weight, but have a hard time stepping on and looking down to face the ugly truth. Checking in before getting started is highly recommended. It provides a level set and way to measure your progress. And no worries. The starting weight just a number that gives you an idea where you are and what will be necessary to reshape and lose those unwanted pounds. After you are done wincing at your poundage, determine how much weight you want to lose. Then step off the scale, take a deep breath and exhale. You’ve just completed step one of “getting into shape to get in shape”.

2. Have an objective – Maybe you want to lose twenty pounds or reduce a few inches around your waist or a dress size or two. You may want to thither your goal to a running time or activities hitting a spin class three times or working out five times a week. That’s fine. Simply decide what it is you want to accomplish and write it down. And make sure you give yourself enough time to achieve your goals. 

3. Develop a realistic plan of attack – You need a plan. Make your plan fit who you are and allow yourself adequate time to ramp up. Your plan needs to be realistic. You know your tendencies, so be honest with yourself. If you don’t like running in cold weather, don’t think you’ll hop out of bed at 5am when it’s sixteen degrees outside. Maybe you’re more suited to an indoor session on the elliptical trainer indoors where you can gradually increase your workout time. Or you may want to schedule a few sessions with a trainer to help you ramp up. Make sure your trainer is aware of your goals and you’re getting into shape to get in shape so he doesn’t crush you during the first few sessions. A good trainer will adapt to where you currently are in your training, even if it’s at the very beginning.

Before getting started review the plan and ask yourself if it feels right for you. Is it realistic to think you’re going to change long ingrained habits like curbing your drinking if you a like to or need to entertain for business. Club soda will only take you so far. Find a way to balance out the indulgence with your workout, fitness, and diet goals or it may drive you crazy to the point where you quit. Find a balance and keep things fun. Working out can be pleasure or torture. It’s up to you.

4. Start slow – This is the key to getting into shape to get in shape. You want to ramp up slow and steady so you don’t pull a muscle or get discouraged when the results are not obvious as quickly as you hoped. Play the long game, amigo. As long you are doing something, you are improving. Even if you have work pressures you can find time for yourself. Just don’t expect to get in shape overnight or in a few weeks. Real gains come slowly, but they last. Once you’ve been doing the program for a month or so and feeling in the zone, take it things a notch and then conquer this new level. Then up it goes again. Throughout the start up process do the little things to augment your workouts and diet. Take the stairs. Walk. Stretch. Meditate. Visualize. Do pushups in your apartment. Buy a chin up bar. Use it.

5. Be consistent – Like the tortoise, you want to maintain a steady pace. I read that it takes thirty-six days to create a habit. This makes sense. I began doing Dan Millman’s Peaceful Warrior Four Minute Workout over a year ago. It’s a series of fifteen movements designed to loosen up the skeletal system, unleash chi, and expand our flexibility. It works. I began the program doing the prescribed three reps for each movement for thirty-six days. Then I added and added as I felt myself getting stronger, leaner and more flexible. I only missed three days during the past year after coming down with a nasty flu. Now I complete between fifteen and twenty-five reps per movement, and I love it. I never consider missing a day unless I am physically unable to perform. This routine has become part of me and I have never felt better in my life. How many Boomers do you know that feel this way?

Final thoughts. Consider keeping a journal. It helps quantify your progress and provides a psychic reward when you review it and see your gains. Whatever happens, even if you fall off the wagon for a few days, don’t give up. If you do slip up, don’t make excuses. You’re only fooling yourself. Get back on the horse and start over if that’s what it takes. It’s the little things that make the difference between success and failure. So, buckle up, start slowly and have fun. You are creating a better version of you and that’s a good thing, amigo!

If you’re feeling me you’ll learn that my slow, but steady approach to fitness works. The most critical part of any workout and diet program comes at the beginning and you handle it correctly you can make and keep a major shift in your lifestyle. Start out slow and don’t overindulge before your body and mind are ready to enter the zone. Fitness, diet and wellness are never achieved through shortcuts. The most important time for anything in life is the beginning. And that’s why I suggest “getting into shape to get in shape”. 

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