A number of you have written me about how to approach the days when you are not working out, when you are not following a meal plan and when you are not scheduled to participate in a physical fitness event of some kind. We tend to call these “off days” or “rest days,” some people even have an “off-season” and I tend to think these names are pretty appropriate. I think the major idea or concept we who engage in and live the fitness lifestyle must have is that there is never a time when our body is doing nothing. The only time your body will even come close to doing nothing is when you are dead and then it is still doing something; it’s called decaying. But on a serious note, we have to get it in our minds that living fit is more than a gym workout or a series of well planned meals, it truly is a lifestyle. Media and marketing do a great job of selling products but they have also given many people an unrealistic idea of what being fit is, what it looks like and how to live fit.
Popular mindsets to avoid
So often I talk to people who engage in body building and physique competitions. These are sports that I personally love and respect. These sports are characterized by a huge number of amazing athletes and they have always had a firm place in my heart as some of my favorite personalities and friends. However, most people (but rarely the athletes) tend to place the wrong label on these people and incorrectly think of these people as the ultimate symbol of the fitness lifestyle. In the majority of cases (there are exceptions) I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. I lived that lifestyle for the majority of my life so I know what I’m talking about.
In my experience the majority of these people only engage in fitness lifestyle endeavors around the clock when it’s time to get ready for a competition. The rest of the year many of them won’t train for weeks at a time, they eat anything they please and engage in binging, literally gorging themselves with food then turn around and initiate extreme dieting practices in order to prepare for their show. In addition to this, most of the people I’ve known in these sports (including myself at one time) only exercise and eat “clean” at various times throughout the year during the years that they are competing.
Over time, the great fluctuations in body weight, the steroid abuse and constantly changing dietary practices take their toll. Once their lives have moved past the competition phase, most of them tend to become recreational exercisers and end up having the same physical fitness shortcomings that most other people face. While sport is a tremendous way to stay in shape and enjoy our lives we have to ensure that we create lifestyle characteristics that will remain once our days of competition have passed. I struggled with this for years and can tell you that this is a tremendous challenge for the former physique athlete.
Get To Know Yourself It’s Going to be a Long Ride
Living fit (for life) is about you becoming aware of your body’s fitness shortcomings and designing a lifestyle that will improve them and maintain them at a high level. It’s really that simple. It’s not a get ripped-up for summer then gain all the weight back in the fall type of lifestyle. Sure there are times when a fit person may decide to take some aspect of fitness and improve it considerably in order to enjoy the benefits of it, but the thing to remember is there is no stopping point.
This is a key concept that is so simple, but so absent from most people’s lives. The fitness lifestyle never stops. It doesn’t end when you quit playing a sport, it doesn’t end when you get married and it doesn’t end when you start your own business. There is no stopping point for those who live fit. Sure we all have setbacks, struggles and challenges to overcome; but we overcome them. We know that these setbacks, struggles and challenges will be overcome while living in the fitness lifestyle. In other words we do not modify our lifestyle in order to deal with issues, we deal with issues while maintaining our lifestyle. As simplistic as this sounds, I’ve found that this is perhaps the hardest aspect of living fit that most people deal with.
Of course there are meals, days and times when we do things that are contrary to our fitness beliefs and lives. But they are the exception, not the rule. These things are allowed into our lives as a break from the norm, as brief events that add to our lives in other ways and are worth the cost.
Some examples may be:
Eating cake with your child on their birthday – there are so many positives that come from this
Having some drinks with an old friend who needs to talk – friends are priceless, this won’t hurt you
Enjoying cultural events by partaking in its food and drinks – many things in life can’t be replaced
So you get the picture. Living fit is not about sporting six-pack abs year-round (but can include this) until you get married then adopting the beer belly. Living fit is about a lifetime of choices and actions that lead to your physical betterment as your life goes on from phase-to-phase and relationship-to-relationship. The greatest thing I love about the fitness lifestyle is that it is never too late to begin. This is an amazing concept that has changed the lives of millions, myself included, and it can do the same for you if you so choose.
I challenge you to take a long look at many of the lifestyle choices you now make and consider ways to incorporate a healthier fitness mindset into those things in order to create and build a lifestyle that will provide you with a great level of fitness from this moment forward. You can do it! Living fit is a choice and that choice is yours.
Here’s to you!
Jared Meacham, MS.Ed., CSCS.
Jared is a fitness entrepreneur, personal trainer and recognized