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  • Writer's pictureJackie

5 Fitness Attitudes that Carry You Far

—In the Spirit of Fitness—


What we say to ourselves colors the little reality we live in at that moment. For decades, self messages like “you are what you think about” have become commonplace. Personally, I beg to differ. I’ve known plenty of people who tell themselves they’re horrible people when clearly they’re NOT. However, how we frame our experiences powerfully influences outcomes—even physical health. Studies on optimism versus pessimism, for example, show that optimists enjoy better health and lower death rates. And although thoughts might not conjure a completely different reality in and of themselves, they CAN feed habits, motivation, choices, and ultimately results.


The following 5 fitness “attitudes” (or call them thoughts) have long helped me and many others to make choices that support health on days we’d much rather do otherwise. They’re rooted in multiple sources—much reading, words from mentors, collaboration with clients, and years of obsession with...oops! I mean... contemplation on the topic.


1. “I deserve—and it’s essential—to take time to care for myself.”

How often do you put off exercise, long shops for healthy foods, sufficient sleep, or other health-supporting activities because someone or something else “must” come first? In the moment, it makes sense. In the long run, it depletes a person. I’ve done (and do) this, too, at times. But one of the best things I ever did was to start exercising young, most days of the week, & rarely ever stop. Looking back, how did I manage that? Now I see that I HAD to, instinctively knowing that exercise boosts mental as well as physical health. So, I found nonnegotiable ways to make workouts happen. For example, 20 years ago, at a time when friends thought it vaguely irresponsible, I baby-gated MYSELF onto a treadmill and let my toddlers wrestle and rant at each other across the room. (Picture a tiny, powder-puff WWF bout.) Interval training was new, and I’d freeze them in their tracks with a mom-holler after every sprint. (To this day, by the way, no one in my family takes my yelling very seriously.) Tempted to “helicopter” but needing sanity, I inadvertently discovered that backing off in this way made me a better mom & made those little people a teeny bit more self-sufficient. This is all a long way of saying what’s trite but true: We can’t help someone else with their oxygen mask til ours are firmly affixed.


2. “I don’t need anyone’s approval to be fit.”

Human nature makes people judge a book by its cover. From the time we look at storybooks, we’re told what various “archetypes” look like. A genius looks like this. A criminal looks like that. And an athlete (or substitute “fit person” here) looks like... what? Over the years, I’ve worked with LOTS of fit people of all ages, shapes, abilities, and sizes. Many insisted they were NOT in shape because of a number on the scale, because they didn’t run 5ks, because they had to drop some physical activity they identified with 10 years ago, basically just believing they didn’t live up to the stereotype. Bottom line: When we’re demanding that we need to fit some fitness mold, we’re basically seeking approval from outside of ourselves. Your quality of life, or lack thereof, will inform you of your fitness level. Not some societal character on the cover of a proverbial book.


3. “Today, I’ll do today. Tomorrow, I’ll do tomorrow.”

Yes, this echoes the mantra of “anonymous” support groups: One Day at a Time. My parents each belonged to one (for alcohol and for overeating), and scrawled in my mom’s distinctive, loopy handwriting, that saying hung pinned to our fridge for years. Maybe it seeped into my subconscious over MANY YEARS, and I adapted it as mentioned above. Maintaining fitness can feel arduous and overwhelming. (”Oh, really?” you say.) Just doing what needs to be done today—cooking, food tracking, meditation, exercise, whatever YOU pursue—is ENOUGH. Think about tomorrow tomorrow. (Oh boy, now we’re walking a line with Scarlett O’Hara. Don’t go there!) The todays WILL add up and make all the difference.


4. “When I know I’m shortchanging myself, I can’t un-know it.”

Isn’t it funny how most of us can clearly and often really adeptly give advice to others? (Hey, I’ve made a small career of it!) We’re not hypocrites doing so. We can TRULY observe and kindly inform our kids, partners, and close friends when we see them slipping up in a big way. We do it for their good. But do we do the same for our OWN good? Probably sometimes. ALL of us overlook uncomfortable truths about ourselves, though. In terms of fitness, maybe we make excuses for why we can’t possibly sleep more or, if food tracking, maybe we chronically underreport what we’re eating. It takes some courage, but confronting these little realities usually launches us forward. When we can’t pretend not to see them any more, we have to find a way through.


5. “Health isn’t a race. God willing, I have a lifetime to master these habits.”

While it’s really important to assign dates to goals (because otherwise procrastination or starts-and-stops will derail us), maintaining good health doesn’t end like a single race we’ve run. We reach a goal, aka master a habit, and move on to another or to one that’s lapsed. The process is probably more like spinning plates. Endlessly. That sounds tiring, and we all know it can be, which is why it helps to acknowledge that, if we’re so blessed, we’ll have a lifetime to keep working on good habits, even if it means starting over & starting over again as needed. The caveat, here, of course, are the words, “God willing.” This puts a little pressure back into the process, doesn’t it? Framing it this way, makes us see that today arrives as a privilege, a gift with no future guarantee. I know that, given my druthers, faced with the fact that one day maybe I won’t be able to conquer a workout quite the way I currently can, hey, I’ll do it TODAY. This attitude has strung together many of my “todays.”


May YOUR today bring health, happiness, and ease in body & spirit.



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