What is required to get in shape?

Something got me thinking about fitness and lifestyle changes today. I was trying to pin down what exactly is the difference between individuals who are able to make significant lifestyle changes and/or transformations from those who continue doing the same self-destructive things that led them to their current state of affairs. So I started thinking about what is required to get fit.

Time? Absolutely

But, you may notice that there is not necessarily a correlation between how much free time someone has and how fit they are. In fact, I might even argue that I normally see the opposite effect (Time on the hands goes wasted – or certainly not to fitness pursuits). For example, I work more in a typical week than 98-99% of my patients do, and yet I manage to find time for my workouts. My days start early and end late, but I still get one (often two) workouts fit in to a typical day. There’s gotta be something more . . .

Resources? Not really

There is no cost associated with walking/running or even lifting most weights. I could find a thousand things in my house that I could use for hand weights. Instead, I chose to invest in a set of weights with barbells and dumbbells with a much-used weight bench for the sake of convenience. I stock it with weight plates that I buy on sale from the cheapest place in town I could find. Despite what some people might contend, just because I’m a physician, I am by no means living in the lap of luxury (my student loans alone could buy many a house – Uncle Sam has a chokehold on my finances).

Energy? Definitely

Having the energy to get through an exercise regimen is highly dependent on nutrition and a decent foundation of well-being (i.e. no major medical complications). But plenty of people have all sorts of energy to work every day, go out on nights and /or weekends, travel, etc. and they still don’t manage to exercise. So what is the all-important factor?

Discipline! This requirement is perhaps the most important.

Any of the other requirements can be directed to other ventures and not get one any closer to their goals if not used properly. For example, how many stories have you heard about treadmills sitting in someone’s basement holding laundry? The resources are available and there is likely time and energy to do at least some exercise, but it never gets attention. I’ve encountered hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who have ridiculous amounts of time on their hands and plenty of desire to “get in shape”, but give up on a fitness plan for any number of reasons. This phenomenon happens predictably every year.

For me, in order to make the changes that I have made so far, I had to set aside the comfortable alternative of “doing nothing”. Believe me, it’s far easier to sleep in every morning, grab quick and fatty foods, eat to my content, and sit around watching TV when I come home from work. I absolutely wish that life were that easy. Unfortunately, there’s no substitution for a disciplined approach to fitness.

I’ve learned what it takes to keep my body in a healthy state. After letting it go for a few years, I’ve had to work harder to get back on track, but now I’ve learned some lifelong habits that will maintain a good level of fitness.

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