If you follow me on any form of social media, you probably know that for the most part, my life is an open book. It started with talking about my drinking and recovery. Then I began to acknowledge my depression. And finally, I started to talk about my anxiety.
But none of these topics have prompted as many questions as my most recent passion: CrossFit and leading a healthy lifestyle. I’m sure this is because physical fitness is something most people dabble with to an extent, whereas drinking, depression and anxiety are less general.
Anyway, the questions. I probably get a few messages per week from friends, acquaintances and sometimes even strangers (thanks, hashtags) asking how I got started on this journey, how I stay motivated, what I eat, etc. But the most common question is simply “But how do you do it?” I’m always slightly taken aback by this outreach, sort of like, “Are you sure? You meant to message me? You want fitness advice from me?”
Don’t get me wrong — I’m flattered when people reach out. It’s just that I often don’t feel qualified enough to give advice to people. I know what works for me, but I can’t claim that will work for everyone. Still, I like to give it my best shot rather than tell people I can’t help them.
So, for those who have reached out or others who may be curious, here’s my best advice.
- Don’t be afraid to try a variety of programs until you find what works for you. For me, that’s CrossFit. But guess what? It took me two years and lots of bouncing around to figure that out. I tried working out at home. I tried just running. I tried going to classes at the Y. I tried following a strict diet. None of it worked for me. But more than that, I always DREADED it. It all felt like an obligation rather than a passion. Then came CrossFit. While I will admit that I don’t always want to go to class, I can say that I do want to about 85 percent of the time. And that’s 85 percent more than I ever wanted to do anything else fitness-related. Just like in other aspects of life, different styles of working out work for different people. Some people like the solidarity of running on their own, while others thrive in an intense group setting. It’s all about not being afraid to try different things.
- Take the “before” photos and measurements. Trust me, I know that when you’re unhappy with yourself, the last thing you want to do is stand in front of a mirror in your underwear and document that moment, or pull out a tape measure and write down that number you’ve been avoiding. But down the road, you will thank yourself. The truth is that it’s hard to see the changes in your body day-to-day. It may feel like you’re not making any progress, which will make you want to stop putting in the effort. But when you have something to look back at and compare, your mind will be blown.
- Throw out the damn scale. Seriously. I don’t think we even have one in our home anymore. The only time I get on the scale now is when I go to the doctor, or about once every two months out of curiosity (if I haven’t been to the doctor in that timeframe). At the beginning of this journey, I weighed myself a few times a week. But it became an obsession quickly. There was something addicting about seeing that number drop, and with my history, I knew better than to keep fixating on it. In all honesty, on the occasion that I do get on the scale, I usually regret it. The number sticks in my head, but the truth is that it isn’t about the number. It’s about how you feel. So save yourself the headache and just stop with the scale, or at least set boundaries around how often to check in.
- Have some faith in yourself and don’t worry about seeming inexperienced. I’ll be the first to admit I still struggle with this. I still doubt my abilities. But I am worlds ahead of where I was when I started CrossFit. Trusting yourself completely comes with time. But still, you need a foundation on which to build that trust. And for me, that meant not worrying about being inexperienced. I knew that in order to get better, I had to ask questions. I had to mess up and do things the wrong way in order to learn them the right way. I had to be willing to look a little stupid, which is one of my biggest fears. But if I hadn’t been willing to do any of that, I never would have been able to realize my full potential. I’d have held myself back. You have to have faith in yourself before anyone else’s faith in you matters.
- And finally, the answer to the “How do you do it” question. It’s more simple than people like. You ready? The answer is you just do it. Literally. You do it when you feel shitty and sluggish. You do it when you’re tired. You do it when you’re having an off day. You do it when you don’t want to do it. You just wake up and you do it. Obviously you don’t have to do it 365 days a year. But you do need to know when to call yourself on your bullshit. You need to know the difference between when you’re just making excuses and when you really, truly need a break. The truth is that it’s not always going to be a walk in the park. But it is always going to be worth it.
Like I said, maybe these are just the things that have worked for me. But I think for anyone who has a personality similar to mine, these points will resonate. Truly though, there’s no right or wrong way to get in shape and improve your life. You just have to find that thing that lights a spark in you, that excites you, that makes you want to be better and stronger and tougher. Because I promise, that’s the thing that will work.