Saturday, May 24, 2008

1 Dear Corey......


A reader recently wrote me an email asking what I specifically did to lose the weight, eat healthfully, & reach my goals. I thought other people find my answer useful, so I've decided to share my general advice here, of course removing any personal references & information to protect the reader's privacy/anonymity:

I think that the biggest challenge for most people is not the physical aspect of doing the activity (i.e., exercise) itself, but is rather the challenge of maintaining the motivation & mental stamina to keep going. Simply put, the reason why I'm still motivated to keep running for months (& years) into the activity has as much to do with my attitude & the way I view running as an activity (i.e., my reasons for why I run, its place as a top priority in my life, & my strong attachment to the sport as something than more than just exercise, etc.), as the importance of formulating/starting with a good, solid blueprint for one's fitness & nutrition goals, & developing strategies to deal with the "emotional"/behavioral aspects of the training & weight-loss processes.

The best way to learn more about this (without me having to write a long, detailed explanation ;-) ) is to start at the beginning of my running blog ( & work your way forward. There you'll find not only details about the actual exercise & nutrition plans I used to lose weight & get into shape (i.e., this info can be accessed by going to the "goals" & "tips" categories in the "Looking for Something?" section on the right sidebar of the blog), but also a lot of useful information addressing the mental aspects of the sport & the training process, (& other surrounding issues, like the challenges of maintaining a healthy, balanced perspective on weight management & body image, etc.).

In order to be successful in the long-term, it's really important to plan out not just the physical steps for getting into shape & losing weight, but also develop coping strategies & guidelines to help you through the emotional challenges as well. I've found that it's really important to be gentle with yourself & also to be fluid in your approach to your goals. Your goals & plans are an ever-changing work-in-progress, & so, will be better used as a general roadmap versus a set of hard-&-fast rules for change.

I certainly understand the challenges of striving to balance a busy schedule with fitness imperatives. It's not just about finding life balance like it's some Zen discovery mission. ;-) It's also about nuts & bolts type of stuff: Setting quantifiable, realistic expectations & goals for oneself, time & stress management, performance metrics & accountability, & about finding & reinforcing one's priorities. It's less about trying to being perfect & more about trying to make progress. I think the key is focusing on what you can change & what IS working for you versus focusing on what you can't change or ISN'T working for you. I know this might seem glib or simplistic, but at the same time, this approach really DOES work.

Regarding the use of external motivators to jumpstart your fitness program: Having used the same tactic myself & looking back upon the experience, I would definitely say that this is only the tip of the "motivation iceberg." There's nothing wrong with doing this, as it'll certainly start you off on your path to fitness, but that in order to stay motivated long-term, you'll need to find deeper reasons to run. For most of us, that self-discovery is not something that happens instantaneously; it's a long-term process, & will most likely happen naturally as you run. As I trained, I rediscovered the runner in me, and it was no longer just about fitness (or weight loss), but became something more.

That's one of the fantastic things about running -- It totally changed my attitude. Now, I'm not saying that I'm suddenly perfect, because you'll see a lot of grouchy posts & missed runs in there too!, but rather, it's that I didn't let the grouchiness & low moments stop me; I learned how to become bigger than the emotions, & not let them waylay or distract me -- I still felt & expressed the emotions, but instead of getting bogged down by them or letting them get the best of me, I gave them voice & then just let them pass over me. (Bad moods are like inclement weather; just wait a while & they'll pass!) Basically, I was determined not to let a little crankiness get in the way of running. ;-)

My biggest & profoundest piece of advice I can offer is to focus on what you have going for you & what you CAN do, because THAT will motivate you to get out the door, & carry you through your training.

It's also really important for you to be honest with yourself about how you think & feel as you move through the training/running process. Having a outlet (i.e., a personal journal or blog!) for this expression can be highly useful towards this end. It'll be easier to hear those internal voices when they are brought to the fore, & once you're conscious of them, you can evaluate their usefulness, & use the exercise as a tool to determine your priorities & further shape your own outlook.

As you've probably already gathered, I likewise talk very honestly about my own personal experiences & challenges on my blog -- I write as my imperfect self, & how I am in the moment, & not about what I wish I was. I try to take it day by day, and step by step. I write about long-term & short-term goals, but find it most useful to focus on the goals of the near & immediate future (i.e., tomorrow or next week, as opposed to 5 years down the road). I find that this particular approach helps me stay focused on the "doing" & "being" part of running, versus getting stuck in the "reflection" & "analysis" parts of the equation. ;-) All parts are important, but the blog helps me table the "reflection" part, & keep it in perspective with the other parts of the process.

You might likewise find it helpful to chronicle your own journey back to becoming a runner, either in a blog or a written diary/journal of your own.

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