I was not prepared for the body realities that faced me when I decided to get fit. I had this crazy notion that I would exercise, eat right, and someday soon, I would be my ideal weight and look great in a bikini. Boy, was I wrong.
I didn’t weigh more than 150 lbs when I started this journey to a better life, but I did have a pretty good sized “muffin top”, as one would imagine I would with a 5’2” stature. I didn’t feel bad about myself, but I did know that I would if I didn’t get control of it soon, it would be even harder to get motivated and make the changes that were necessary.
The problem I found with many plans, diets, exercise regimens, blogs and books that talk about fitness is that they have lots of images of perfect bodies. These bodies are the result of a lot of time and hard work that many of us just don’t have, are not willing to commit to, or simply do not have the genetic blessings that that make this quest easier. We see ourselves committing to living well, eating healthy, getting exercise, and hoping that these changes will cultivate a better life.
If you manage follow this plan, it’s no small thing. It’s huge! You will lose weight naturally and you will look and feel so much better. But there may be some surprises as well as disappointments along the way. It’s important to know what to expect so we don’t get discouraged and lose momentum.
The reality is that most of us just want to feel good and look healthy. Sure, if the level of work we are willing to put into it gives us sculpted arms and toned legs and a six pack of abs, we’ll take it! But, most of us don’t need to be in muscle building competitions or run a marathon. We have a desire to feel stronger and healthier in order to live a happier, longer life. Don’t let unrealistic goals get in your way of simply starting and making positive changes.
Be aware of the body realities that might surprise you when you begin a plan for being fit. You can move through them and on to a stronger, more toned physique as you continue to be good to yourself. These are not meant to discourage, but rather to inform so you don’t let them sideline your hard-earned gains.
Body Reality #1- Fitness Is How You Feel, Not Just How You Look
If you’ve been eating healthy food and exercising, treating your body and mind well, you can feel fit just by doing these things. You may not have 6-pack abs, thighs of steel, or biceps you long for (yet?), but you’re living well and living fit. Revel in it and be proud of yourself.
On the flip side of that, you can have a toned physique and still not be able to hike a trail or run up a flight of stairs without being winded. Your body may not be prepared to meet the challenges put before you every day; from your stressful job, financial obligations, and family demands, but boy do you look great in a tank top!
Fitness relies on your state of mind above all else. What you think determines whether or not you will eat well, exercise, de-stress, practice wellness, and pursue strength. If you feel compelled to meet these challenges, you will, and in return, you can feel better, you can feel stronger. You can be fit.
Body Reality #2- Your Body Can Get Worse Before It Gets Better
If you are ready to dive in and maximize your protein intake, cut out sugar, eat clean, and invest many intense hours in a strength training regimen, congratulations! You will look great in a matter of months!
If you simply want to live a healthy life and choose the right foods and fit physical activity and exercise into your daily routine so you feel better and live longer, radical body changes may take a long time.
The reality is, you will notice changes to your body fairly quickly with a healthy plan to get fit. Embrace these changes and know that you have made the right choice. Just understand that the results advertised with pictures for weight loss and muscle building supplements will likely not be achieved quickly or at all with the level of work you have time and intention to commit to.
Don’t let this discourage you. Changing your life is important and can only benefit you. You will look better, and feel better.
But if you’re a woman, your breasts will get smaller and your belly fat will take a long time to replace with that slim belly you long for. And even though men have an easier time losing weight and getting trim, they will face their own challenges removing those love handles and reducing their belly roll.
If you have a lot of weight to lose, you will struggle with loose skin and remaining fat that lies just under the skin. Although I didn’t weigh over 150 lbs when I began, I have had three children and weighed nearly 165 lbs with one of those pregnancies. It takes longer for skin to fit to your body than it does to lose the weight that supports it. This is just a frustrating reality that can take a while to work through.
Even though I can now see a four pack on my torso, I can still see the remnants of a bit of extra skin after 2 years of regular exercise and healthy diet. I used to let it frustrate me, but I notice the changes as they occur and know that it has gotten better over time.
One solution to this problem is to be sure your weight loss plan doesn’t just include cardio and calorie deprivation. It must include weight training for muscle growth as well. Not WWF level muscle growth, but strength training that will keep your body strong and your body composition at a healthy rate between muscle, water, and fat weight as well as bone density. On top of the advantages to keeping your skin looking toned, it’s important to remember that building muscle helps you to keep fat weight off. Muscle burns more calories and is your partner in keeping fit.
Body Reality #3- Unless You’re 20, You’re Not 20 Anymore!
In our 20’s, it’s much easier to move our bodies than it is when we are 40 or more years old. In our 30’s we begin to see changes to our endurance and our ability to stretch and push our bodies while we exercise. It’s important to recognize these limitations.
I call them limitations, however, we can work through them if we are mindful of them and are patient with our bodies, learning to modify when necessary.
As I moved through my fitness journey, I ultimately landed on body-weight and strength training exercise routines. At the beginning of this regimen, I overestimated my agility level and while doing an exercise on an exercise ball with hand weights, I pulled, and possibly tore, a muscle in the area of my ribs. It was incredibly painful and took about six weeks to heal. It was very painful for almost the entire healing period.
I was determined not to let this impede my progress, so I had to modify my routine and find other exercises that would still work the same areas, while not interfering with the healing that was taking place. After injury, know that just because the pain has lessened, that doesn’t mean it’s time to jump right back in and push that area the same way. Your body is still healing beyond the pain. Be patient with your body. It is a really amazing machine. Treat it well.
It’s important not to ignore these signals our bodies give us and look for safe ways to either rest or continue with modification. If you injure yourself doing a bodyweight or strength training routine, you may need to modify to walking for a period of healing instead. If you injure your leg, you may want to find a routine that works your upper body for a period of time while letting your lower body rest and recover.
While allowing our bodies time to heal, it’s also important to learn from our mistakes and injuries and make sure we don’t make them again. Knowing our limitations and slowly working our bodies to move beyond them can be very rewarding. However, pushing ourselves in unhealthy ways without recognizing our limitations and the dangers of ignoring the signals our bodies give can sideline our goals indefinitely if we’re not cautious.
Prevent injury by implementing the following into your plan:
- See a sports physician to determine if your goals are in line with your abilities. If they are not, learn from them the levels at which you can begin a healthy exercise regimen.
- Hire a fitness trainer to keep you on target without pushing your body to unrealistic limits.
- Be sure to warm up and stretch it out. Before exercising, be sure to take the time to warm up. Stretching and light cardio prepare your body for the challenges you are going to ask it to accept over the next half hour or more. Finish your workout with some stretching to increase blood flow to your muscles and prepare them for their repair process.
- Muscle rest and repair= Muscle building. The process of repair that your muscles go through when you are letting them rest after exercise is the process of building muscle. Be sure you are getting the proper amount of protein, water, and rest to aid your muscles in their repair process.
- Remember your age. Begin your fitness journey by taking on a reasonable workout. If you are physically challenged or over 40, or have been cautioned by your doctor, begin with a short, low impact workout to train your mind and your body to form the habit of exercising. After a couple of weeks add 10 minutes to your workout and/or increase your reps or intensity to expand your limitations safely. Modify as you get stronger.
As you move forward with your fitness goals, keep these body realities in mind so you can be prepared and alter your process accordingly. Don’t let these challenges discourage you, just be aware they may exist and modify as necessary.
Have you noticed other body realities on your fitness journey that surprised you? Let us know about them in the comments below. If you moved through them, let us know how you did it. Your input is valuable to all of us!
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