To run a mile you have to take one step. And then another. And then another. There’s no secret formula behind it.
I’ve seen so many people try out new things that are good for their health or happiness, but after a few weeks or months, they give up. They make excuses about how it takes too much time or effort, but the problem was that they started out with such lofty goals that they became frustrated when they realized that they couldn’t reach them.
They also don’t realize that getting healthier is a lifestyle change. It’s not a fad that only lasts a few months. You have to be willing to transform the way you think about yourself, about food and about exercise. Here are some minimalist tips on how to get healthier for good.
1. Start small. It’s easy to build up big ambitious dreams like “One day I’ll weigh __ pounds” but to achieve such goals, everyone has to start somewhere. If you want to start running or working out, don’t push it until you’re sweaty and out of breath, otherwise you’ll come to dislike it. Just take a short and slow jog around the block. If you can manage to do this almost every day, then you can look to increasing your speed or distance and challenging yourself.
Last week, I ran my first half marathon. I joined thousands of other people as we all lined up, put our headphones in and pounded the pavement. Everybody I passed or passed me had their own story of how they got into running and then to this race. But no matter who they were or where they’re from, it all started with a single step.
2. Don’t let your first reaction be to buy stuff. Otherwise that yoga mat, exercise ball or ab crunch machine and so on will only end up gathering dust. And it’ll always be there to remind you of your failure. Only buy when you have developed a regular habit of working out and when you are absolutely sure that you need it. And even then, you can get a lot out of not using any equipment at all. Gyms are overrated – the machines only facilitate muscle movement that are basically unnatural. If you don’t like running, take up swimming or yoga or pilates or tai chi or cycling or parkour or a martial arts or anything else that gets you moving naturally.
3. Get to know your body. Read ‘The Four Hour Body‘ by Tim Ferriss. Learn about what you can do to really get fit. If you want to lose weight, instead of signing up for a gym membership straight away, cut down on one thing you know you shouldn’t be eating as much. You cannotjust ‘burn it off later’. At the same time believe it or not, you do not have to eat like a rabbit. Google “Paleo Diet”. If there’s one thing you should be learning about, it’s how your body works. You wouldn’t use junk to fuel a Ferrari. Your body is even more intricate and irreplaceable. Get educated.
4. Realize that “skinny” and “healthy” are not the same thing. Don’t overdo it. Being thin does not necessarily mean that you are healthy. If you lose too much weight, you’ll become fatigued easily, your immune system weakens and your overall health is much worse than being slightly overweight. I’ve known people to get completely mixed up between being “thin” with being “slim as a result of sport” or for the purposes of sport. Rather than concern yourself about your weight or fat percentage or whatever, choose an exercise that you enjoy doing, and do it for the fulfilment of challenging yourself and you will naturally lose weight along the way.
I run because it makes me feel alive. This half marathon was a milestone for me, and I learned a lot. In some ways it’s more challenging than a whole marathon because if you want to do it in good time you have to run at a fast pace for 13.1 miles, almost like a prolonged sprint – and every couple of pounds you carry counts. But I would never trade away my weight if it means that I’ll end up skinny, frail and unhealthy. I don’t do it because I want to lose weight, I do it because I firmly believe that I was born to run.
5. Love thyself. It’s not always going to be easy. Sometimes you just want to devour some cake – but that’s okay. Just ask yourself – am I happy? This is very important. AM I HAPPY? Because if you’re trying to lose weight because you think it’ll look good or that people are judging you or for any other reason apart from for your own wellbeing then you should just stop now and come back when you have learned to love yourself for who you already are. You shouldn’t feel guilty about eating a cookie for crying out loud. If it makes you happy, then just eat it! Alternatively, if too much bad food would stop you from reaching more fulfilling dreams (like running a marathon, go mountain climbing etc.) and make you unhappy, then don’t. There’s always a middle way.
Ultimately, nobody is judging you as much as you think. People have better things to worry about than the number that pops up on a pair of scales when you stand on them. Life is too short to be constantly distressed by something so trivial. As long as you’re happy with yourself, your natural self-confidence will shine through – you’ll be more optimistic and much more likely to wear a smile on your face. And that is so much more beautiful.