Monday, July 8, 2013

What we put in is what we get out

The title seems like a very reasonable idea, doesn't it?

The work we put into something is reflective of what we're going to get out of it. If we study hard, we'll likely do well on a test. If we train consistently, we can conquer a race. If we listen to our doctor's advice on recovery from surgery, we can come back stronger than before.

Then why do so many people believe there's a "magic" solution? Why do we try to take shortcuts for quicker gratification? Why do we lament when it seems another person is thinner or more physically gifted than us rather than realizing that maybe they work hard to look or perform the way that they do? And that maybe, just maybe, if we put our all into it, we can achieve something similar?

My family and I visited a church today and the message rang out loud and clear. The main message was that what we put into ourselves is what we'll get out of it, whether it be faith and devotion to God, a healthy diet, exercise, proper guidance to our kids so they grow up to be productive adults, devotion to our marriage so it thrives...the list goes on and on. It's not "magic" because magic doesn't truly exist. Hard, consistent work is what produces real results.

See where I'm going with this? Of course I'm going to apply the concept to a healthy, fit lifestyle.

Do you wish you had a body like her? Do you wish you could finish a marathon like he can? Do you wish you had her strength? Do you wish you could be healthy enough to stop taking all your medications?

How do you think fit people get to where they are? Because they put a lot of hard work into their bodies.

That's the "magic." Every single day, every single week, every single month, all year long, they are working hard. The more consistent they become, the easier that hard work becomes. It becomes their norm, their lifestyle. They aren't trying to find a shortcut or an easy way to find the results. They are putting in the necessary work.

Does this automatically mean they are fanatical about the work? Not at all. You know that becoming obsessive about anything will lead to negative results, and exercise is no exception. I'm sure a lot of people probably think I run everyday, or workout in the gym everyday, for hours upon hours per week. That's not at all the case. I run/bike 3-4 times per week, strength train 2-3 times per week, teach core classes twice per week, and am really trying to get in a swim workout every week. That translates to probably 8 hours per week just depending on what my run/bike mileage is. That's roughly 4-5% of the 168 hours we have in one week.

Puts it into perspective, doesn't it? Hard work for 8 hours per week to be a healthy person. It's working, because I'm happy with my fitness level. So what I'm putting into it is giving me what I want in return. Add in healthy choices in the kitchen and the results are even better.

Whenever I discuss exercise I always have to discuss the importance of REST. What does our body give us if we completely fatigue it over and over again without proper recovery and rest time? It's going to rebel. It will give us what we've put into it, but in a negative way. So part of the hard work is allowing ourselves to rest. I build rest days into every single week. If I didn't, all my hard work would have negative return over time. I never strength or circuit train two days in a row, as my muscles need time to rebuild. I run easy, swim or rest between hard run workouts. You will never find me working out 7 days per week. I'm giving my body rest, so it's giving me strength for my next workout in return.

Hard work also means knowing that you must be consistent. I think this is probably one of the biggest things people struggle with. It's easy to take a week or two off. Or to take a break during travel or vacation. Pretty soon that week will turn into a month, and then we need to start over. I'll allow myself an "easy" week here and there if I've been training especially hard for a race, or I'm sick. But when my body is ready, I get right back into the hard work.

Just remember...even though there is no "magic" involved, that there are no shortcuts, doesn't mean it all has to be overwhelming. Schedule in a few hours per week to focus on your health, every single week, including rest. Over time it will become a habit, the hard work will become the norm, and your body will respond by giving back the fitness level you've always wanted.