Oh girl (or dude), this is a loaded blog post! I've been sitting on this one for a while because I know it will trigger some of you. How do I know? Because it triggers me! Every other post, ad, and commercial you see this time of year is about weight loss and fitness. The media does crazy things this time of year (it's December, in case you're reading this later). So to go against the grain, I'm doing things a little differently. Together with our friends at The Fitness Room Halifax, I'm sharing how to win at your fitness goals this year through self-love, rather than self-loathing.
Have I piqued your interest yet?
The Promises We Make
Two years ago I published a post on my own body dysmorphia. It was a stretch because we usually talk about feel-good things like travel & food here on the blog. But, to my surprise, the response was overwhelming. Lot's of you battle those same demons. Since then, I've held true (mostly) to my word. I've been kinder to myself and others. I catch and stop myself when I'm being critical and I've taken a more gentle approach to fitness. But, I've also encountered some seriously confronting obstacles.
What Does Fitness Have to do with Travel?
What does fitness have to do with Travel? Fair question. Dashboard Living takes us all over the world and gives us some incredible opportunities. In the last couple of years along we've:
- Climbed the highest mountain in Maine
- Repelled into a 40ft Cenote and then climbed out a rope ladder
- Tackled a 4-day portage trip through Algonquin Park
- Gone white water rafting
- Trained and competed in a 14km open water swim
- Climbed the Coba ruins in Mexico
- Explored the Red Rock canyons of Nevada
- Stayed in an off-the-grid cabin
- Gone dog-sledding, Icelandic horseback riding, and hot air ballooning
You get the point. We get to go on a lot of different adventures. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be in a position to experience all of this as a normal part of our lives. One of our core values as a couple and as individuals is to prioritize experiences and relationships with other people over things. And that means saying “yes” to new things, as often as we can.
The Sky's Not The Limit, My Heart Rate Is
When I boil it down, what I'm after is simple. I want to be able to do anything I want to do. Period. End of subject.
If I get invited to climb Kilimanjaro, I want to be ready.
When I'm standing at a trailhead, I want to think “yep, no problem” rather than “Oh shit, I don't know if I can do that”.
I want to be capable of walking around a new city for 12 hours without worrying about my swollen, grinding knees.
And, probably most importantly, I want the energy to be able to go after everything I want in life.
As a former fitness professional, I know that none of that is possible without a substantial level of fitness. What I'm after isn't just a basic level of fitness. I want more than to simply be free from disease. My goal for this next decade is to achieve the balance I've not yet experienced.
How to Win at your Fitness Goals
I've been super fit. But it came at a cost (read about that here). Now I'm working to navigate this new idea of achieving that kind of fitness without destructive habits that have always accompanied it for me. That starts with a strategy. We're really good at creating frameworks and blueprints for the other areas of our lives but when it comes to our wellness, it's not always the case. So, after that long runway, here's our framework for how to win at your fitness goals this year.
Find Your Team
Surround yourself with people who lift you up, cheer you on and push you to be better. For me, a big part of my “team” is Brent. His willingness to try new things and do the things many won't (for my benefit as much as his own) are everything. Let's be honest, signing up for a year of group fitness isn't something that a lot of men would be interested in doing. But Brent, well he's one of a kind. Here's my team:
- Brent (as mentioned)
- The Fitness Room Halifax (where we just signed on for a year) and the entire team of trainers there.
- My Mom. Yep. My mom has the highest level of commitment of anyone I know. She's also my favorite hiking buddy and she's always on board for any new fitness challenge. She's also a massive source of motivation in my life.
- My friends. Always up for an adventure and ready to get on board with any big goals I set for myself. Especially those friends who know when to push or call me on my shit when needed.
Start Where You Are
This was one of my biggest obstacles! As a former fitness pro, competitive athlete and gym owner it's difficult for me to “start again”. When you remember how it felt to be very fit, it's difficult to let go of the guilt of having let yourself get unfit. If I'm honest, there's also a level of embarrassment that sneaks in every now and then.
Sure, in a new city, plenty of people at the gym don't know that I was once a very different person. But I know. And sometimes that sucks. I don't tell you this to throw myself a pity party. I tell you this in case YOU have any of those feelings. If you do, here's the reality.
We can either continue to let our egos stop us from moving forward. Or, we can be humble, swallow our pride, and just get started from where we are now.
I'm choosing the latter.
Layer Your Accountability
It's not enough to set goals. Building in multiple layers of accountability is my best piece of advice to you when it comes to reaching your goals.
Most people make the grave mistake of setting goals…and that's it. In order to be successful, your goals need a plan. They need measure. They need layers of accountability and they need benchmarks.
Let me show you some of the ways we layered accountability into our plan for the next year:
- Working out together. Having a workout buddy sounds cliche, but it works! We hold each other to a higher standard and, frankly, it's easier to pull yourself out of bed at 5am if your partner is doing the same thing.
- Joining a boutique studio that requires sign-ups. The Fitness Room Halifax is ONLY classes and they ONLY take 15 people in each. That means you have to sign up in advance and they require 3 hours to cancel a class. This is key for us. Manners are important to us and we would never sign up and not show up for a class. Beyond that, the check-in process at the gym is brilliant. Your name & picture pop up on a screen and you check yourself in when you arrive. So, if you don't show – your fellow classmates know about it.
- Tieing it to “work”. We dove headfirst into a collaboration with The Fitness Room! Yes, it's a great fit and something that will add a lot of value to you, our readers. But it also creates another layer of accountability because now it's not just “us” – it's for work! The same principle works if you join a challenge or enlist your friends.
- Sharing it with you. The fourth layer of accountability is YOU. We share our lives and we're passionate about leading by example. When we tell you we're going to do something, we do it.
Things happen. Learning to be flexible is one of the most valuable lessons I can share. To be clear, there's a difference between being flexible and making excuses for yourself. But one of the worst things you can do is have an “all or nothing” mentality. Our routine right now is to attend 3-5 classes each week. That's the goal.
But, as I'm writing this post it's Christmas time. The class schedule is reduced and our own schedule is a little crazy. That means we can't get to a class for the entire week. Does that mean we're not working out?
We've scheduled walks, we're doing short burst workouts at home and we've got our snowshoes ready to roll on a moment's notice. Being active is what's important.
Set Benchmarks for Success
This is one that I feel really strongly about. As someone with a history of over-training and obsessive fitness behaviors, I choose to be very careful about what and how I measure my progress.
If you know that you also have a tendancy to be obsessive, I urge you to take this section very seriously. The last thing I want is to see myself (or you, friend) slip back into unhealthy patterns of self-hate.
To that end, I'm not measuring success with before & after's or by the number on the scale. Instead, I'm choosing to use different metrics to measure progress. Here's what success looks like for me:
- 3-5 classes per week (if I show up, I win. If not, I adjust my schedule)
- Earning the 100 class card. This is a really cool program that The Fitness Room Halifax has, once you achieve 100 classes, you're part of the club!
- Fitness Level. I've got a set of fitness benchmarks that I use. 75 burpees for time, 1km run time, Push-Ups for time, and several others. If my numbers are improving, I'm winning.
- Recovery Time. This is more subjective but YOU know your body. I ask myself:
- Is it getting easier for me to get up this hill (Young street to the coffee shop)?
- Am I able to maintain higher effort levels in spin class?
- How do my favorite hikes feel? What are my times?
- Injury Management. Finally, I measure my progress based on how my pre-existing injuries are feeling. Are my knees and back feeling pretty good? If yes, I know I'm moving in the right direction. If no, something in my plan has to change (usually my menu).
Act From a Place of Self-Care
Repeat after me. Done is better than perfect. There are too many variables in life to expect every single workout to be amazing. Just showing up is a service to yourself.
This year, for me, is the year of self-care. That starts by setting up some boundaries around what I will and will not accept from myself and others. Things I won't accept:
- Breaking promises to myself
- Excuse making & storytelling that doesn't serve me
- Criticism of myself or others
- Negative self-talk and “mean girl” chatter in my own head
Push Yourself & Try New Things
Pushing yourself to try new things is so underrated and SO valuable. Brent and I both feel very strongly that trying new things, every single year is critical to maintaining an open mind.
Humans are creatures of habit and we gravitate towards what we already know which is often the thing that keeps us stuck. You have the ability to change that narritive by challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone!
If you want your fitness plan to translate into function in real life (like we do), you can't do the same thing every week. Trying new movements, new classes, and new activities keep things fresh, yes. But it also keeps you progressing forward and (my personal favorite) identifies areas that need work.
I hope my framework of how to win at your fitness goals this year is helpful to you. Wherever you are in your own journey, just keep going. Find the right people. Find the right place. And go make it happen.
* This post was sponsored by The Fitness Room Halifax; however all opinions are our own. Please know I’m not an expert, but I have found the above to be helpful to me. Please consult a professional before starting any fitness regime.