Most people will tell you in order to get ahead you must never look back. Forget about that for a second.
Can you truly remember the last time you were crushing it on all health fronts?
Perhaps you were cooking all of your meals at home, using fresh, wholesome ingredients. You confidently eschewed soda and sugary drinks and opted for crisp, clean water every time. You ran in your local park each night under breathtaking sunsets. Maybe, for a time, you were a religious counter of macros and you started to pack on solid, lean muscle.
People took notice. Your pants were too big around the waist. Your t-shirts were too snug around your upper body. Your doctor was impressed by your improved blood pressure numbers and lipid profile.
Even if this does not describe your experience exactly, it’s highly likely that you have experienced success with health and fitness at some point in your life. Whether you dropped some extra weight, or stuck with a workout program long enough to see and feel noticeable results, you did it. But then, for whatever reason, you stopped.
You may find yourself back at square one, with no idea of how to get back to the level of success you once attained. You may be wondering if it is possible to get back there at all. Let me say this:
If you have done it before, you can do it again.
You can re-cultivate the mentality, habits, and activities that will duplicate your health and fitness successes.
This is a technique I love to use with guys I coach: utilizing past wins to create the environment for future wins.
Somewhere along the way your self-talk regarding your health changed. It went from positive to negative.
When you were experiencing success in your health and fitness, your thoughts probably sounded like this: “I can’t wait to work out today,” or “I feel great. I need to keep this up,” or “My body feels so good I’m not going to ruin it by eating crap.”
These positive self statements led to desirable behaviors.
Take out a blank piece of paper and draw a line vertically down the center. Label the left side “Self Talk Then”. Take a few minutes to relax, breathe deeply, and really imagine yourself back in the situation when you were successful. Where did you live? What work were you doing? What songs were popular at the time? As you do this, see if you can recall the statements you were making to yourself around health and fitness.
Now, on the right side of the sheet, label it “Self Talk Now”. List all of the negative thoughts that come into your mind when you consider your health and fitness. You may notice statements like “I no longer have the time to work out,” or “Money is too tight to buy healthy food,” or “I’m too old to get back in shape.”
These are just excuses. They are part of the false story you are now telling yourself about why you cannot be successful.
When you find yourself engaging in negative self talk, try replacing that talk with the positive, more realistic statements from the left side of your sheet. This will help you start to cultivate the mentality that was present when you were crushing it.
And remember this mantra: I’ve done it before, therefore I can do it again.
Life is just a series of habits and routines. The only difference between your current self and past self are your daily habits.
When you were experiencing success with health and fitness, you had established daily healthy habits.
These did not come easily. Studies show it takes about 21 days for a behavior to become a daily habit.
If you were waking up early every morning to go for a run, it probably took you three weeks before this became an automatic part of your day. Then life happened. You missed a few days. Instead of getting back on track to keep the habit ingrained, you stopped going running.
You must recultivate the habits that produced your previous success.
Take out another sheet of paper. Write down the daily habits you were engaged in when you were at the height of your success. It might look something like this:
1. Went to bed at 10pm every night
2. Gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
3. Cut out bread, pasta, and cereal
4. Vitamin and supplement regimen
…and so on. Now pick two habits that you want to recultivate. Two that you think would be most helpful to getting you back to where you want to be.
Make a vow to incorporate these habits back into your life for a minimum of 21 days.
Mark the days off on a calendar to track your progress and keep yourself motivated. As you progress, you will become stronger and more confident and will feel more inclined to add in the other habits as well.
If you miss a day, go back to day 1 and start again. No harm, no foul.
The point is to keep doing it until it becomes automatic.
If you find yourself sliding back into excuses, refer to your positive self talk sheet.
You’ve done it before, therefore you can do it again.
The physical activities that most contributed to your past successes were probably the ones you enjoyed the most.
If you were training in a mixed martial art and you loved it, it had a hugely positive impact on your physcial fitness. If you stopped doing it, you may have trouble motivating yourself to do other kinds of exercise that are not as appealing to you.
All too often we find ourselves engaging in activities we don’t like in the name of fitness.
Were you a stud basketball player in high school, but spend your cardio days on an elliptical machine that you find completely boring? Maybe it’s time to join a men’s basketball league. Cardio does not have to be a highly structured, boring event. The comeraderie and competition can also be an extra incentive to keep in shape.
The key to repeating past fitness successes is to engage in those activities that you enjoyed and felt excited about.
Again, watch for that negative self talk. Unless you have a specific injury that is keeping you sidelined, there’s no reason not to get back into it.
I also encourage you to try new activities, because you might find something you enjoy equally or maybe even more.
It’s never too late to rekindle the positive self talk, healthy habits, and physical activities you were engaged in at the height of your health and fitness success.
Using these past successes are a great way to set you up for success now.
After all, it was you who succeded and that ability is still inside of you.
You’ve done it before, therefore you can do it again.
Be awesome. Be vital.