In the highest echelons of athletics, victory and defeat are absolutes; winners and losers are clearly delineated. There can only be one gold-medal-winning group in an Olympic event save the incredibly rare tie. Only one team can win the Superbowl. Everything rests on the binary nature of victory and defeat.
Most of life isn’t so easily defined. A good life isn’t the sum of one or two factors. The same holds true for physical fitness. Staying fit is an ongoing task, composed of countless small choices we make every day and a few larger ones.
There’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to physical fitness, and this is a good thing. Instead, we are left with constant avenues of growth and improvement. Growth comes in many ways. One of the fundamentals to understand is where competition fits into self-improvement.
The key to staying fit isn’t about being perfect or being better than other people. The only competition is your own tendencies and life. In other words, be better than you were yesterday, and your fitness will only improve.
The Strength of Habits
Our days are particular but rarely totally unique. Most of what we do is guided by habits. We have habits for roads we drive on, for trails we visit, and the foods we eat. Habits dictate our waking routine, our workdays, and our nightly rituals.
We would like to believe that we are the ultimate masters of our fate, that our habits are choices we make. The truth is that, while we do have personal agency, habits develop unconsciously more often than not. They most often develop for convenience or out of personal preference.
With habits easily formed and tending towards the easy, it may seem like making new ones is difficult. The truth is that forming new habits can be easy if you make them the right way.
The Steps for Reaching New Heights
According to mental health and fitness experts, Specificity is everything when it comes to implementing habits that last. Saying “I am going to work out more” or “I am going to eat better” is unlikely to work. That is because these mantras lack specificity. Form actionable habits by making exercise plans or menus.
Get physically involved in your habits, too. Habits that have a physical action associated with them are easier to do and more likely to stick.
Specific stimuli also affect your ability to perform habits. One of the most famous examples of habit in the scientific community is Pavlov's dogs. In the experiment, dogs were trained to be able to salivate at the ringing of a bell. You don’t have to reward yourself, but performing an activity at a specific part of your day can solidify habits.
Staying fit isn’t about doing new things all the time. It’s about creating habits that keep you going. Habits also get easier the more you perform them. Embracing the strength of habits helps you stay fit and makes it simple.
Ingredients for a Proper Diet
The way we eat has an outsized impact on the way we can perform. A healthy body boosts your mood and productivity. Ask any singer or actor what foods they avoid for their voice, and they’ll have an extensive list of “don’ts.” Diets are a frequent way to address vitamin imbalances and other health issues.
The right foods can help your body function at its absolute best. Even without a strict exercise regimen, healthy eating can go a long way to reducing illness and maintaining fitness. Protein is a cornerstone of any active diet. Plenty of the best protein sources are also rich in other healthy vitamins and fats.
Athletes are keen to snack on these foods:
Green vegetables like spinach and green beans (to support the digestive system)
Carrots (key for strong bones and nervous system)
Lean meat like chicken breast, turkey, fish, and tofu
Fat used to get a bad name, but now we’re wiser. There are bad fats to be avoided, but good fats are essential for reducing disease risk. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which lower the likelihood of heart disease.
These healthy fats are readily found in fish, nuts, and seeds. Saturated fats, which raise cholesterol and other negative factors, are found in many sources, especially processed foods.
A generally balanced diet can provide you with everything you need to operate your best. A healthy diet can also reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Multivitamins aren’t really necessary for those who get all their needed nutrients, but they can shore up any gaps.
Diet alone won’t keep you in shape, but it can help you combat aging and keep you feeling your best.
If you want to stay fit, you have to put in the work. Luckily, you’ve likely already put in some work and have a routine going. The issue still remains that countless activities can get in the way of your workout. A busy personal life, moving, family events, and countless other activities make demands on your attention.
With all these, it can be hard to schedule your workout. If you find yourself starting or wanting to shirk, you have a few options at hand.
The first is to find someone else to help keep you accountable. This can be a friend or partner you exercise with at the same time or asynchronously. Working out with a partner is shown to be motivational. With a communal spirit, you’ll be exercising both for yourself and to keep pace with your workout buddy.
Like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, little changes might not have the lower body gains of intense squats, but even small steps can help.
Keep in mind that no matter your fitness level, getting enough sleep is key to maintaining healthy body weight, protecting your immune system, and boosting your mental health. Six to eight hours of sleep is considered ideal, but this can vary from person to person.
Motivation for a Healthy Lifestyle
If you find yourself bored in your routine, then taking your workout outside its normal habitat may be helpful. If you usually confine your exercise to the gym, get out and explore the world around you.
Running on mountain trails amid lush greenery beats running on a treadmill any day. Turn this change in your routine into an opportunity to decompress from the stress of your daily life. Maybe riding a mountain bike instead of a stationary bike is the low-impact cardiovascular exercise you will love.
On the other hand, simplifying and taking your routine inward can be the solution for a truly filled life. There are times when getting to the gym in between your daily activities can be daunting. The solution is to take workouts you can perform at home, with minimal equipment, and work them into a routine.
Unless you have extensive planning, you may suffer from the lack of a fully equipped gym. However, HIIT and other workouts can be fully utilized in nearly any location. Additionally, any activity is better than complete inactivity.
The right attitude is essential in anything. When it comes to personal fitness, the proper attitude is one of humility, forgiveness, and desire.
You need to have the hunger for a goal to go out and reach for it. Without this desire, all your efforts will be in bad faith. It isn’t hard to want to stay fit, due to the vast benefits it offers.
There will always be setbacks in the short view of things. Routines get postponed, bad habits crop up, and unexpected life events can hamper your ability to always be your best. This is fine. When things happen, there’s no use dwelling on them beyond learning from them for the future.
Forgive yourself for little missteps, but at the same time, don’t set goals that are too lofty to keep. Everyone needs some time to relax, some delicious cheat foods, and some room to be imperfect. Setting realistic goals is key to achieving them, to begin with.
Also, know that any progress is good. You don’t have to completely change your diet overnight, but replacing some unhealthy options with nutritious ones is major progress. It’s never too late to start again. If you find yourself faltering, continue again.
Being Better Than the Day Before
This is not a competition against other people. This is a competition with yourself. It’s easy to invite comparison with others due to the competitive atmosphere created by social media and constant scrutiny. The result is a world that appears wracked in interpersonal competition where there is little.
Improving yourself has nothing to do with the behavior of others and everything to do with your own attitudes. It’s easy to eat whatever you want, without worrying about what you are really putting in your body. It’s easy to let inertia win out and let one small shortcut turn into a swath cut into your athleticism. It’s easy to develop a defeatist attitude and stoop to blame or anxiety when things go poorly.
Don’t worry about what’s going on around you. Be aware of what’s going on with you, individually. Other people’s lives are out of your control.
Some things in your own life are also out of your control, and we must accept that. Those elements which you firmly control allow you to shape yourself into a better version of who you could be.
We do not say best because the possibility of improvement always exists. The key to making these improvements is to approach diet and regimen with proper, boundless motivation.
Olivers sees the world as an adventure to be had. More than just protecting your personal health, staying fit preserves your ability to interact with your greater surroundings.
2014 Sochi Olympics Unprecedented Tie For Gold In Women's Downhill Between Slovenia's Tina Maze, Switzerland's Dominique Gisin I ESPN
The Science of Habits | Psychology Today
3 Reasons to Work Out With a Friend | CDC
Six to 8 Hours a Night May Be the Sweet Spot for Sleep | The New York Times