Back to Fitness: The Important Thing About Baby Steps Is to Take Them

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February is a great time to talk about “analysis paralysis” regarding your fitness routine and plans.  From Wikipedia:

Analysis paralysis describes an individual or group process when overanalyzing or overthinking a situation can cause forward motion or decision-making to become «paralyzed,” meaning that no solution or course of action is decided upon. A situation may be deemed as too complicated and a decision is never made, due to the fear that a potentially larger problem may arise. A person may desire a perfect solution, but may fear making a decision that could result in error, while on the way to a better solution. Equally, a person may hold that a superior solution is a short step away, and stall in its endless pursuit, with no concept of diminishing returns.

I see this commonly when talking with people about their fitness journey.  I’m just about to start a new job. I’m waiting for the spring weather. I just need a new watch.  Most of us are really good at procrastinating and underprioritizing our health needs and in this day and age, “analysis paralysis” is a big reason why.  With so much information at our fingertips now, as well as so much gear and technology, finding a pure and simple process for getting back to fitness has been completely lost for some.  What diet do I need to eat? Should I start with running or should I get a Peloton? What heart rate zone do I exercise in? Do I need a coach?

Stop! Analysis paralysis! Let’s simplify this crazy train so we can move on!

I’m going to sound like a hippie and ask you to zoom way out and consider yourself as a human being. No one has ever been able to outsmart Mother Nature. What is it that we need as humans to stay healthy? Is it really a new GPS watch? Is it really a professionally crafted and implemented exercise plan? Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% for all of the amazing gear, technologies, coaches, programs, and activities that are available to EVERYONE these days.  We are truly living in an age where fitness is encouraged and is easier than ever to execute. But we do need to balance this with some thought and decision making on where to start. Two simple things to think about as a starting point are movement and eating better.

Movement.

While you are researching between the three models of shoes that will make the best gym shoe, don’t be afraid to step outside in your nasty old lawn mowing shoes and walk for 30 minutes. Next, commit to doing this 3-4 times a week. Don’t worry about the gear. Just get outside and move, most days of the week. As you gain experience, you will learn more about what you actually want and need. And try different types of movement. While you’re discriminating between the three models of gravel bikes, put some air in the tires of that rusty 1980s “10-speed” and ride around with your kids. Don’t overanalyze what you’re doing. Focus on what you can make routine, right now. And then tell yourself you will improve on that over time.  

Better food.

This can be a can of worms for sure, but suffice it to say that I think we all know what bad food is, right?  Sugar, sodas, cookies, heavily processed junk foods. What if we just start with cutting the bad out? See how that makes us feel. Then commit to refining from there.  As you start tinkering around with healthier eating, you will gain experience and start to find what things make you feel better and what things make you feel worse and in no time you’ll have a much better nutrition plan based upon your instinct as a human being. Start simple, but start now.

Just over 20 years ago, I smoked cigarettes, drank a lot, and didn’t exercise. I was ready to make a change and decided to do just that. I had this really crummy mountain bike that I used to ride around campus in college, no suspension or fancy pedal clips. I didn’t own “cycling clothes,” I didn’t even own a helmet. I heard about people riding their bikes on trails, which sounded appealing to me, so I bought a used caving helmet from a thrift store, put on a white undershirt and two pairs of shorts and headed out the door. I didn’t know what I was doing or really even where I was going, I just knew that I needed to get out there and move my heart and lungs. Now, 20 years later, I’m still learning new things and figuring out how to do it all better.  I’m not sure if I’m eating the best diet, I’m not sure if I’m training the most efficient way, and I sure as heck don’t have the time for it. But it’s been a transformative journey and I hope it will continue to the grave.  

Last, remember there is no perfect time! As soon as you have allowed the thoughts of a better and healthier life percolate into your head, why wait? You’re not getting any younger! You need to carve out the time and energy now, in your current life, because this life is the one you are currently living. That’s how you change, after all—deciding to add something new to what you are currently doing.  As you start, in whatever baby steps you commit to, you will learn and gain experience in what you’re doing and start to fine tune the process. 

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