Before sharing my top 3 fitness tips, here’s a little background about me.
I started playing soccer when I was five years old, joined a competitive travel team when I was 8, and traded soccer for weightlifting and various other random athletic activities when I went to college. Before I ever started soccer and during my early soccer years, I tried out gymnastics, basketball, track, and dance.
Needless to say, fitness in some form or another has been a huge part of my life ever since I was a little girl.
However, the biggest tips I would pass along to others looking to pursue an active life, lose some weight, gain strength– whatever your reason or goals may be– come from my experiences over the last few years.
Six years ago, I hung up my soccer cleats. My days as an athlete on an organized, competitive team were done. I was left with the challenge of replacing the structure and discipline imposed upon me by my coaches. It was on me and only me to be my own motivation in pursuit of a lifetime of fitness.
What did I learn?
Lesson #1: Make it your top goal to stay consistent. It’s the single most important thing you can do.
My independent fitness journey started 6 years ago, fueled by a desire to gain the strength I always lacked on the soccer field. I had coaches tell me I was very skilled, but too weak on the ball. At 5’2″, 100 pounds, my biggest barrier to playing soccer at the next level was my lack of strength. I had a hard time building muscle given that I ran a couple miles every single day and have a naturally small frame. I hated being told I was so small.
Fast forward, and I’ve gained 20 pounds of healthy weight, mostly muscle. Just as losing weight isn’t easy, neither is gaining healthy weight for those of us that are genetically small. But what these 6 years have shown me is that any goal is possible, reglardless of your starting point. I didn’t know what was the best way to approach my goal. I googled and googled to learn what exercises to do in the gym, I made a lot of mistakes, but I kept going.
I attribute the strength and confidence I’ve built to the fact that I consistently showed up, week after week. Not every single workout has been perfect. I may get off track at times whether it be from lack of motivation, or just life (it happens. Things get busy, we have competing priorities and responsibilities, and only so much time).
Gaining weight was my personal goal, but no matter what yours is, the biggest thing you can do for yourself is to consistently take actions to move in the direction of your goals. Don’t beat yourself up for days off or mistakes made if your overall trajectory is moving you forward. That consistency over time will be the biggest factor in your success, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
- Consistency is what helps you form the habit and establish discipline, two tools you’ll frequently need to call upon on days where you’re lacking motivation –and there will be many.
- Small actions compound over years. You may not think you’re doing much each day. But one day you’ll look back and realize how far you’ve come.
- There’s a reason everyone calls it their ‘fitness journey.’ You don’t achieve your goals, and then stop doing everything you did to get you there. Not only do you need to form habits, you need to keep them. And this comes through consistency.
- Consistency lets you be kinder to yourself. The emphasis is on always moving forward, no matter how small the step.
Lesson #2: Forget Fads. Find ways to get active that you genuinely enjoy.
Who cares if I say weightlifting is the best way to exercise out there? It’s what I happen to like, but you’ll do yourself absolutely no favors in terms of adhering to Lesson #1 if you’re doing what you “think” you need to do to be fit. Fitness first and foremost is about finding a way to move your body to stay healthy. Yeah, the way you look is a big part of fitness for most. But your focus should be on what your body can DO, and on the endorphins that exercise brings. You won’t feel good or stick to anything longterm if you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy. The results come when you enjoy the process.
That doesn’t mean you don’t need discipline and hard work. It simply means make sure you’re being intentional when setting your goals, and make sure you’re listening to what you like, not anyone else. Do it for the right reasons. Do it for you.
- Do what you genuinely enjoy, simple as that. If you like riding a bike, do that. If you’re into weightlifting, do that. Enjoy playing with a team? There are plenty of leagues to join for multiple sports at any age. Continuously pick what you like, and you’re more likely to maintain an active lifestyle.
Lesson #3: Don’t compare your journey to others.
It’s okay to follow advice from people who inspire you. In fact, it can be a great thing. I’ve learned a lot by reading, watching videos, and following individuals who are farther along their journey and have a lot of experience. But don’t let inspiration blur into comparison. Your journey is about YOU. Take what you learn from others, but compete only with yourself.
This is important for a number of reasons.
- Everyone starts in a different place. I mentioned my background, and it may be relatable to some. But to others, it is not. And that’s okay. Those that you find to be an inspiration today are simply further along than where you are, and it’s harmful and of no value to compare yourself to them.
2. Genetics. As much as I try, I will never become a 5’6″ female. Similarly, I can’t change my bone structure to make my hips wider, my torso shorter, legs longer, whatever it may be. And that’s okay! But if I constantly compare myself to someone who does fit that description, not only will I never attain it but I will discourage myself from continuing to put in the hard work necessary to reach my goals. However, I can follow the workouts and wisdom of some 5’6″ female, challenge myself to improve upon my baseline, and go far.
- Learn from others who are more experienced, but compare your progress to you and only you.
- Accept what you can’t change anatomically and embrace all that makes you unique. Push yourself to be a better version of yourself every day.
- Become your own motivation. Once you discover how much your body is capable of, your confidence will strengthen and your progress will be motivation in and of itself.
While these three lessons may seem obvious, they’re much easier said than done. They are also a critical foundation to all other fitness goals — training plans, form, nutrition, recovery, mobility, all of it. No matter what stage you are at in your fitness goals, you’re hurting your potential if you don’t carry these three ideas with you in everything you do. Even if you’ve mastered one or all three of these before, you can still slip up – lose consistency, start comparing yourself to others again, fall out of touch with the types of exercise you enjoy. We change over time. But if you always work to keep these three ideas in everything you do, you will be successful in reaching your goals.