Consider the following lifestyle variables: job title, employer, salary, home address, marital status and number of children. And other, smaller picture, day-to-day realities like vehicle make and model, wardrobe and hair style. How similar or different are they in your life now compared to five years ago, ten years ago or twenty years ago? Some may be nearly identical to how they were five years ago. But, it’s likely most of these variables are very different for you now compared to twenty years ago. These realities change over time, whether by choice, necessity or the natural ebb and flow of life.
There’s a misconception that a person’s exercise routine lies outside of the ever-evolving aspects of daily life. That a fit person finds exercise she enjoys and she continues the same workouts, week in, week out, year after year. I suspect the idea is fed by observing the training programs of famous athletes or even amateur athletes we know personally. For them, daily training sessions and long runs are as consistent and routine as brushing teeth. But, for the average person who isn’t training for a specific sport or event, having a static workout routine year after year is as unnatural as having the same wardrobe, car and salary for a decade or more.
Some reasons regular exercisers may be forced to make changes are chronic injuries, pregnancies, caring for young children or elderly relatives, illnesses, the natural limitations of aging or their favorite gym closes up shop. Other times, people choose to abandon their once-loved workouts because they’ve become bored with them or, once they’ve reached a certain goal, such as weight loss, they lose their motivation to stick to the routine. Unfortunately, more often than not, instead of shifting to a new routine that fits better into their new reality, they drop exercise altogether.
Sure, I’ve known a few people who’ve run in marathons or competed in triathlons well into their retirement years. But, I’ve known far more who were athletes in team sports or competed in endurance events in their youth who, when forced to give it up due to injury or major lifestyle change, didn’t replace it with anything. Even professional athletes, who retire in their 20s and 30s, often give up their training regimens when they’re no longer competing.
Because of the misconception of the norm being one exercise routine for a lifetime, people tend to see an inability to stick to that as a personal failure. In truth, if one wants to stay healthy and fit, it’s abnormal to try to achieve that through a static program over long periods of time. Those moments when we discover, for one reason or another, that the status quo just isn’t working for us anymore aren’t an indication of failure. Rather, they’re the clues that tell us it’s time to let the old routine go and to find the new one that’s pain-free, or fits into your new schedule or is fun again.
Not only should we anticipate the need to evolve what we do for exercise, but we should be pro-active about it. Try out different classes, workouts or equipment when you have the opportunity. Mix up the weekly schedule now and then. Invite a friend, partner or child to suggest something you can do together. Set a short term goal, something you’ve never done before, such as entering a 10k race, 30 day plank challenge or performing a certain number of squats without stopping. Achieving that goal will force you to adopt a new training program. Once the goal is achieved, set a new goal that’s different from the first one.
Fitness is about achieving a balanced life that nourishes your mind, body and soul. Very few people can achieve that nourishing balance by doing the same workouts over and over again for a lifetime. Just as we define a successful life by how we’ve progressed in our professional and social lives, so should we define a fit life by how we’ve progressed with what we do to become and stay fit.