The wake-up call happened, the penny dropped, the light bulb came on: You’ve realized that you’re out of shape and unhappy. Now what?
First: good work. This is already a tough thing to admit to yourself.
Next, realize a few inevitable truths.
Millenia ago, around A.D. 400, The Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Medicine was finally completed. It likened waiting to fix your health until you’re sick to waiting until you’re thirsty to dig a well. And it’s true! If you don’t make the time to prioritize your health, you will have to find the time later to be unhealthy.
Which means… patience training is necessary. Recovery and improvements can feel like they’re taking a disproportionate-feeling amount of time. Why? We are fighting many years of ingrained habits. To move forward, we need our nervous system on board with making lasting change. It takes way longer to get out of the “fight, flight or freeze” branch of the nervous system (sympathetic) than into the “rest, relax, repair” one (parasympathetic). Not to mention, if weight loss is an issue, it almost always takes much longer than it took to gain the weight.
SAID is the principle of “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand.” Basically, our bodies adapt to what we ask them to do, whether that’s sitting really for long periods (hint: not ideal) or moving in a certain way… so, use it or lose it.
Developing stamina (or regaining it) reflects the principle of SAID. It also depends on adequate recovery — which itself depends on adequate rest and sleep, hydration, and nutrition.
The Flow Chart
As a framework, here are some important principles to remember as you get to where you want to be:
- Let’s aim to eliminate the negatives — or at least mitigate their impact on your life. This could even be factors such as excessive desk work, poor nutrition, or uncontrolled high stress levels. Only then can you truly advance by adding in positives — not to mention, optimizing your limited resources of time and money.
- Posture and optimal breathing (particularly focusing on the exhale) are the foundation of everything. This work takes focus, so it’s best done in short chunks, frequently throughout each day.
- Whether we’re talking within one session or globally, the flow chart to follow is usually: mobility, then stability, then strength. While “flexibility” might mean only soft tissue, “mobility” means that we need to get the joints and soft tissue able to move well. After that, the stability part is to make sure the joints are centered nicely and able to do their jobs. Then, we can move on to significant strength gains.
- Cardio is lost much more quickly than is strength. The good news is, it’s also regained more quickly.
Holding On to Your Why
Your “why” has to stay clear, to act as a guiding light when old habits want to stick around. This article gives some solid suggestions on how to hold onto it.
Putting Theory into Practice
In practical terms, if you are a DIY person:
- A proper warmup is one of your best injury prevention tools, for example this one.
- Cooldown is essential when getting (back) into exercise. This is how to prevent blood pooling in your lower limbs, leading to fainting or potential circulatory, uh, “events.”
- No pain in the joints please! Respect the directions in which you can move pain-free. For example, very cranky shoulders often don’t do well with overhead movements. Over time and with professional input, hopefully you can improve this, but start conservative.
- Set the bar low to start (as in, don’t overdo the volume of work, and stay minimalist with exercise selection), and then make sure you meet the standard you set for yourself. If you still feel good the next day (minimal muscle soreness and no joint pain), great! Add in more work next time.
- Ask for support. You are welcome to come to my “Ease (Back) In” free gentle fitness meetup to dip your toe, or reach out and ask for help with a game plan.