A few friends have sheepishly admitted that their New Year's Resolutions to get back to the gym have derailed, so I thought I would try to apply the 5-step principle of Boomer Reinvention to personal fitness. Maybe it's a methodology that could work for you if you've fallen off the workout wagon.
For those of us coasting through our 50s and into our 60s, this is a crucial time to take care of our bodies, lest we wake up one day, look in the mirror, and wonder what the hell happened. We need all the help we can get to stay in good condition because the statistical evidence just keeps getting stronger: eating right and working out (even if we start late) has a dramatic effect on improving and extending the quality of our lives.
If our fitness routine were a declining business, what steps could we take to reinvent it?
1. Reframe. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, then maybe we have to do a little reprogramming. The same routine, the same gym, the same videos -- we have to open ourselves up to a completely new way of working out. My daughter belongs to a climbing gym and invited me to work out with her recently. I never expected to be working such a different set of muscles through such a different set of routines. It gave me an entirely different perspective. If you think there's just one way that's the right way for you to exercise, open yourself up to something new.
Maybe you're discouraged before you even walk out the door, insert the DVD or get on the bike. Is there some negative mantra that you're repeating in the back of your head? Are you telling yourself you're too old, or too lazy? Are you negatively comparing yourself with your friends or your spouse or some airbrushed celebrity? What is it underneath the self-judgment that's really undermining you? It's time to confront the voice and put it in its place. What is more important to you: your fear, your distractions, your awkwardness -- or your health, vitality, well-being and longevity? Ponder that question, identify that voice. Now that it's out in the open, it's going to be a lot easier to handle.
2. Listen. If you need to change your business plan to cope with changing conditions, it makes sense to do your research. The same goes for your fitness. Find out what your Board of Advisors -- aka your friends and family -- think you should do. Don't just b.s. your way through a conversation: really hear what they have to say. What have they observed over time about your strengths and challenges associated with working out, eating well and maintaining your routine? Open yourself up to the constructive truth, not the bland encouragements that people think you want to hear. This is the opportunity for some real growth and change around this subject, so encourage people to be honest -- but ask them to make this "constructive," as in positive "tough love" that you can actually use. It's not an excuse for them to vent their frustration with you, or judge you by their standards. Watch for that, and discount anything that sounds like a projection of their own biases.
Compile and analyze the results of these conversations. Does everyone say the same thing(s) about you? What emerges as the most significant points? Did anything surprise you? Does any of it confirm what you already know? Did any new or interesting ideas or suggestions result?
3. Accept. The past is the past. Let it go. Whatever difficulties you've had, however many times you've let yourself down over this issue, it's time to forgive yourself and move on. Continuing to blame yourself and judge yourself isn't getting you in shape. As you may have observed, you're not the only person who struggles with this stuff. Accept that all of your trials and tribulations have led you to this moment, and perhaps it is the right moment to put all those lessons to good use. Be grateful that you are seeing clearly enough to take the next step forward. Arguably, the only difference between a successful entrepreneur and a failed entrepreneur is persistence. So be the successful entrepreneur, be persistent, and this time you're going to make it! As a teacher of mine once said: "You may as well be the winner in your own fantasy."
4. Express. Here is where you get to write (or rewrite) your fitness business plan. Every entrepreneur has their pitch, and in steps 1 - 3, you've re-thought and reframed where you want your fitness "startup" to go, researched your strengths and weaknesses and how you're perceived, and confronted all the past fears, judgments or hesitations that have previously held you back. Now, you get to formulate your pathway forward.
Do yourself a big favor: follow the "Four S Rule," as in Small, Simple Success Steps. Don't plan to run a marathon tomorrow. Create a modular, diversified plan that contains variety, fun elements, challenging elements, new routines, and old routines. Mix it up. Use the information you learned from reframing, listening and accepting to come up with a plan that feels right for you, seems do-able, and is inspiring.
5. Connect. Finally, you get to try out your plan. But here's the twist: your only commitment is to keep a log, and to write down what you did. Don't insist or expect (or beat yourself up) if you don't work out every day your plan tells you to. Your goal is not to engage in your fitness routine. Your goal is to keep track of yourself. By taking the onus off of the results, and putting the emphasis on the process, you get to live in the present. You're not comparing yourself positively or negatively to how you did in past efforts. You're not imagining how things will be or won't be in the future if you do or don't maintain your discipline. Living in the present has a magical effect: it takes a tremendous amount of pressure off you -- pressure that may have been preventing you from enjoying the physical exertion and sense of accomplishment inherent in your workout. Be your own workout business analyst and take a clinical interest in your process. At the end of a month, or six weeks, notice the patterns that have emerged in your log. Maybe you can't bring yourself to work out in the morning, but afternoons or evenings are easy to do. Maybe you find that you're favoring one routine over another. Whatever your log shows, I'll bet that you'll learn a lot about what makes you tick, about what kind of workout you like best, and how you can continue to better support yourself as you progress into the next round of your routine.
Reinvention is about finding the most authentic, the most resonant, and the most effective alternative that works for you -- and for you alone. That's something that no one else can prescribe, dictate or intuit for you. You have to figure it out on your own. And once you do, because it's your's, it will be the cornerstone of a lifestyle change that you can grow with and maintain for a long, long time.