Be impatient with action but patient with results
We often overestimate what we can do in a week or month and underestimate what we can do in a year or ten. This is very apparent when you look at approaches to fitness.
Take the example of someone who wants to lose weight. They set a goal, which is a great first step, to lose 30 lb in 3 months. This will require aggressive change in both physical activity and diet, neither being an easy task. 3 weeks go by and they haven’t missed a single workout. Feeling good, they step on the scale only to see a 2 lb difference. Baffled at the lack of results despite exhausting themselves multiple times a week and eating foods they dislike, they become discouraged, start to miss workouts and have the odd cheat meal again. This spirals until they fall right back into their old habits, stopping all efforts to reach their goal.
Realize that regardless of what you are doing, fitness related or otherwise, you must do it in a sustainable way. Even if that person managed to reach their goal weight, chances are they would slowly gain the weight back because the approach was very aggressive and would be difficult to maintain for a longer period of time.
A better approach would be to zoom out and break this down over a year. 30 lb in 52 weeks leaves you with just over half a lb per week. Much more manageable than the almost 3 lb per week target in the original approach. This can easily be accomplished by making gradual changes to your diet and activity levels. This way, slip ups like missing the odd workout or dining out with friends don’t completely take you off track. The slow and steady method allows for slack, as long as you keep trending towards your goals.
The mission is to build healthy habits that you can see yourself maintaining for the rest of your life. Whatever type of diet you choose, it should first and foremost consist of whole, natural foods, but you must also enjoy it enough that you can see yourself eating that way forever. For me, this happens to be meat, fruit, eggs, and dairy. Experiment.
The same goes for exercise. If you work yourself to the point of systemic exhaustion, never enjoying a single training session, chances are you won’t continue the routine for long. First and foremost, a mix of resistance training and cardio, is best, although movement of any kind is
better than nothing, so if you have a sport or another type of movement you love, start there. What I have found to work for me is doing resistance training for two days, cardio for one day, rest for one day, repeat. I also supplement the odd workout with fun activities like doing calisthenics skills (handstands, muscle ups) or rock climbing every now and then.
Back to the zooming out part.
Weight loss is just one example of a goal that can be more realistically attained by increasing your time horizon. This concept also applies to the rest of fitness.
Someone wants to run a half marathon. They jump right into a 5 km run and feel like they are dying, thinking there’s absolutely no way. Zoom out. Find a pace that is enjoyable for you and accumulate kilometres slowly at that pace. Start at 2 km, twice a week and add a km every other week. Do that for 6 months and all of a sudden you have built yourself up to 15 km runs without ever having to annihilate yourself.
Someone sees a youtube tutorial on how to splits in 30 days and decides to make it their goal. They stick to the routine putting in tons of effort for 30 days only to give up when they still can’t do the splits. Despite those tutorials mostly being bullshit, some progress would’ve been made, and if they continued for longer, eventually they would achieve the goal. A more realistic timeline is 12+ months, as increasing range of motion is a game of millimetres. This not only allows your body sufficient time for the changes to occur, it also allows for enough time so you can work on the goal 1-2 times a week instead of every day for long periods of time. Stretching effectively requires intensity and that’s hard to maintain if you ask yourself to bring that intensity every day. Zoom out. Even if it takes 3 years of slow progress, is that not better than giving up and never achieving your goal?
The same goes for putting on muscle, etc. etc. you get the point.
There are no shortcuts in health & fitness. Zoom out, don’t get discouraged, have a plan, keep showing up and you can get to where you want to be. However, at no point do you get to completely stop. Get rid of that option right now (Although much less work is required to maintain compared to the work it takes to get there). Your body gets good at what you do or do not do. If you sit a lot, you will become very good at sitting. If you want a body that is capable of experiencing life off of the couch, continue to move it in complex ways.
Whatever goals you may have, imagine where you can be in 3 years if you start working today.
Ps. You can zoom out on the rest of your life too. Want to start a business? Learn a new skill? Find a partner? Zoom out. Start taking action now but give yourself years to get to where you want to be.