What's the secret to getting fit? What's the best way to lose weight and get healthier? I would like to run but how do I get started? What's the ideal pathway to fitness?
In Western societies there exists a massive health and fitness industry. Publishers, bloggers, gyms, broadcasters, sports coaches, life coaches, diet coaches and medical providers are all involved in presenting the attainment of fitness and hopefully good health as a personal and societal positive. Mostly this strikes me as a good thing. It stands in opposition to the much better funded industry that tries to persuade us to kick back with another beer, a pizza or two and a lifetime supply of chocolate and sedentary leisure. Sometimes though a few parts of the health industry strike me as overly complex. Someone with a diet book to push wouldn't get very far if it consisted of a couple of paragraphs encouraging readers to eat a mix of foods with lots of fresh fruit and veg and go easy on the sweets and booze. Similarly with exercise it is hard to imprint your own brand on a tome without some very specific angle to present to the reader or viewer.
SO. . .
. . .here's my contribution to this. I would like to present the non-commercial exercise book. The sure fire (not) best seller. This is not for the club runner looking for a three hour marathon time nor for the triathlete on his way to Kona. This is just a bit of advice and help for the ordinary Joes out there who aren't looking to take over the world but would like to be a bit fitter and less out of breath on the stairs. The people who might not be entirely sure how to get going and might be a bit concerned about overdoing it.
When thinking about exercise it is important to remember that it really isn't particularly difficult. As a species we are pretty good at it even if we appear to have strayed from the habit somewhat in recent times. Our bodies have evolved over a long time to be active and to become stronger and fitter the more active we are. With this in mind it should become easier to see health and fitness as no more than our birthright and exercise as the process through which it is reclaimed.
At the start of this year I began training with a couple of my neighbours from this small corner of rural Ireland. Since January we have: walked the roads and mountains, jogged along forest paths, swum in pools and the ocean and ridden bicycles around the county. All of us have become somewhat leaner, fitter, faster and possibly even more good looking than before. As part of this process we have also become the object of some interest and curiosity from a few of our fellow villagers and as the time has passed several people have asked what they need to do to emulate our not entirely astounding results and become a bit fitter. I always say that as sports organisations go we are a long way from exclusive and we welcome anyone who wants to join us however a trio we remain. Our times won't suit everyone. Our routes may not always appeal. Things may be hectic at home. For lots of good reasons people find it hard to take the first step so this article is dedicated to all the people who would like to get out and get going but haven't yet taken those few initial steps.
The main thing is to understand that what you do is less important than that you get off the couch and do something. Virtually anything active will pass muster. The trick is to do something rather than do nothing. Make it short, comfortable and then repeat until it becomes habit. Initially the most important thing is to train your brain and body to make a little time for a little exercise most days. The future can look after itself. Once you have gotten into the habit of a regular session of gentle exercise you can step up the effort to any level you like and once you have done a lot of little things the big things will fall into place more easily.
Go for a gentle ten minute walk along your road and you are ten minutes fitter than you were yesterday. It only took ten minutes and you didn't even need to change into special athleisure clothes to do it. Do that same ten minute walk six or seven times in a week and you are more than an hour fitter than you were last week. Next week you can be fitter still by doing another few ten minute walks. There is no target to reach. Getting out there is the target and you achieve it by standing up and moving. Every time you intentionally stand up and move for exercise you become that little bit fitter than before.
No special shoes or equipment. No gym pass. No classes. No stress.
So the path to fitness is just a lot of easy, baby steps that become bigger and grow with your capability. Don't be put off by the length of the journey when the journey takes no more than a step to achieve and every step leads to a new journey, a new step and a new achievement.
There is no Path To Fitness. Fitness is the path.
Enjoy the journey.
My thanks to Dave and Tony for the company and support over the year. Mostly the exercise just felt like hanging out with a couple of mates. Mostly. Occasionally it felt a bit like bloody hard work but no-one made us do it. Cheers guys.
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