Having trained for the best part of a decade, I’ve worked out with every type of client imaginable. I’ve had athletes, I’ve had clients who had never picked up in a weight in their life, and I’ve had clients that had no idea why they were here, but it mattered to them that they were. And still, in the face of all the glaring differences in ability of these clients, they shared a common factor: running before they could walk.
You know the feeling - you’ve been eating shit for months, hardly moving and you feel terrible. You decide that, on Monday (of course), you’ll go for a run to kickstart the new, healthier version of yourself. Riddled with guilt, you leave the house sprinting as hard as you can for a good few minutes like something out of a Rocky movie. After 5 minutes, you’re fucked and struggle to complete the intended difference, so you stop-start jog all the way home, covered in sweat and feeling sore - but nowhere near as sore as you feel the next day. You’re so sore that you don’t workout for the next few days and lose all the momentum your one run built up. Or worse, you train through the pain and by the end of the week you’re weaker than when you started.
You could avoid all of this, of course, by sampling building up your tolerance to movement. There is a saying amongst psychologists: ‘restriction causes addiction’ - pretty self-explanatory, but this applies to lifestyle and habits too. If you’re used to coming home, kicking your feet up and watching the TV, a sudden switch to gung-ho exercise is only going to make you crave slouching off even more.
Big changes are tough - don’t give up smoking, junk food and start running 5 miles a day all at the same time. The likelihood is that you’ll ‘relapse’, and end up binging harder on these destructive behaviours in the future. Instead, work on cutting down on (not cutting out) your bad habits. These small, incremental changes don’t seem like much, but on a higher timeframe compound to the point where your lifestyle is radically different to when you started, without you even noticing.
Obviously, I’m oversimplifying a relatively complex and nuanced phenomena in habits, but the premise remains the same. Stop pushing yourself so hard straight out the gate - living a healthy lifestyle is the longest race you will run, because you’ll run it until you die. Pace does not matter as long as you are going in the right direction. Stop falling for the ‘life is short’ bullshit on Instagram - life is the longest thing you’ll ever experience. Enjoy the process of learning about your body’s capabilities and reap the rewards along the way.