“A journey of a thousand miles starts beneath one’s feet”
– Chinese proverb
If you’re struggling to kickstart your training or you’ve been putting your health on the back burner, I’ll be sharing my experience with getting back into action after playing my hand at depression.
It’s probably going to be a wee bit of a long one so scroll down for bullet points.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this over the last 11 odd years working with people, meeting fitness standards, and especially the last 12 months when all forms of my “fitness” went out the window.
Let’s start with what I thought fitness was in the context of health and wellness:
- Be strong
- Be able to complete physically demanding tasks
- Be able to sustain prolonged undefined cardio (run, swim, row, ride etc)
- Be able to move
- Be within a set body fat percentage range
- Be able to physically do what you want, when you want, however you want.
Within 12 months I managed to go from ~10% body fat to well over 20%. In kilograms this looks like ~90 kg to 110 kg with a 32” waist going up to a 38”-40”. The biggest (fattest) I’ve been in my 31 years playing this game. Watching everything I worked hard for disintegrate before my eyes, to say the least, was horrific.
Along with the aesthetics, I was unable to sustain any prolonged physical activity (not great for business when you’re on your feet all day) and my mental cognition deteriorated at a rate of knots.
So, what does any of this have to do with the meaning of fitness? Pull up a pew and settle in while I have a crack at explaining what I think it means to be fit.
1. What’s my situation right now?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or were born with a void between your ears. You would be aware that physical activity and a nutritious diet is beneficial to your overall health.
But, what if there’s something going on unbeknown to you that’s steering you in the wrong direction?
- Are you sleeping less than normal?
- Is your sleep broken?
- Is there something on your mind that you haven’t addressed?
- What’s happening with your mental state?
- Are you tired or run down?
- Are you bringing work home?
- Do you have friends or do you socialise?
- What’s going on between the sheets?
I didn’t ask myself any of these questions last year or listen to any of the warning signs that popped up over the last couple of years. As a result, I crashed and burnt. HARD.
Over the course of 4-5 months my diet deteriorated to the point where it consisted mainly of serotonin inducing refined carbohydrates. I would measure my waist on a weekly basis and take my weight. As the numbers kept rising I would say to myself “once it reaches x, I’ll do something about it” all the while adding to an already depressive state.
Day in and day out i would berate myself for not being as strong as I was only months before or not maintaining the fitness or mental standards I once expressed in the military. And I thought this was OK. The harder you are on yourself the better the long term outcome right?
My situation was dire. I wasn’t sleeping, I didn’t have a social life, all I did was work, and I kept ignoring my mental state. Shit was going south pretty quick.
2. Identify and execute
It was not until I started asking myself the questions listed above that tides started shifting.
At that point in time I was unfit in many ways than just my physicality. I needed to take the perverbel black dog for a walk and get some reps in. To get back into shape I personally needed to focus entirely on my mental and emotional fitness.
By focusing on my mental and emotional health for a period of time without obsessing over whether the quinoa was paleo or blowing kisses in the mirror mid bicep curl (must be wearing tall socks, cargo shorts, and a flanno while training, otherwise you’re just strange…) things started falling into place.
Change started very small to begin with. Food cravings started to differ. Chips and pizza turned into rice + steak or bbq chicken + green things. I was able to go for short walks without feeling of carrying a 10 tonne gorilla on my back.
Soon after I was able to set small daily goals like, go to work, meditate for 1 min, meditate for 10 mins, walk for 10 mins, & cook instead of uber eats, call a friend, have a gluten free burger (I don’t handle the stuff well), and over time all these little things started to compound on a daily basis.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s freaking hard and I now have an incredible support network both professional and personal. It wasn’t uncommon for me to work on one thing for a week before moving onto the next thing but I wouldn’t move onto the next thing until I was confident that the current item was rock solid.
Once I knew what was the cause of my “decline” I got to work. Literally blood, sweat and tears.
3. Re-evaluate your position and move
It doesn’t matter if you’re stepping forward or backwards as long as you’re not standing in the same place.
3 weeks ago, almost to the day, I started training at the gym again using the exact same micro goal approach. It’s nearly a complete 4 months off in addition to inconsistency with training for 3-4 months preceding the time off.
I’m down nearly 10 kgs and 10 cm off my gut and still going!
The point has come in the journey where I can set myself bigger goals to work towards. I’ve chosen to compete in a half ironman in September this year before attempting a full ironman in either December or January.
This is something that’s outside of my comfort zone.
Running has never been my strong suit. I generally used to stick to things that I was good at like picking things up and putting them back down again in the weight room.
The ironman something that I’ve always wanted to have a crack at and coming out of last year mentally stronger than every, I’m interested to see how far I can push my mental and physical boundaries.
The journey has only just begun and I’m not sure what it will bring. By sticking to my process and adapting along the way, I’m confident that I’ll see the finish line.
4. Make note and learn from your mistakes
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
– Michael Jordan
Getting things wrong or falling off the “path” is part of life. What we choose to do once failure is realised determines our outcomes.
It’s hard to say “yep, I fucked up. I’m here because of the decisions and actions I took”.
I have personally seen hundreds of thousands of dollars disappear in failed ventures and bad decisions. No one has ever held a gun to my head and said “do this now or else”.
By shifting the paradigm from I failed to I learnt, I’ve been able to not make the same mistakes again and I’m not scared of failing anymore. Each one of those failures was a learning point and has gotten me to where I am right now.
And what does right now look like for me?
My wife and I adore each other, I walk into work with a smile, I’m debt free with healthy savings, I love what I do, there’s a great group of people around me, I have great conversations, I’m sleeping better, I recover faster, and I’m excited for the future.
The wrap up
- Figure out where you’re at right now – what’s holding you back from stepping into the gym or going for that run?
- Identify and execute– Once you’ve ripped everything back and isolated the handbrake, get to work and square it away.
- Re-evaluate and Move– Keep checking in with yourself, if you’ve reached a milestone and can take on more load, good. Pick something new and work that into your plan.
- Learn from your mistakes– Fail hard and fast, learn and don’t make that same mistake. Keep moving.
Anyways, this is what I personally use to get myself back into the swing of things. It’s the same philosophy that I implement with my coaching and clients.
Everyone knows what they should be doing, it’s cutting through the noise and taking that first step that’s missing.
What’s your first move? Let me know!