Oh, I start off like gangbusters. Most people do. We get all excited about a 6-week, 8-week, 12 week, whatever challenge to lose weight and get fit. Books are gathered. Diets are planned. Gyms are joined. We count down the days to the start of challenge and go roaring full speed with high expectations and bounding confidence.
A couple of weeks into it we peter out; tired, sick, overwhelmed, guilty, and disgusted with ourselves. We crawl away with the shame of failure. If you are like me and announce your grand challenge to the world, it's doubly humiliating and you really hope that all your friends won't ask you the dreaded question "so how's that challenge going for you?". The real pisser is that we usually end up in even worse shape than when we started.
What the hell is going on?
After starting and failing at so many challenges over the years, I think I have finally figured out what I (and maybe what a lot of other people) are doing wrong. I'm out of shape and trying to live the lifestyle somebody in shape overnight.
Think about it. I start a diet and exercise program which neither my body or mind is developed to cope with. As a result; I get hungry, tired, sick, and just generally feel a great deal worse than when I started. I get so discouraged than any excuse at all is enough for me to abandon the challenge.....rationalizing to myself that I've had unusual stressors or that I just don't have time in my busy day to do what the challenge requires of me. I beat myself up over an over about being unable to complete a challenge when, the simple fact is, I'm really just too out of shape to begin in the first place. Shawn Pillips' book Strength for Life notes this phenomenon and suggests a twelve day regimen to prepare a foundation for beginning a more intensive effort in developing long-lasting fitness....a sort of pre-challenge challenge. The idea is to adjust the body and mindset to the changes that need to be in place before taking on other changes in lifestyle and activity level.
This is what I will attempt at the beginning of my year long project in about four days. 12 days following a program of diet and exercise to prepare myself for the changes I wish to incorporate for the next year and the rest of my life.
"Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself. If all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying." --- Simone de Beauvoir