On a roll
In the zone
Riding the wave
Call it whatever you want, but it is bound up in momentum.
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get something started… but once you get it moving it becomes a easier?
PP and I have started biking, and it is easy to see momentum at work while riding a bike. We pull up to an intersection and have to stop and look both ways before we can start again. When we start, we have to get a good initial push… or risk the embarrassment of falling over. 🙂 But once we get rolling, keeping balance is easy.
Momentum = Mass X Velocity
There is great power in momentum. The amount of energy required to start something moving is much greater than the amount of energy to keep it moving.
So, what does that have to do with creating a healthy lifestyle? Everything, actually. Success breeds success, and when you begin to see the benefits of eating healthy and getting out and moving a bit, you begin to build momentum, and you don’t want to break it. One of the keys to maintaining a healthy lifestyle over the long haul (Golden Rule: consistency + time = results) is to find ways to build on your success and push yourself when you are “in the zone”. When PP and I are biking, we enjoy going downhill far more than going uphill 🙂 We get our momentum working in our favor and it makes biking much easier. And if we keep our momentum as long as possible, it helps going up the inclines. But once we lose that momentum on the hill, it is hard work to keep moving forward. Learn to take advantage of the times you are losing pounds and make them work for you, but don’t get discouraged and frustrated when you start losing that momentum. Just realize you are going to have to work a little harder to overcome the resistance.
One of the most important lessons I have learned about creating a healthy lifestyle is… there is no “one size fits all.” I always get a kick out of people and programs that claim to know it all and have the solution. What works for one person may not work for another. There are a multitude of factors involved… sex, age, current weight, goal weight, body mass, metabolism, heart rate and so much more. Nobody can tell you definitively what works for you. They can only tell you what works for them. Learn to listen to your own body and find what works for you. That is true of nutrition and the foods you eat as well as the type and duration of exercise you engage in. There will always be someone who will try to tell you “you are doing it wrong”. Just because you aren’t ready to embrace a total fitness routine or a completely changed nutritional regime doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. Any little step towards a healthier lifestyle is a step in the right direction and will help you create some momentum. Do your own research and make your own choices and don’t let others have control over your fitness and health. That doesn’t mean you should ignore wise counsel or reject conventional wisdom around fitness principles, but neither should you swallow everything everyone has to say about what works and what doesn’t. Find and do what works for you.
But what do you do when things aren’t working for you? We all reach those inevitable plateaus where it seems we have stalled out and nothing is making a difference. There are many reasons why this happens and they can all lead to frustration, discouragement and giving up. We need to learn to overcome those plateaus and push through them if we ever hope to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Start by remembering that a healthy lifestyle is more than weight loss, it truly is a lifestyle. Eating healthier and moving with some moderate exercise will absolutely improve your health over the long run regardless of any plateaus you may encounter. A healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint, and you will definitely encounter those peaks and valleys along the way. Going downhill is easy, but climbing those hills and inclines is where the gains are truly made.
Change your routine and create some variation. I am a creature of habit, and I tend to find comfort in a set schedule and routine. If I am not careful, I will settle into eating the same things for breakfast and lunch, and sometimes even for supper. Create a wider variety and intentionally choose some foods that are different for you. Add more fruits and vegetables. Reduce your sodium intake. Add more fiber. Drink more water. Mix things up a little, and don’t be afraid to have more than your recommended calories or a favorite food occasionally. Often plateaus are broken in the strangest ways when we think we have “cheated” and had a favorite food. Many times your body will let you know what it needs if you will listen to it carefully.
The same is true for your exercise. If you are walking, jog a bit now and then. If you are lifting weights, do more cardio. If you are doing cardio, add some weight training. If you use the treadmill, try the elliptical or add an incline. Change up your routine and give yourself and your body some variety to deal with. You will see quicker and better results, and you may just break a plateau.
We all get discouraged when we think we have done so well only to have the scales laugh at us with no weight loss or the dreaded weight gain. However, the scales are not the only measure of what is going on with your body and your health. Here are 4 things to do when the scales mock you:
1. Check how your clothes are fitting. This change in focus from the scales to your clothes may be just the boost you need. After all, it isn’t likely that anyone else will ever see you on the scales 🙂 but they do see you in the clothes you are wearing. If your clothes feel looser, then trust your body over the scales until the scales get their act together again. Try on some new clothes that fit better and you will likely start to feel better about yourself. This can provide the motivation you need to keep going when the scales are no longer your friend.
2. Take your measurements. There really are times when your body has to pause to rearrange itself 🙂 It is times like this where you may truly be losing “inches” but not “pounds.” Changing your measurement from pounds to inches can show you the progress you are making from a different perspective and keep you on track. Limiting yourself only to what the scales say can give you a skewed view of what is really happening to your body.
3. Check your body fat percentage. If you are really ambitious, calculate and track your body fat percentage (prolly with a cheap caliper). It is true that muscle weighs more than fat, and you can be building muscle and losing fat without the scales having the courtesy to explain that to you. Here is an interesting article about body fat percentages, what it looks like and how to measure it. Most of us don’t get to this level of detail, but if you are having trouble gaining cooperation from the scales, it gives you another option for measuring progress.
4. Finally, challenge your fitness goals. This is another excellent way to show progress that doesn’t involve the scales. In fact, if the scales are no longer your friend, I say put them away and concentrate on other things for a while. If you are walking on the treadmill at 3.8, up the speed to 4.2. If you have been doing 20 minutes on the elliptical, do 30. Time yourself and set a fitness goal. Add more distance. Add more weight. Add more repetitions. Find your progress in your exercise and fitness routine and build on that success until the scales catch back up with you. For our first ride on the Silver Comet Trail, PP and I rode 20 miles in 1 hour and 50+ minutes. We struggled in parts and we were exhausted and out of breath at the end. Now, after less than a dozen rides, we run the same stretch in about 1 hour and 21 minutes and we struggle far less and feel like we could just keep going and going. Progress. Momentum.
Progress in creating a healthy lifestyle comes in many forms, and the scales are just one measurement. Don’t lock yourself in to them and miss the progress you are making. Build some momentum and keep moving forward.