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The Path of Most Resistance
Because the other path rarely works out
"There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” - Buddha
I used to get work colleagues asking me for tips about how to get fit. You'd think that people who are so eager to find out what has to be done in order to be stronger and healthier would be all over the information that's provided; however, the reality was quite different.
With a reliable consistency, the reaction to my responses were along the lines of "oh that's so extreme" (a response to having 6 smaller meals per day instead of 3 squares - truly radical, extreme stuff here folks) or "yeah, I'd love to be able to do that too" or any number of half-hearted, almost disappointed answers.
‘Disappointed’ because the response didn't fit with the expectation of an easy fix. Once it was established that changing a body's muscle to fat ratio (or 'body composition') was actually a tough task requiring commitment and focus, the interest waned.
Keep in mind, some people would approach me with a real sense of despair. They had been struggling with a variety of issues that impacted their fitness levels or goals. Health problems may even have started to creep in as a result of a sedentary work culture combined with reward systems that featured cookies and candies.
If you've ever worked in an office setting, you'd know there is always someone, somewhere who has sweets out for their co-workers to take for an "afternoon pick me up". Years of mindless snacking and sitting will take a toll on anyone's body and mind.
Yet here were these individuals who witnessed my physical transformation - and therefore knew it was possible - rejecting the idea of changing for the better as 'too extreme'.
The ironic part for me is that the actual 'extreme' here was their own shared lifestyle.
Exercise, eating frequent, smaller meals consisting of whole, unprocessed food and drinking sufficient water are far closer to our nature than most other ways of being.
Eating 3 large meals spaced relatively far apart, sitting for most of the day, sipping on sodas instead of water and and the double cream coffee and donut snack aren't.
My co-workers had simply not yet arrived at a very important decision point.
First, let’s get a few cold, hard truths out of the way for those of you who are in this situation right now:
Working out can be scary
The thought of starting a long road is daunting
If you've never been to a gym before, it can be very intimidating
You only live once
I know all of this very well because it's exactly where I was before kicking off my own journey.
The fact of the matter is that it takes a long time to build up the initial motivation to just start something, let alone consider the path before you.
Until that initial spark happens, all the wanting and needing to change will only result in inaction as you make your way to the co-worker's cookie tin.
I look at the behavior of my former self and my former colleagues as a type of addiction. We were addicted to the safe space that predictable regularity provided us. This would be our daily routines inclusive of bad habits. The same bad habits that would add up over years and put us in a position where in a moment of clarity, the dreaded words "what have I done to myself?" would come to mind.
But, arriving at this juncture is actually crucial to forward progress.
Here you are presented with a fork in the road. Will you choose to keep going and make things worse or will you take the path that leads to the type of change you want to realize?
Quick and/or easy fixes may give you quick results (if you’re lucky), but they won't last. No extreme method will. Only the path of most resistance will do that.
Even though it sounds daunting, thoroughly changing your physical condition requires a long time and a considerable amount of effort.
Anything that we want to last us a lifetime does.
Let's go back to standing at the fork in the road between remaining mired in struggle or taking the tougher but far more worthwhile path.
There is no way to fully alleviate someone's fear of getting started on a journey that is challenging, no matter what the reward. A fitness journey in particular is tough to fully behold because there really is no end point and it contains plenty of its own starts, stops and more forks in roads.
Due in large part to this, most people who desperately want to become healthier and fitter simply view others who have done it as extraordinary. Something that is acutely unusual and even out of reach for most ‘regular’ folks.
It is true that if you want to do extraordinary things, you have to take extraordinary steps, but it’s not quite how my co-workers thought it works.
Sorry, you’re not special
Don’t worry - I only say that to frame what I’m about to say.
And since I’m having fun with listing observations today, here are some more:
There are no extraordinary people (Gasp!)
There are no ordinary people (well, that’s a lot nicer…go on)
There are only people
People do ordinary things every day
People do extraordinary things every day
Rather than believing that the type of thing we want to achieve is only for a handful of truly gifted humans while the rest of us are relegated to a life of mediocrity, I choose to look at it as a scale that one can travel back and forth on.
We may do extraordinary things that affect only ourselves or they may affect others around us, but the capacity to take ordinary or extraordinary actions lies within everyone.
So, for anyone standing at that juncture where they have a choice to improve or regress, know this:
You already have all it takes.
You know those successful people with the amazing careers and killer bodies that you admire and hate in equal measure? They’re on the same scale as you.
Same goes for people who seem to be down on their luck in even the most extreme ways. All on the same scale as you.
The fear of starting something new and foreign can be overwhelming. No one can argue that. Yet that’s still no reason to forever be paralyzed by fear and not start moving around on said scale.
One step, two step, three step, four, maybe you too will want more?
(Ok, so I’m no Dr. Seuss, but this kinda fits with my story and I couldn’t resist)
I had managed to lose a lot of weight from dieting alone and I had skin removal surgery to remove excess skin from weight loss. However, I was very resistant to the idea of exercise or joining a gym. This resulted in years of ‘yo-yo dieting’.
Unless you're morbidly obese, dieting alone will help lose weight, but it’s one of the most damaging things we can do to our bodies. Along with fat, we also lose lean tissue and our metabolisms nosedive. We then have an even easier time gaining fat because our bodies now have even less muscle. The term “vicious cycle” applies here in spades.
One evening after looking into my bathroom mirror and hating that I let myself get overweight again, I decided to take a small step - wherever it may lead – towards real change.
That small, crucial first step was that I set my alarm 45 minutes early and simply went for a walk.
I walked in the same direction every morning. My challenge was to see how far I can walk away from home in the 45 minutes I gave myself. Day by day, my distance covered got longer and longer until I reached a distance that was so far away that to get back home from where I was would go past my 45 minute time allowance.
I then continued to reach this distance every day for the next little while. After a few weeks, I noticeably looked like I had lost weight!
Then something happened that had never happened to me before in the context of exercise: I wanted more.
I wanted more because I had gradually met and exceeded the challenge that I set out for myself. I had accumulated enough small, but extraordinary (for me) steps to prove to myself that I can take the next step. The clear results in the mirror proved that if I can do this, I can probably do more.
I signed up for a gym membership. It was still a bit scary, but not as scary as it would have been had I not done my series of walks and saw measurable results.
And so with each new, extraordinary step I took, my confidence increased. I didn’t have expectations of becoming a superstar athlete or bodybuilder (although I wouldn’t have complained too much had this just happened), but I improved a little day by day.
These days, when people who are still not ready for their own fitness journeys or transformations ask me for tips on how to start, my responses are as follows:
This journey is a lifetime one
By merely asking these questions, they have already begun something special
Taking the first extraordinary step doesn’t mean that they now have to go to a gym and lift a carload of weights or try to outrun Usain Bolt. It means that they have to do something – no matter how tiny – that is not usual for them
Lastly, the most valuable advice I give curious folks is that they will know when they are truly ready when they have reached that part of their road where it starts to divide into two clear choices
If you are reading this and feel that you are at the point I mentioned in number 4, choose wisely. You are capable of the most extraordinary things – but it all starts with a tiny, often hesitant and frightened step.
The best motivation is created by results, but it has to start somewhere.
Take that step. Your amazing journey awaits!
Got a question or comment about this or any other post? Drop me a line in the comments section or feel free to contact me through my socials. I always love to hear from you.