How To Shape Your Lifestyle to Improve Your Fitness


March 18, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Fitness, in the past, has not been a big part of my life and I imagine that’s true for many people reading this. I want that to change.

I don’t like running out of breath, aching after minimal movement and not being able to do the things I want to do just because I’m not physically prepared for them. For the longest time I felt this was just who I was. I was the computer geek, someone who wasn’t built for sports or to be fit and healthy.

The reason for this though wasn’t because I had any physical impediments preventing me from participating in sports or working out. It was simply because I felt a disconnect between my lifestyle and fitness. The two categories seemed worlds apart. I’ve completely flipped that belief around.

There’s still a long way to go before I consider myself “fit,” but over the past few months I’ve been shaping my lifestyle to support fitness rather than trying to fit in a run or a few push ups in the deep recesses of boredom. It’s a subtle shift with a big impact. Here are some of the tactics I’m using:

  1. Don’t train, form habits
    “Training” and “working out,” while convenient descriptors bring up thoughts of slogging away at a gym for hours, feeling helpless and basically doing things you don’t want to be doing. And that’s why I say, don’t train.

Starting a traditional training regimen has two fundamental flaws:

    • Requires considerable will power to adopt. 
  • Ignores the individual’s specific situation. 

The approach I’m taking is much simpler. First, I chose one exercise that I loved: the pull up. It’s a difficult exercise, but the technique is easy to pick up and for a skinny guy like myself it’s quite powerful for building strength. Then, for the next 2 months, this is all I did. 100% of my focus went towards maintaining 2-3 sets of pull ups, 3 times per week. Now, at the 4-5 month mark I’ve also adopted doing floor presses with dumbbells, and am working them into my habits quite effortlessly.

Yes, this is essentially the same as regular training, but the key difference is that you progressively work towards forming fitness habits with the path of least resistance and tailor the habits to your specific goals and desires, as opposed to adopting a whole new set of routines in one swoop. Save the effort for when you lift weights or go for a run; the process of adopting the fitness lifestyle should be met with the utmost simplicity.

  • Connect with a purpose
    Why are you trying to improve your fitness? If you answered “Uh…” then don’t worry, that’s normal. You know you should improve your fitness, and you “get” the benefits, but you’re not sure of that higher purpose to spark change in your life. 

Say you’re overweight and sit at home all day watching television. You’ve adapted to this lifestyle since it’s comfortable – you’re not going to want to do away with it unless there’s a very compelling reason. Personally, I want to improve my fitness because I envision a life of travel and sports like kayaking and swimming, and these would be considerably more fulfilling if I was physically more capable.

Creating a purpose is difficult since there’s so much choice in the world. So, don’t be too concerned if it takes time to discover your reason why; just make sure that you do come up with one. Oh, and it helps if your purpose comes from within (such as wanting to be the best version of yourself) rather than based on external motivations (like how other people perceive you).

  • Eliminate detractors
    Everything that is holding your back from your fitness goals is “background resistance” that needs to be eliminated. For me spending too much time on the computer has been my biggest crux which I’ve made significant progress in overcoming with a little bit of patience mixed with pragmatism. 

What is holding you back? Limiting beliefs? Lack of money? Distractions? Identifying these detractors sets you on the path to overcome them. Write them down on a piece of paper, prioritize them from most painful to least painful and set a plan to cut these detractors from your life.

The world’s greatest athletes didn’t get to where they are by segmenting their life and fitness in two different boxes. You don’t have to dedicate every waking hour to a healthier you, but it’s obvious to see that forming a lifestyle that is conducive to fitness is far more powerful than trying to transplant the latest buzz-wordy routine into your day. Now, how are you going to shape your lifestyle to improve your fitness?

Written on 3/18/2010 by David Turnbull. David is an ectomorph who writes about what it’s like to live the life of a skinny guy. He’s trying to defy his ectomorphic genes through strength training and eating copious amounts of food. Photo Credit: danflo

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