Three thoughts on getting in better shape, the style and substance way!

Many people use the New Year as a time to make changes and set goals. Often those

resolutions for change and goals center around health and fitness. Typically these range from, “I will eat better,” to “I’m going to improve my PR in my next marathon by 20 minutes.” My personal experiences are not significantly different as I have made resolutions and set goals around my health and fitness as well. Mine are built around being more aware of the steps I take to foster health (eating better, drinking more water, moving more, etc) and setting a particular goal (a mileage goal for cycling).
What does being a man of style and substance mean when it comes to fitness? Does it mean having the best clothes? Does it mean attending the premier events and being ushered into the VIP tent, being showered with gifts and SWAG? Does it mean being the most fit man in the neighborhood, with the lowest body fat percentage and the most defined six pack? Does it mean being the one in the neighborhood that can be counted on to work out every day, without fail, regardless of the rain, snow, sleet, hail, temperature, natural disasters and anything else that might get in the way of ordinary humans?
I don’t think so. I think being a man of style and substance means that I remain thoughtful and intentional in my choices, and that applies just as easily to the world of fitness as it does to anything else. It is about cultivating a sense of continuity and confidence in the way that I approach every day.
When it comes to fitness, I’ve used the ideals of style and substance to help me in specific ways. I offer these thoughts in the hopes that they might help you too.
Buy apparel and gear thoughtfully. Style gurus are often involved in making us aware of the latest and greatest options available to us. Every designer is always releasing new material, new collections and new items. Ostensibly, as this applies to fitness clothing, these new items, materials and collections reflect a deepening awareness of how to get the most value from the exercise we do. In reality, new items and collections are released to drive sales increases. After all, once you have a pair of compression shorts, you don’t need to buy new ones until a) the old ones wear out or b) there is an advance in the technology that improves the workout.
When I started running a decade ago, I spent almost a year buying gear. Shoes, shirts, shorts, socks, if it was running focused I probably bought it. I bought running nutrition belts, gloves with key pockets built into the palm, jackets with removable sleeves, hats with ultra wicking headbands and cooling mesh. Some of these purchases made my running more comfortable and effective. And some of them were just purchases made because it reinforced my fascination with running.
And then, I found that I had too much stuff. I had purchased one too many sweatshirts, and I started giving things away. I had purchased one too many pairs of running tights, and two of them sit in my drawer, doing nothing. I entered races and got so many technical shirts that the ones I was wearing to run in started overwhelming my living space.
Long story short, I have made a decision to buy thoughtfully when it comes to something I need to work out in. Sweatpants may not be the most flattering, but they sure are nice to run in on cold mornings. A new sweatshirt may be nice, but if my current one isn’t worn out, could I put that money toward better socks or shoes? I’m not advocating against purchasing, I’m advocating for purposeful purchasing. When I need something, I buy it. When I see something cool, I store that information away for later, when a replacement of my current equipment is called for. And when I just want to upgrade equipment, I make a trip to the local charity donation center or to another runner beginning the fitness journey.
Share the journey, share the fun! Exercise is a dirty word. But play, now that’s supposed to be fun, right!? Well, I have tried to replace the idea of Exercise in my mindset with the word play. Running is a type of play. Cycling is play. And when I play, everything is better. But playing alone is not nearly as much fun as playing with a friend, or with family.
Currently, my wife and children do not share the same playful interests and intensities that I do, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t find ways to play together. For instance, every morning, we use an app called FitDeck to guide us through a short work out. It is not so aggressive that it will make us Olympic ready, but it gets the blood moving, and we do it together.
Finding ways to play together makes everyone better, contributing to our sense of substance. And the way we do it, with fun and panache, contributes to our sense of style!
Progress, not perfection. This one is the hardest for me to remember. I started the current phase of my exercise journey 17 years ago, when I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. I had to change everything about my view of what it meant to be active. Golfing included walking, not using a cart. Weight workouts needed to become consistent, not sporadic. Little adjustments, including some around diet, became the rule as I found ways to make progress a little at a time.
In the first little while, the progress was visible and quite dramatic. Then it slowed, and measures of progress became harder to find. But, with a little time and a supportive network of friends and family, I have been able to reframe my view of activity and healthy.
However, I must still remain vigilant against the unrealistic perfection that always hovers nearby. My body fat % is better, but I don’t look like the comic book idols of my youth. I run, bike hike, but I don’t compare myself to the videos that I see on YouTube. I am seeking progress, little by little, consistent and constant. And that allows me to always have more goals to hit and confidence that I can hit them.
I hope these three ideas have been helpful.
Go Forth and Conquer!

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