The Most Important Parts of Your Fitness Journey

These things won't sell many magazines but, they're responsible for getting you to your goals.

Today we're going to talk about some overlooked soft skills for new lifters like yourself. These underlying skills are things that can hold back your progress if ignored.

These don't make for the sexiest marketing:

  • Forming a habit of exercising
  • Motivation
  • Choice Architecture
  • Identity Formation

You may not choose to dive deep into all these areas now (like I'm not today) but, you should know what they are.

Your Soft Skills Will Shape Who You Are

It takes time to form a habit, a common misconception is that you can form a habit in two weeks or 21 days. Nothing happens overnight, it's more like 66 on average. Read a study on habit formation here.

Becoming muscular, lean or even "toned" takes time. How much time depends on a few different things. Your genetics, background, nutrition, sleep, stress and yes, your habits all matter.

When you see people around you, you're seeing a snapshot of how they look right now. A few years ago, they may have looked and felt exactly how you do now. Don't lose sight of that.

You can't know much at first glance:

  • The "fit" person may have been overweight.
  • That "overweight" woman might be a former college athlete. She might be recovering from an injury or a rough pregnancy.

What matters in the long term is what sort of habits you're carrying out on a day to day basis. If you have a habit of eating healthy foods and moving often, you're likely already pretty healthy.

This is where motivation comes in. Motivation is a resource that can be depleted.

For years, people have dragged themselves to the gym, day in and day out. Did they always feel like going? I can't get in anyone's head but, I know for me that sure as hell isn't true.

Yes there are times where my motivation to train is high, I'm feeling good about the progress I've made. My weights seem to move smoothly and exercise just seems fun. Partly though, my continued habit of lifting lives in my identity.

The person I see myself as is a former college athlete and a former fat kid.

As a college athlete I learned to challenge myself and push my body past goals. I would have never been ambitious enough to set most at the beginning.

I know that there isn't as much tread left on my tires as there used to be but, I can still have fun.

As a former fat kid, I remember how miserable I felt. I don't ever want to go back to that place.

When I'm faced with a decision, I'm more likely to make the choice that a fit person would make. I can't eat that all the time (notice I didn't say at all) because it doesn't fit my goals and who I want to be.

Choice architecture can come in anywhere along the process. If you make it easy to do the right thing, you're more likely to do it.

  • You can pick a gym that is close to your home or work
  • Choose to leave the cookies at the store so you won't snack on them
  • Take that trip across the office to talk to your boss instead of sending an email
  • Wash those dishes by hand

This sort of thinking will come to you.

Further reading:

If you want to learn more about some of these things, I can recommend some reading to you.

  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

This book is by two of my favorite authors. It can teach you some of the principles behind changing habits and what it takes to pull that off.

They also made a 16 minute video explaining the basics of the book that can be found here. All it takes is an email address. No spam, they send me an email maybe 3 times a year.

  • Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler

Richard Thaler was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to behavioral economics. Thaler suspected that life did not work the way economists assumed. People don't always make rational decisions. Nudge can open your eyes to how you can structure some of your choices in life to be more beneficial.