Why Persistence and Patience Beat Short Term Pain in the Journey to Better Health and Fitness
In my experience it takes twenty days for a new habit to stop feeling weird and start to feel like something you ‘just do’. It takes ninety days for it to become the new normal and I am yet to find out how long it takes before you forget the way you were before and stop thinking about going back.
I first learned this lesson when I quit sugar in 2019. After twenty days I started to feel as though what I was doing was not as hard as it had been before, at ninety days I felt normal deciding not to eat sugar and now eight months in, I think it’s unlikely I will ever go back to the way I was before.
It’s no different with the Year of Transformation. A month ago I doubled down on my commitment to getting into the best shape of my life and incorporated a strict eating plan into my already gnarly exercise program. At first, it took a lot of effort to make sure I was counting my calories, checking my macros and not exceeding my limits. A month later, it’s not so difficult and I can begin to see the horizon of ‘oh right, this is how I live now.’ I recognize this place from quitting sugar and I’m happy to be here. I know that around ninety days I’m pretty much home free with my new lifestyle.
This experience of knowing how things are going to play out is a novelty for me. I have always been someone who was prepared to put in the hard yards and take the pain for short periods of time to achieve maximum gains. However, over the years this has worked less and less for me. It has also failed to address deep seeded behavioral habits that needed to change.
In the last almost twelve months I have taken a much longer, patience fueled approach. Persistence and perseverance are my new watch words.
This morning I was feeling discouraged. I was not seeing a lot of results, my muscles hurt and I was tired. I didn’t want to do my workout, I didn’t want to stick to my eating plan and in short, I considered quitting. This happens to me at least once a week. In the past, that would have been it. I would have been on the couch eating cookies in five seconds flat.
These days I remind myself that results are not a requirement of my new lifestyle. If I don’t do the workout, I won’t get any fitter, if I don’t stick to the eating plan, I will ultimately just put on weight. After months and months of trying and succeeding and failing and getting back on track again I know this to be the unalienable truth. If I don’t keep pushing the Flywheel, it will fall back and crush me.
Today there is only moving forwards. Some days I work less hard than other days. I eat more, I walk less and I don’t do the crazy ‘Burn Out’ at the end of my work out. However, I never do nothing, unless I am actually sick.
This lifestyle is becoming so normal it’s hard to believe that not that long ago there were whole weeks where I did no physical activity. By doing this, I have noticed that my feelings of discouragement start to fade once I have gotten properly into whatever I’m doing that day. I begin to remember that I am fitter and stronger than I was before. Last week I completed my first burpees in forever. it may sound like a small thing but for someone with permanent back issues, the burpee is the holy grail of fitness achievement.
You can’t achieve a long term progress mindset in a short push. In the past when I have focused on short term goals, the main aim has been to finish. These days I am more interested in what I will achieve next. My days of going hard, pushing through and then collapsing from all the effort are over. Persistence and patience have triumphed.