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I'm Jessica (my friends call me Breezy) and I am a photographer serving the Sioux City area.
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I started my fitness lifestyle four years ago – February is my “fit-aversary!” Before I even write an article from my perspective, let me humbly admit two things: when I started I knew NOTHING and I have not been consistent in the most recent year or two. My personal journey has been very up and down, and has taught me so many incredible things! That being said, here are ten ways that I’ve learned (the hard way) that can help you build a fit lifestyle that will stick!
The most important thing to sticking to your new lifestyle is enjoying the process and that means your workouts cannot feel like chores! There are so many options out there and I’ve tried many of them, but there are some things that pump me up and get me excited more than others. If you are competitive, CrossFit is amazing. If you love to dance, find a Zumba class or the Cize videos. If you prefer to lift weights, stick to lifting all the things. If you prefer to be outside and running, I don’t understand why, but you do you! When you do an activity that you’re loving, you’re more likely to repeat it tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after…and that’s the main point!
2. Find the time that works best!
We are talking about committing to a forever lifestyle, not a 30 day bootcamp. In order to make that happen, it needs to become routine and that means you need to find a time or schedule that works for you. When I started, I was still teaching, and hitting the gym right after work made the most sense for me. Now, however, I work at home and have my son home with me. With this schedule, it works better for me to knock my workouts out in the early morning before everyone else is awake. Take some time and look at your schedule and figure out what section of the day works best for a workout. Then, stick to it. Workout around the same time every day if possible.
3. Find accountability!
I don’t know about you, but it is much easier for me to give myself an excuse than it is to give a friend the same excuse. That’s why I truly believe that finding accountability is one of the secrets to changing your lifestyle. You need someone who is going to ask you where you’ve been and why you haven’t been working out. You need a social aspect to the lifestyle in order for it to be fun. Accountability can come from anyone: spouses, children, friends, coworkers, parents… Whoever you choose, make sure that they understand what you want to accomplish and will support you all the way through. A life with fitness isn’t for everyone, so you need to find someone with goals that match your own!
4. Find the balance!
When I first started Spartan Races, I would say that I got obsessed (and I think most people go through a phase like this). I was working so hard on running faster and longer (I reached 15 miles at my peak) that it sucked hours and hours from my evenings and weekends. I also wasn’t relaxed enough to find a way to enjoy food, so when I went out on dates with my husband I would order steamed broccoli and grilled chicken every time and not enjoy my time with him.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with focus and dedication. But, I think all things in life need balance (I am a libra, after all) and a fit lifestyle is no different! You do not need to be spending 20 hours a week working out to see progress. Do not take precious time away from your friends, family, spouses and children. Yes, your fitness is important, but it’s more important to keep balance between all aspects of life. When you keep this in perspective, you’re more likely to maintain a routine since you won’t burn out or overwork yourself.
5. Find foods you love!
You hear it all the time: “abs are made in the kitchen.” Do not brush this off, it’s true! Let me repeat, you cannot out run a bad diet! If you’re at a plateau and not making progress, you probably need to change your diet and the best way to maintain a routine of eating well is to find nutrient dense food that you love to eat! If you torture yourself with steamed veggies you don’t like and protein shakes and colorless, tasteless foods, you will not be able to maintain the regimen! Take your time and sample new foods and recipes until you find combinations that you love! The most important thing is finding foods that are nutrient dense, meaning they have the high concentration of micro and macro nutrients possible.
6. Focus on baby steps!
I’ve started and restarted my fit lifestyle twice now. First in February 2014 and again in December 2017 (after recovering from our move) and what I’ve learned that actually worked both times was starting small and letting my choices have a compound effect. There has to be a reason why 95% of people that “go big” with their New Year’s Resolutions have fallen out of habit before February. You can’t change everything in your life over night. I think it works better when you take things one small bite at a time. For example, when I first started I spent two weeks focusing on drinking more water, then I moved on to changing one meal at a time, then I cut down on sugar. I let it happen over the course of weeks and months instead of expecting it over night. I think that helped me understand that it was a permanent change, not a quick fix.
7. Dont compare!
Oh my goodness, I could waste hours on Instagram every single day if I let myself. And a lot of that time would be exposing myself to photo after photo of perfectly posed, styled, and chiseled fitness models. Now, I am not saying anything negative towards fitness models, but it’s hard to keep in perspective that that’s comparing apples to oranges. I personally have a different lifestyle, a different set of likes and tastes, a different set of skills and weaknesses, and frankly a different body type than most fitness models. So, it’s a wasteful use of my time to continue ingesting content that only makes me compare myself and most likely feel down about myself. So, start early on as you’re making lifestyle changes to quit the comparison game and focus on simply being better than you were the day before!
8. Understand all the components!
When people talk about a healthy lifestyle, we automatically focus on fitness and nutrition. Of course, those are the main aspects, but that’s not the entire equation. So many factors go into a profile of great health: hormone balance, vitamins and nutrients, stretching, quality sleep, rest, stress, emotional status, etc. It’s one thing to eat a healthy meal, it’s another to do your workouts, but it’s still a completely different animal to be self aware enough to reflect on the full picture. If you are sleeping 4 hours a night, and then depending on caffeinated drinks to get through the day, you may not see progress at the gym. If you are lifting weights endlessly, but not stretching it out, your muscles won’t work at peak performance because they will be tight. It’s a very delicate balance of lots of life components to feel completely healthy and on top of your game, so take time to understand them all.
9. Stay realistic!
When you were a baby, you did not learn to walk in one day. When you were in grade school, you did not learn to multiple fractions in one day. (If you did, well supreme kudos, but that’s not how it goes for the rest of us!) As you take on this new lifestyle, stay realistic and give yourself lots of grace! You won’t love protein shakes and grilled chicken right away, but keep trying. You also won’t love burpees and HIIT cardio right away, but stay consistent. Don’t expect changes overnight and don’t expect yourself to have it all together after three days. Stay realistic with the big picture; this is a change for a lifetime, not just a month.
10. Stay flexible!
I used to see a fitness motivation quote all the time and for the life of me I cannot remember the exact words. An extensive amount of searching on Google hasn’t recovered the wise words either. They went something along the lines of “be rigid with your end destination, flexible with your path to get there.” Success is never a straight line from point A to point B, and anything worth doing is going to be difficult. Life will throw you curveballs and you will have ups and downs. Be aware that things will happen, and stay flexible with your process. When I moved to Iowa and flipped my whole life upside down, my priorities and my emotions fluctuated and I had a hard time finding myself again. I had to be able to give myself grace and trust that I had the habits and skills to get back into the fit life. The same goes for you. Trust the process and stay consistent no matter what. Know exactly where you want to end up, but be flexible with how you are going to get there.
For tips and updates follow me on Insta @jessica_brees