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While getting back in shape has been a start-and-stop-and-start-again issue for me over the last few months, over the long run, I’ve become fitter. And I’m beginning to feel like when graduated from high school 10 years ago.

I’ve dropped a few pounds, soon I will start run regularly again, and I’ve become more consistent with strength training. I’m not saying all that to show- off. If you saw the details of how I got here, it’s something to be proud of — I ran to and from the gym every morning, workout about an hour five days a week and play basketball on the weekends… but then I slowly started eating more junk food and gaining weight.

Recently, I dropped sweets from my diet (cakes,donuts, candy, CHOCOLATE!, sodas, etc.), and surprisingly I don’t really miss them. I’ve been exercising with some of my friends at the gym on alternate days and it’s been great. I’m healthy.

The ups-and-downs of my fitness efforts have highlighted some important points for me. Key among those points: don’t quit. If you stop for awhile (life is like that sometimes), that doesn’t mean you should quit altogether. Just keep going. You’ll get there eventually.

And during this journey, which hasn’t stopped and probably won’t ever stop, and I’ve learned a lot over the years, about what works and what doesn’t.

What follows are some of the more important truths I’ve learned, that I’d like to share with you. Take from them what you will — everyone will find different things that work for them (in fact that’s the #1 rule), but I think just about all of them are important to share.

Small steps. That you get fitter in stages, as you exercise more, is pretty obvious I think. You might start out just walking, but as you get fitter, you might add some slow jogging to your routine. And then eventually you’re running three miles, several stages later. However, this really applies to everything, including diet, and many people don’t realize that. You shouldn’t try to change your entire diet overnight — do it in stages.

Small steps, one thing at a time and you’ll get there. Just start eating more fruits at first, for example. Then cut out sodas. Then eat more veggies for dinner. Then change your white bread for whole wheat bread. Then cut out candy at work.:smile: And so on. The thing is, you get used to each thing after awhile, and so the changes don’t seem drastic. A year later, and you’re eating extremely healthily (that word again), and you can’t imagine going back to your old diet. Small steps — this is the key, to both diet and exercise.

Find short-term rewards. Most people quit their diet or exercise program because they’re looking for immediate results. And they’re discouraged when they don’t get them. But you won’t get immediate results – that’s not how things work. One fitness trainer said something like,

“After a month, you’ll start feeling some results. After two months, you’ll start noticing results. After three months, others will start noticing.”

And that’s pretty true — it takes months before you start to see the results you want … but in the meantime, you have to look for other things to keep you going. Those shorter-term rewards could be simple things like the great feeling you get after a workout — that helps me stay motivated. Or you could give yourself a treat or reward (something healthy, preferably) or buy a book or something like that.

Track your progress. The scale is probably the most popular way to see your progress, but other ways include measuring your waist, or taking photos of yourself each month. You could also track your performance — for example, try to run 2-3mile every week to see if you’re getting faster, or log your miles to see them increase. However you do it, you should have some kind of way to see your progress over the weeks and months. Otherwise, you might not really notice the difference — but the numbers or pictures will.

Get a workout partner. The key to my exercise success in the past was my best friend. I began running with Glen, (who btw is an incredible inspiration — he has come a very strong runner in the last year), and even though we’re at different levels, we really enjoy our runs. When we agree to meet at 5 a.m. for a run, I have to be there, or face the music :smile:. And sure, once in awhile there were times I didn’t show up, but most of the time we’re there, and we run, and that’s the important thing. These months of running was really what gotten me in much better shape. Now Glenn is back and I think it time we start back running. Get a workout partner, it’s best the move.

Enjoy yourself. Very very important. If you see your exercise as extremely difficult, or painful, you won’t be able to maintain it for long. You’ll quit. If you see your diet as very restrictive, or torture, you’ll go back to junk food in a short while. You must find exercise that you enjoy, and find healthy foods that taste good to you. Experiment with new recipes until you find ones you absolutely love. The bottom-line, enjoy the whole process. It’s what’s kept me doing it — I love my life and the way I feel.

Never ever give up. Maybe the most important truth on this list. If you give up, you won’t get to your goal. Very obvious, I know, but the problem is that people don’t put this into action. Messing up by falling back into junk food or stopping exercise — that happens. Life gets in the way. No one is perfect. Just forget about that stuff, and move on. Learn from your failures, adjust your plan to prevent the same thing from happening again, and start again. If you stop, that’s OK — just starts again. Always start again. If you do that, there’s no way you won’t eventually get to your goal.

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