Editors Note: This is a guest post from Grant Gannon.
When you visualize the perfect man what comes to mind? Is it the clean-cut, well-dressed, trim and fit man? Or do you think of the slovenly overweight man waddling down the street stuffing a double cheeseburger in his mouth? Exactly.
In a country leading a more sedentary lifestyle every day, often the most important aspect of what makes us a man, our body, is overlooked in its care. In the transition from youth to manhood it’s sometimes easy to let the upkeep of our bodies fall by the wayside. Whether it be school, work, or starting a family, we spend more time neglecting our bodies than maintaining them. Obesity and inactivity are slowly killing the men across the country and world. While we may only notice it as an extra breath or two climbing the stairs, the effects of a lack of physical fitness are many. Increased risk of heart disease, decreased sexual stamina, diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea are just some of results of being overweight and out of shape.
A year ago, on my 26th birthday, I decided I was going to get into shape. I was tired of living my life 50 pounds heavier than when I was 18; I was tired of getting sick all of the time because I smoked daily; I was tired of not being able to run up a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath; I was tired of not being fit. So I decided to change. Along the way I dropped all that weight and found myself not only looking and feeling better physically, but mentally as well.
As you read this column, understand that I am not a doctor or a professional trainer. What you’ll read is my advice on fitness acquired through an above average level of immersion in getting one’s self into a state of fitness. Any activity you decide to pursue as a result of reading this column should only come after careful consideration of where you are with your level of fitness and a consultation with your doctor. So let’s get started. Before you step on foot on a treadmill or pick up a weight let’s look at three key factors in getting fit: Motivation, humility, and goals.
Ask yourself, why are you doing this? Is it for yourself? Your spouse? Your children? Maybe it’s for a friend who’s overweight and needs a little bit of boost to start working out? Whether it’s a single factor or many, the motivation to get in shape will be the core principle that drives every workout.
When you first start, when you’re six months into a fitness plan, there are going to be times when you don’t want to work out. You just won’t. These are going to be times when you’re going to need to refocus on why is it you’re working out. There are plenty of doomsday scenarios to motivate you to workout, but I won’t touch on those. Instead let’s touch of a few happier, more applicable motivations.
Maybe you’re tired of standing on the porch watching your kids play football in the yard and you want to join them. Maybe you’d like to provide more to your spouse in an intimate situation rather than just being a huffing and wheezing blob. It could be as simple as wanting to be able to take your shirt off at the beach without embarrassment. You don’t need to have six pack abs , but do you want to feel confident about your appearance.
When you find out why you want to get back in shape, find some way you can remind yourself of this reason. I was never a big believer in doing things like writing on your bathroom mirror or wearing a bracelet with some inspirational message on it. You need to be reminded of your motivation, not smothered by it. I had a photo of myself from high school that was taken the day before I started basketball practice my senior year. Some friends and I got together for a full contact football game and took a goofy photo afterwards posing with our shirts off. That was the best shape I’ve been in in my life. Every so often I’d take a quick glance at the photo to remind myself I was capable of a high level of fitness. How you choose to remind yourself is up to you, but make sure you do it.
YOU ARE NOT 17 ANYMORE. Got it? Whenever people ask me how to get back in the gym I tell them going to the gym the first time isn’t the hardest part, it’s the second time where many men fall short. Too many times men fail in their quest for fitness because they pretend like they’re still 17 and go full speed on the first workout. If you don’t pull a hammy during the workout you wake up the next morning feeling like you went three rounds with Kimbo Slice. Your knees, back, and neck all hurt and you can barely stand. So when you think about the next workout, the words ‘Hell’ and ‘No’ usually follow shortly thereafter.
I’ll get into a plan in subsequent columns but here’s how I started out last spring with my workouts: 30 minutes on the treadmill, walking at 2.4 miles per hour with varying degrees of incline. It is impossible to look cool when you’re slogging away on a treadmill dripping with sweat doing a workout like that. But starting slow will provide a stronger foundation for fitness gains. Getting past the ego aspect of ‘looking cool’ when you’re working out requires a certain level of humility.  Isn’t that something all men need more of anyway?
Setting and reaching goals is a big part of getting back in shape. Having a benchmark to reach as a measure of success provides positive reinforcement that your efforts are worth your exertions. The easiest goal to set is the bathroom scale. Pick a number you want it to read and get to that number. This is something you can discuss with your doctor. Goals can be small or large. You might just want to run a mile without stopping, drop 10 pounds, or complete a 5K race.
The best thing about your goals is you can easily set new ones when you accomplish the others. My first goal was very simple, run a 10K. I figured if I could do that then everything else – losing weight, quitting smoking, getting in shape – would take of itself. That’s exactly what happened when I completed a 10K last September.
Don’t set too high a goal though, you want to be able to reach it in a reasonable amount of time. You might want to run a marathon some day but starting with a 2 mile fun run may be the better goal. The key to remember is that no matter how out of shape you may think you are, getting back in shape is possible. It took you years to get to this point but you can get back on the road to health in a matter of weeks. You’ll be a better man for it too.