When I became a mom almost eight(!) years ago, my life changed in a myriad of ways. Some of those changes were expected and understandable, others were surprising and required a bit of getting used to.
And others still, were so far out of left field that I never would have imagined them. I mean who knew that becoming a mom meant my thought processes would forever be dictated by animated films and shows? Things like “I’m the map” and “hey, where’s Perry?” are imprinted on my brain…forever.
The phrase “you didn’t see anything” immediately takes me to Madagascar, and “today is a new day” is obviously a famous quote by none other than Chicken Little. It can make you crazy, or it can make you smile. I choose the latter, because I truly believe that having an “excuse” to watch animated films is one of the secret benefits of having a kid.
I do, however, think that kids or no kids, we should all watch kids films. Why?
1. Because they are usually HILARIOUS (ever notice how they put in those jokes only adults would understand?).
2. Because they always carry an important life lesson that as adults, we often forget.
One such life lesson comes from Po, of Kung Fu Panda. Or really it comes from his adoptive father, Mr. Ping, a hardworking goose who runs a noodle shop. Mr. Ping spends most of the movie withholding from Po the secret ingredient in his famous noodle soup, only to disclose at the end…
“The secret ingredient is…NOTHING! There is no secret ingredient. To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.”
For children, this is an incredibly powerful message, encouraging them to believe in themselves and their dreams (ahem, we need this sometimes too!). The moral of the story is that belief is a mighty thing, and that the “secret” is really YOU. But the message here can easily pertain to fitness and nutrition, and your pursuits of each.
How many times have you heard that “x program” is the secret to fitness or that “x diet” has all the secret tricks? How many times have you jumped from program to program, diet to diet, in hopes of finding out the secret ingredient?
You hear it so often that it confuses you, and you spend your limited breathing moments tirelessly (and frustratingly) searching for the secret. When the reality is, there is no secret. There isn’t a secret fitness fad that is going to instantly transform you. There isn’t a secret diet that will shed absurd amounts of fat with no significant lifestyle changes. There isn’t a magic pill or an enchanted lamp harboring a fitness genie.
There’s you, and your choices. That’s all.
Obviously there are great programs and nutritional plans to follow, and it’s always smart to seek guidance from experts on the subject who will steer you down the right path. I don’t presume to advise you to go it alone–after all, that’s why I’m here. But I do want you to realize that the secret is already within you, and people like me exist merely to help you uncover it.
To me, the real “secret” is this:
Find something that produces both results and enjoyment. Keep doing that.
The interesting emergence from that statement is that everyone’s secret is different. What works for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa. You might say “there is nothing better than sprinting” but what you’re really saying is “there is nothing better for ME than sprinting.” It’s your preference, your body, your secret.
I’ve got a few. Each of my “secrets” are independent of one another, working together in seamless integration to create a vibrant, active, joyful lifestyle.
1. Nutritional harmony: No calorie counting or obsessing. No guilt or self-abasement over small indulgences. I eat delicious healthy food and never eat anything I don’t LOVE. I eat mindfully so as not to over consume, and I recognize appropriate opportunities for indulgence. I love food, and I love eating–but I also love not being controlled by food.
2. Adaptable strength training: I absolutely LOVE lifting and being strong. But, I don’t like the idea of stressing out about “squat day” or freaking out about not making gains. For me, lifting is relative. Some days I do chin-ups, other days I push and pull a weighted sled. I’ve been unable to deadlift for months due to a back injury, and that’s totally okay. The point is that I am concerned with being strong in every way, and I train in a manner that allows me to accomplish that.
3. Yoga: Strength, balance, flexibility–both inside and out. Yoga is what keeps me sane. It’s such a nice departure from traditional strength training and I practice in some way every single day–whether it’s a 15 minute yoga break in my office or a 90 minute class at the studio.
4. Sweat sessions: This is my term for anything that resembles “cardio.” I like sprinting, kettlebell work, metabolic resistance training, and running stairs (or the stair machine). Perhaps my favorite sweat session is one that incorporates sled work and battling ropes.
5. Recovery/relaxation: Every single day, I walk about 3 miles and read for a minimum of 30 minutes. This is what helps me unwind and stay balanced.
6. PLAY: Of all the pieces of the puzzle, this is perhaps the most significant. Whether it’s a trip to the trampoline park, or a Wii dance party with my 7-year-old, play is a constant in my life. Exercise doesn’t always need to regimented and organized–sometimes it can come in the form of carefree, noncompetitive recreation.
That’s my secret; yours could look entirely different. Maybe you’ve got the same categories, but in a different order. Maybe the way you approach your nutrition is different, or you have different means of recovery. Either way, it’s what works for YOU. It’s an amalgamation of behaviors and activities that not only produce the physical and mental results you’re after, but that you thoroughly delight in. It has to be both: Effective and enjoyable.
A lifestyle that elicits results and enjoyment–that’s the real secret to fitness.