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Le Tour de Fitness

A lifetime of fitness involves many stages.

The pursuit of fitness has a beginning but no ending. No wonder it’s difficult to stay on the path.

Pursuing a healthy “lifestyle” is a kind way to recruit our minds to accept that we’re in for the long haul.

Recognizing these stages of fitness can ensure the only towel you hang up continues to be a sweaty one:)

Every sport had a season when we were kids. We’d get pumped up, in shape, and ready to roll for a season that ended in a playoff or championship.  Even in year round sports like my gymnastics, training was always a build-up to specific meets.

Fitness in adult life rarely resembles those high school days of kicking balls or racing our friends around an oval track. No one expects you to participate.  Now you have to seek fitness opportunities.  The smorgasbord of choices is scattered as are your friends. No more coach threatening a bench if you don’t show up for practice.

So how do you stay motivated on an endless journey? Why do some pursue a FIT life forever and others end up back on the couch?

Understanding the process of a lifelong pursuit can help you avoid a sedentary life for good.

Stage 1: The Warrior

You make a decision to get FIT by eating healthy and exercising regularly. You purchase vegetables as if they were diamonds. You set your alarm early and bounce out of bed. You drink lots of water and cook great, healthy meals.

Emotions: excited, extremely motivated, hopeful, inspired

Stage 2: The Conqueror

You are reaping the rapid rewards of your new lifestyle. Your clothes are loose, soreness has subsided, energy level is way up. Things that used to irritate you don’t anymore. You feel like a new person.

Emotions: motivated, confident, determined, stimulated

Stage 3: The Invincible

Your workouts are getting easier. You can do more reps, run longer, or go up a level on your favorite machine. You start to feel like you fit in at the gym. The front desk inquires about your one day absence. You start to think about fitness goals. Ideas that never entered your mind start keeping you up at night. “Wonder if I could….”  You start noticing and questioning other athletes hoping for validation that they’ll say, “Of course you can!”

Emotions: excited, extremely motivated, curious, insecure, adventurous

Stage 5: The Competitor

You’ve upped the ante and now consider yourself “training” with a specific goal event in mind. Deep down you set a goal you’re not sure if you can reach but it’s exciting just to think about. You may join a group to meet others on similar missions. Your social circle enlarges.

Emotions: motivated, nervous, enthusiastic

Stage 6: The Wishy Washer

You’ve reached your first major fork in the road of your fitness journey. Your event is over and you feel lost. “Where do I go from here?” you may ask. Or you’ve plateaued and are short of your goal. Same effort is not producing results you want. You’re tired and want to take a break. One minute you want to attack a new goal and the next minute you want to veg on the beach. You feel like you’re finished but you know you’re supposed to keep going.

Emotions: letdown, confusion, drained, hopeful, proud, insecure

Stage 7:  The Drudger

What used to seem exciting is now mundane. You go through the motions because habits have formed but excuses start to creep in. Your snooze button becomes worn. The eating and drinking habits after your event continue past the celebration. A prime time for injuries! Tweaks and aches provide substantial evidence to skip workouts. You may turn to old eating habits for comfort and escape. You complain to those who will validate your feelings.

Emotions: apathy, confusion, sadness, denial

Stage 8:  The Dreamer

If you successfully rode the storm of the 2 previous stages, you have likely recommitted. Due to the emotional hurdles, you know you need something that will really motivate you to stick with a program. Frequently, this is when people set big goals and may settle in on a specific sport.  Maybe it’s to run their first marathon, finish an Ironman distance triathlon, participate in a 100+ mile charity bike ride. This stage is one of learning. You may invest money in gear, seek out coaches or training plans, subscribe to magazines. This stage can last and progress if you are focused on achieving personal bests or competing for placement. You may become competitive with your friends.

Emotions: relief, motivated, curious, uncertain

Stage 9: The Extinguished

You know you’ve hit this stage when your sluggish workout days far exceed your bionic days. When you forward through every song on your iPod, cut your workouts short, complain constantly about the weather, and resent your fellow fit-mates who look effortless. Every day comes too often. You may feel trapped in a group that’s no longer fun or the goals don’t coincide with your own.

Emotions: apathy, frustration, guilt, claustrophobic

Stage 10: The FIT Athlete

You are now the master of your own journey. Not necessarily having mastered a sport. The value is no longer dependent on finish lines or podium finishes. Group workouts are more about the camaraderie than competition. The greatest reward is the enjoyment of the routine, the energy that comes from exertion. A sense of gratitude for what your body gives you each day.

It may take us a year or decades to pass through these stages or we may skip around. There are many humps, bumps, bruises, and battles with our minds and bodies along the way.

It’s been 25 years since I stepped on the path and I’ve been through all of these stages, some multiple times. The rewards of friendship, adventure, travel, and passing on my love of fitness to my kids has brought more joy than any medal I have received. (See pictures below).

I’m fairly confident I arrived at Stage 10 after battling Stage 9. It was the day I laced up my shoes and stepped outside my door with no watch and only one expectation. That the sun would rise on a new day.

And that was all the motivation I needed.

Hand in hand with my daughter finishing her first 5K

Running buddies that become much more

A great excuse for a family vacation

Finding great vegan diners during race travels

If you liked this post, I recommend The Number One Thing All Successful People Do

"During our lives we experience so many setbacks, and fight such a hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and have a little hope." Lance Armstrong


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  1. Erin #

    I LOVE this.

    July 19, 2012
  2. Chloe Ortbals #

    Don’t we all love the first five stages? Haha. It’s those last stages that get you. It’s hard to keep going after reaching a goal. After my cross country season was over, I didn’t keep up my fitness, and I saw the effects it had on my body when I started track in the spring. I learned my lesson there. I started making excuses or I was denying that I was losing my fitness. Referring to stage nine- Now I know its better to have sluggish work outs, then no work outs at all.

    July 19, 2012

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