No matter what day on the calendar it is that you’re reading this post, chances are that the cover story of this month’s Men’s Fitness/Men’s Health/Muscle/etc is a how-to article on how to have amazing abs in only ___ weeks by following the revolutionary ____ program. Inside there will be exercise routines, diet regimens, and a series of rules about what you have to do to look like the model on the cover.
What gets me (because OF COURSE I read those articles!) is that they are always about how to get to that state of having visible, hard abdominal muscles, but nary a word is ever mentioned about what you would have to do to maintain that look. Invariably the articles tell you to cut out 500 calories a day, eat only protein, drink only water, do such and such for 30 minutes every single day, etc. But what’s supposed to happen on week ____ when you have finally arrived at your destination?
Well, chances are that by then your significant other has left you after one too many cranky, irritable remarks brought on by fatigue, you’re behind at work because what little time you devote to the office instead of the gym you’re too unfocused from lack of food, and you haven’t had a slice of pizza, a cookie, or even a sandwich in fourteen weeks. At that point you feel emaciated and angry and those wonderful abs are all you have to show for it. And within about 72 hours they’re gone – just a couple of double cheeseburgers, a pint of ice cream, a six pack of beer, and four bags of chips and you’re done for.
So, here’s my “revolutionary” program for getting great looking abs. For one thing, I have absolutely no idea how long it will take you. For another thing, your focus has got to be on making very small, incremental changes in your eating, exercising and sleeping routines that will be viable in the long term. You will have setbacks, you will have donuts, you will have days when it seems impossible. But your primary objective is Satisfaction. The goal is to be as satisfied with your progress, while balancing that with fun, interesting and satisfying food choices.
You’ll probably have to try a variety of different exercise routines and workouts until you hit one (or several) that fit your schedule and your resources. You’ll have to go to Cincinnati on that business trip even when you have no willpower in airports and have to stay at a motel with no gym. You’ll find ways to sneak in exercise, and healthy food, whenever possible into your life. And you’ll have to pick yourself up when you fall down. Because you will fall down.
When these little tiny steps add up into small victories, you will have to savor and celebrate each one of them. You will have to embrace the fact that the journey itself is the meaningful part. Then one day, having found a new path towards great eating and exercise, you might just happen to notice when you jump out of the shower, that you can actually see your ab muscles.
But you still won’t look anything like the person on the magazine cover. Sorry.