In order to achieve any type of health and fitness goal, it is imperative to first identify your why. In other words, why are you pushing yourself to the brink during a workout? Why are you worrying about eating clean and making good nutritional choices? Why are you waking up early on a Saturday morning to hit your active rest, when all you want to do is relax? You need to have a rock solid answer to these questions because the devil on your shoulder will be asking you these questions repetitively as you work toward your goals.
To best answer your why, you must first identify the moment(s) in your life that led to you to embarking on your current fitness journey. In 2014, Chris Shugart of T-Nation wrote an article titled “Phoenix Theory,” which refers to the crash and burn moment when you realize that things are not going the way you want physically. Many times, this moment is characterized by a period of extreme anger and even embarrassment- What makes it a Phoenix Moment, as opposed to a mental breakdown though is your ability to rise from the ashes- “reborn” as a new you- symbolically acting as the famous animal from Greek Mythology, the Phoenix. According to legend, the Phoenix would burst into fiery flames at the end of its life cycle, only to rise from its ashes as a beautiful new bird.
Chris Shugart argues that for permanent change to occur, it is imperative to have this breaking point, which will ultimately lead to the realization that it’s time to make a significant change. Until this moment occurs, most people will continue to yo-yo through their diets or gym routines- having good weeks and bad weeks but never actually making the lifestyle change they so desperately want/need. I whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment and will take it one step further by advising: the emphasis should be on fostering your lowest point that led to your physical rebirth. Far too often, we start going down the long winding path that is our fitness journey; with all of its peaks and valleys we lose sight of what lit the fire under our asses in the first place. Your Phoenix Moment needs to be bottled up as an insatiable, eternal flame that always stays lit in the depths of our soul; that can be easily tapped into at any point to reignite your passion for chasing your dreams.
What Was Your Lowest Point?
Maybe you didn’t fit into a bathing suit or a pair of jeans like you did 5, 10 or 15 years ago. Or, you had to run after your kid for only a few steps and you found yourself doubled over, out of breath, just a few years removed from running sub-7 minute miles. Maybe it was a doctor that read you test results that scared you off the table; imploring you to make a lifestyle change. Whatever your Phoenix Moment was, embrace it- it should ultimately be your “why” in regards to the reason you live a healthy lifestyle. Be able to readily identify your “last straw” that led to all the positive change you infused in your life.
Also, don’t be afraid to share this moment with others. I’ll be completely transparent-my Phoenix Moment occurred in June of 2010. I was in Disney World with a girlfriend at the time, and we were waiting for a show to start. Being a cocky rising college sophomore, fresh off my first year playing college baseball, I was walking around Disney in a tank top- feeling relatively good about myself physically. Up to this point in my life though, I was a yo-yo fitness guy. Some weeks I’d hit the gym 6 times, but many weeks I’d only go once or not at all. I’ll never forget though, waiting for the show to begin and my girlfriend was leaning on me, holding onto my arm. Sitting directly across from us, was a guy with his girlfriend sitting the exact same way- the only difference was this man had arms that warranted being hung onto by his girlfriend- in other words his arms were huge. In that moment, I never felt more self-conscious in my life- to the point that I was looking for the nearest gift store to find a sleeved t-shirt to buy! I made a promise to myself that I would never feel that insecure and embarrassed again about any part of my physique.
Use Your Phoenix Moment to Create Goals
When I got back from Disney, my first fitness goal was broad and simple: be consistent. Up to this point I knew I failed in the gym because I wasn’t showing up every week and doing the things I needed to do. I developed a 3-day workout program for myself that I was religious with. As time went on, I started to sprinkle in active rest days, which is when I started really playing around with Kettle Bells, Medicine Balls and tires. The results weren’t instantaneous by any means; nor did I have a perfectly planned out routine- I made many mistakes along the way. The key was, as famed strength coach Dan John would say: I was a “slave to consistency.” Every. Single. Week. I never missed a planned workout. I gradually added in a 4th, 5th and 6th day into my programming; but it wasn’t until months later that these changes occurred, because I was so leery of burning myself out.
9 years later, I can still vividly remember that moment in Disney that ultimately led to my initial fitness goal of simply showing up week in and week out. Over the years my goals have changed several times, but my overarching lifelong fitness goal is still to be consistent with living a healthy lifestyle. The Phoenix Moment I experienced has been the fuel to my fitness journey because to this day it feels like a fire being stoked just thinking about the negative emotions I felt in that instant. Therein lies the key to sustained success in achieving your fitness goals- the ability to foster your lowest moment and translate it to tangible fitness goals down the road.
What If I Haven’t Had a Phoenix Moment?
If you haven’t had what you consider a true Phoenix Moment yet, not to worry! You can certainly make life long changes and achieve the goals you set for yourself without having a crash and burn feeling. The point of this post is to have you think back to what got you started down the fitness path- and don’t forget it…And if you haven’t gotten started yet, realize that the fire needs to come from within. No matter what motivational video you watch, or what your close friends/family tell you- the desire to change has to come down to you wanting to make the lifestyle changes that will let you achieve your dreams and goals. If you have a Phoenix Moment, embrace it and let it be the fuel to carry you all the way through your fitness journey.
Goals determine everything about a workout. One of the first questions I always ask a potential clients is: “what are your long term and short term fitness goals?” This post is going to kick off a whole series on how to create the proper workout for you- which starts with figuring out exactly what your goals are (yes, you should have multiple). It is absolutely imperative that you always know what you’re running towards, otherwise you’ll just spin your wheels and never achieve real results.
My challenge for you over the next week is to take a step back and look at your fitness journey. Ask yourself 2 questions:
- What is your why?
- What got you started leading a healthy lifestyle?
And then start to think about how your answers relate to a potential overarching longterm fitness goal. Next week we will dive into the many different layers of goal setting and ultimately how they will shape your workout!
Yours In Fitness & Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.