When it comes to working out, lifting weights and trying to stay healthy, I believe it's only natural for people to go through phases and that those phases are frequently cyclical. Here is a look at mine.
Phase One: I Had To
When I was in the military, I was required to maintain a certain standard of fitness. When I became an Army Ranger that standard was raised, significantly.
Even in the military, I went through phases where I worked out more than other times. I knew that when I had military school coming up or a physical fitness test, I would train hard. Afterwards, I would become lax with my workout schedule, sometimes not working out all for weeks—sometimes even a month or two.
As I got older, the desire to take "breaks" increased. Plus, maintaining a high level of fitness also gets harder as life gets in the way and your body ages.
My last tour with the military was Afghanistan in 2009-2010. Being one of the older guys in an infantry company full of young soldiers, I felt it was very important to achieve a high state of physical fitness. Not only did I feel I had to represent myself well to the soldiers reporting to me, but my life could actually depend on it.
Phase Two: It Helped Me Score
I was in amazing shape when my deployment to Afghanistan ended, which was especially good because I had just gone thru a divorce while deployed (totally different and much longer story) and knew I my fit body would be great for dating. So I kept up a certain level of my workouts to "maintain" my physique and ended up with a cute new wife.
Phase Three: I Deserved a Break
After 26 years of service in the Army I retired. This was the perfect excuse for me to stop working out. I already got the girl, and now I had time to relax and enjoy life and my children. I also enjoyed food and no longer looked at it as just fuel. After 26 years of punishing my body and living a very regimented physical existence in the military, I believe I deserved a break. Over the next two years, the only training I did was for my "before" photo and I developed quite an impressive “Dadbod.”
Phase Four: I Started to Hate Myself
Then one day it happened. I woke up and hated how I looked and felt. I am rated as 60% disabled and I have a bad back from a parachute (not opening all the way) injury. Being an Army Ranger is tough on the body and it went through years of abuse. I’ve always known that working out would keep my back strong, keep it from going out and keep the pain at bay. So why wasn’t keeping up my workouts?
Well for me, I have always believed that you either give 110% or you give nothing. Those two years of my life where I didn’t workout were because in addition to enjoying life, I was building a business. I was really busy and I didn't want to invest two hours a day, six days a week to get back into it. I’ve always been very results oriented and the results of my two years of slacking off were anything but acceptable. I was experiencing more pain in more areas and I felt like I was falling apart.
Phase Five: I Didn’t Have Another Choice (or back to Phase One—I Had To)
Phase five is basically back to my first phase but with a key difference: This time, I had to do it for me. Not the Army, not for another person. But just for me. I knew I had to get my health back, but I also had to get my business on track. I founded a weight loss business and created products to use while working out. Who would want to buy these products from a guy who was overweight out of shape? The answer is, nobody,
I decided I was not only going to get my body back, but I was going to start creating different products that I personally wanted to take to help me get back into shape. I knew my motivation was in a very low place so I worked with bodybuilding coaches to help me get back to what I consider is "the real me." I also joined Facebook groups of like-minded fitness enthusiasts to help motive me.
Over the next 10 months I was back to giving 110% and went back to hour and a half workouts, six days a week. I had injuries I had to work around, but that's where I really recommend coaches—they are real life savers. Within the first month I already felt stronger and my back no longer went out just because I sneezed or something ridiculous like that.
While I wasn't losing weight, I could tell that I was gaining serious muscle. At the end of 10 months I had accomplished my mission.
As we both know, life has a way of changing your priorities, hence my second divorce (another totally different and much longer story). Queue Phase Two again now that I was dating again: It helped me score.
Phase Six: Maintenance
Life brought me to where I am now, Chicago, and to be honest, getting in a regular workout routine is not easy for me. Location of gyms, business stuff, personal life (actually, insert any excuse here). But only recently have learned that you can have many phases of working out. It doesn’t have to be 110%. It doesn’t have to be any one phase. It just has to be something that you keep doing.
I used to mentally beat myself up for not having the ultimate body you see on the cover of magazines. Now, I understand that as long as I keep myself healthy, as long as I just do the work, not matter wheat the reason, I am good.
We all go thru phases in life, so why wouldn’t we also have phases with our workouts? It only makes sense. Just remember to stop beating yourself up. Remember that life happens, priorities change and things sometimes get tough. Just don't ever give up completely.