Courtesy of Suraiya Yahia

Solving the Commitment Conundrum in Fitness

Being truly committed means looking at the bigger picture and focusing on what you can do, rather than what you look like.

Oct 1, 2016

For how many years has getting back in shape been in your top resolutions? How many times have you promised yourself that you will start working out? And how many times have you said you would start next week, next month or maybe next year?
Sometimes, you actually got started and worked out for a couple of days, maybe even weeks. But eventually, what some call the bipolar exercise disorder hits you and your motivation just fades away — you stop. Most of us have been there, at least once. And while exercising on a regular basis has been shown to positively improve health and mental condition, most of us never manage to stay consistent. So why is that? Why is commitment so difficult?
We’ve all heard that setting objectives helps reach targets. But I believe that real goals shouldn’t be about getting a beach body or a six-pack or even just losing those extra pounds, at least in the long run. Being truly committed means looking at the bigger picture and focusing on what you can do, rather than what you look like. Commitment is about staying consistent for as long as you possibly can.
20, 30, 40 years from now, your health and your ability to stay active will most probably be more important to you than your physical appearance. Years from now, you won’t necessarily regret what you did, but instead, you might regret what you didn’t do. And years from now, when your body won’t be as new and healthy as it is today, you’ll probably wish you had taken better care of it when you were younger.
It’s true that as students, we are busy people and our days don’t seem like they can accommodate extra activities. We often lose ourselves in our endless to-do lists and packed calendars, but we must remember that we’re the ones in control. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed and tired, but what’s not OK is to let ourselves go and give up without doing anything about it. So to really start committing to exercising, you must find a purpose of your own — a true one. Regardless of how good you want to look, you should give yourself a convincing rationale to stay sustainably active in the long run.
No one ever said they’ve regretted a workout after completing it: the hardest part is starting. You must give yourself the right reasons to get there and start: whether it’s the feeling of achievement that you’ll get after, or the satisfaction of knowing you can perform tasks you otherwise thought impossible. Beginning to exercise or stepping up your fitness might be a big change: old habits feel safe and comfortable, and change might feel scary. But those changes can impact more than you could predict. While the risks seem great, the rewards might be even greater. Getting out of your comfort zone means that you give up any expectation and stop predicting outcomes: you waive any possibility of being disappointed and only rely on what’s actually happening to you.
We’ve all looked up to athletes or models, or even people we know and keep wishing to be like. But it’s time to stop being passive: If they can do it, why can’t you? When looking up to these people, we only see the tip of the iceberg; we don’t see who they were before, we don’t see the years of hard work and dedication, the sacrifices they had to make and the weaknesses they had to overcome. Being inspired by others is great, but it doesn’t mean setting the bar at their level when you’ve only just started; it means understanding the road they’ve traveled to get there and appreciating their unconditional commitment. No one was ever born with a strapping, fit body or the ability to run marathons. Some people just decided they were capable enough to take on the challenge — it’s all about the initial willpower.
Now don’t get me wrong: mental strength is essential, but you can’t avoid putting in the physical effort. And let’s be realistic, we all have different levels of fitness and we all have different incentives to get in shape. Which takes me to my next point: Be honest and reasonable with yourself. If you join an advanced conditioning class when you can’t even remember the last time you exercised, chances are you’ll probably never go back to that class.
Fitness is a journey, and like all journeys, the departure is always confusing and overwhelming. To keeping on going forward, one needs to take smaller but surer steps. So embracing fitness doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym on week one — everyone should start from what they can do and be patient in order to see improvement. Find what you like and what you would look forward to doing. This might require some trials; some might be more successful than others, but it’s important to always stay open and embrace the ideas behind your change. Try new sports, sign up to different dance classes or go for cycling sessions with your friends — being active is really just about getting out there and moving!
So whether it’s taking a 30-minute walk every other day, or doing a short 20-minute High-Intensity Interval Training workout twice a week, you must start somewhere. The goal is to be active and to stay consistently active. Then, it is your responsibility to scale it up little by little — your walk can become a jog, your bi-weekly workout can become a daily habit and so on.
While some might argue that genetics make certain individuals more prone to progress than others, I believe that it doesn’t really matter as long as your journey is about you and you alone. The only person you should really focus on competing against is yourself, your laziness and your bad habits; that way, your only excuse is you. You should fuel yourself with your own potential and ambitions.
If that’s not enough of an incentive, get your friends to come with and surround yourself with the right people. After all, there is strength in unity, and exercising is no exception. Pushing together through a session can sometimes be extremely fulfilling as you end up achieving your plans with people you care about.
Suraiya Yahia is a contributing writer. Email her at
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