I have become a "naturally fit person". After eight years of illness and injury and the work of some amazing physios, surgeons, trainers and various other health professionals, I am lucky enough to be feeling and looking fit and strong. It's something I give heartfelt thanks for every day. It's been a long, hard road back to fitness for me and I have learned a lot along the way.
Namely this: naturally fit people do it differently. You know the sort of people I am talking about. The people we love to hate but also secretly want to be. I'd always found them unbearably smug "I just have to exercise before work otherwise I can't start my day right" they trill as they hop out of bed at 5am to cycle 60km before work. "They are not real people" I would mutter from under the duvet nursing a low grade hangover. "No one WANTS to get out of bed and exercise at 5am." And yet they do. Again and again. What is it these naturally fit people know that the rest of us don't?
The road back to fitness for me has been hard and long - lots of forcing myself to rehab and really pushing myself to improve my fitness in various ways. It's been a whole heap of painful effort. Hard work. Until suddenly it wasn't. It became easy. Enjoyable! Can't miss a day. I love it. It seems I'd discovered the secrets that "naturally fit people" already knew:
1: They do it, at least in part, for the feeling of doing it not just the result of doing it
They run because they love to run - the feeling of feet rhythmically hitting the pavement, the wind in the hair, the camaraderie. They dance because they love to feel the music move their body, the way the beat feels and the thrill of executing something new. They like the feeling of strength and empowerment and, hell that noise, as they land a well-pitched right hook on the punching bag. Sure, they also like having toned abs, or a tight tush, or a personal best but it's not all about the result. It's about the pleasure and sensations inherent in the activity itself, not just what they get from it.
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2: Exercise is about much more than weight loss
I can tell you this as a fact from years of coaching women to ditch the diet drama and learn to arrive peacefully at their natural body weight through the principles of intuitive eating. If the only reason you are exercising is to lose weight, eventually you will fall off the exercise wagon. Driving yourself with a negative and punishing your body will never result in an easy and effortless exercise habit. In my experience it is simply not enough.
3: They like their body - or at the least they respect it for what it can do
Hating your body and punishing it with exercise makes every workout hard. What naturally fit people have is a healthy respect or love for their body. They know it's not perfect, but they respect its needs enough that it's their job to take care of it and they know the better they do that, the better the partnership. They accept its limitations and work to them, with them and around them. They talk positively about their body, about what they DO like about it, not what they don't.
4: Naturally fit people talk about exercise like it's a supportive friend
"I love to walk/run/box/play tennis. It's my stress relief/it energises me/I always feel so much better after/I just love it." Naturally fit people love to "hang out" with and talk about exercise like it's a supportive friend. Language is so important and so reinforcing. Just changing up the way you speak about exercise in your life will start to transition you towards being a naturally fit person. There is not one naturally fit person on the planet that says "I hate exercise. It's boring and I never want to make time for it". That's a self-fulfilling prophesy of a naturally unfit person right there.
5: They fit it into their day, no matter what
For a naturally fit person it's as obvious and non-negotiable as eating. I remember hearing a naturally fit friend saying to me in astonishment at her own tardiness (I was on crutches at the time so it was especially annoying), "I haven't exercised for two whole days!" Apart from wanting to batter her with my crutches, what struck me was the way she said this with the sort of amazed disgust that you would expect from someone saying "I haven't cleaned my teeth for two whole days!" That's how natural exercising is for her. She makes it happen no matter what because it's a non-negotiable. She's recently had a baby, and is indeed one of those mums you see jogging with the pram. She is a naturally fit person because she equates exercising with the same obvious inclusion into her day as cleaning her teeth.
6: They work it with their body clock and their schedule
In short they make it work. They work it around their responsibilities because not doing so would be as ridiculous as saying, "No, I didn't have time to eat at all this week because I am super-busy and important". They know what works for their responsibilities, lifestyle and body clock (if you are not an early bird then the 5am workout is always going to feel like torture - figure out a different plan). They don't ask themselves, "Can I find the time to exercise today?" They ask themselves "How and when can I make the time to exercise today." They make it work because it's absolutely non-negotiable. The question isn't even there about whether to include it or not, it's a How. How do I make it happen?
So there you have it. When you observe "naturally fit" people in their natural habitat you see a bunch of defining characteristics. How they talk about their body. their time and exercise. What they believe about their body, their time and exercise. Naturally fit people do not have to force themselves to exercise. They just naturally want to because they have set up the mental capacity to do so. It's an amazing mental switcheroo to drop the "force" around exercise and to just be fit because that's the obvious thing to do. Fitness stops being a thing that you "do" and becomes a thing that you "are". It's easy. It's natural. All the force is dropped.
The good news? You aren't born a "naturally fit person". It's something you decide. It's something you choose and you can make that choice, right now. You can join the ranks of the "naturally fit" any time you choose to make that shift.