Back to Basics

January 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Health and Fitness

By Don Otis –

What do you want to achieve in the New Year? In fitness language, setting goals and maintaining them is called adherence. As it is with anything in life, your goals determine your behavior. We don’t stumble into good health any more than we do ill-health. It takes intention. Or, in Christian terms, we set our heart (will) toward a goal.

In the past several articles, we have talked about how easy it is to fall off the wagon, so to speak, when it comes to adherence to our goals. We have discussed the importance of consistency, cross- training to break up the monotony, and having definable objectives. We have discussed fat-burning cardio exercises and what works best. This means intensity over duration. In other words, it is better to increasing your intensity on a treadmill than to walk slowly for 45 minutes. We call this quality or quantity. Some people think they have to spend a lot of time to get satisfactory results. Not true.

This weekend I had an hour of sunlight left and wanted to get a mountain bike ride in on the Santa Rosa Plateau in southern California. I met up with a Christian chiropractor and we took off at a breakneck speed (there is a reason they call it “breakneck”). We finished ten miles on single track trails just as the sun set. I had resolved to work out that day, even if it was challenging to do it before the sun set.

Here are some of the questions in the Exercise Confidence Survey asked by fitness trainers who want to access the resolve of new clients.

Do you get up early, even on weekends, to exercise?

Do you stick to your exercise program after a long, tiring day at work?

Do you exercise even though you are feeling depressed?

Do you stick with your program even when you have household chores or social obligations to attend to?

I would add many of my own questions to the survey, like “Are you willing to turn off the television or stay off Facebook long enough to exercise? The biggest distracters are our schedules, family obligations, vocational responsibility, or fatigue/depression.

For me, one of the ways I stay motivated is to document what I do. It is simply writing down what I have done for the day on a 4 X 6 card. I have hundreds of these from decades ago. I know, for example, how much slower I am today than twenty years ago. Although my miles are slower, I keep moving and setting goals. This year will end with 1700 miles logged! Whatever your goals are, write them down, check on your progress, and persevere.

The most critical period of adherence to exercise is the first three to six months. This is one of the reasons I encourage a slow, methodical approach that helps people maintain a lifestyle of God-honoring, healthful living. Another reason for the slower approach is to avoid burnout or injury. If you are older or heavier, start with low-impact activities.

If it is helpful, write a contract–even if it is between yourself and God, or yourself and your spouse. Include a series of goals (make these reasonable) and determine to adhere to them–to “show up” even when you don’t feel like it.

Don S. Otis is am ACE Certified personal trainer, the author of Keeping Fit after 40 and Whisker Rubs: Developing the Masculine Identity. He is the president of Veritas Communications, a Christian publicity agency based in Canon City, Colorado. You can contact him at

About Don S. Otis

Don S. Otis is a personal trainer, the author of five books, including Staying Fit after 40. He stays active by running, climbing, mountain biking, and lifting weights. Don is the founder of Veritas Communications, a Christian publicity and marketing agency based in Canon City, CO.

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