The chicken-egg question has a correlation in the world of personal fitness. There are many variations on it, but they all go more or less like this:
"I'm not coming to the gym until I look better in shorts."
"I'll start swimming laps when I'm not embarrassed to be seen in a bathing suit."
"It's not worth going running now because it's the holidays and I'm just going to eat a lot and cancel it out."
Anyone who works in the industry has heard it before. It's the most vicious cycle out there, and it results in people procrastinating eternally about starting a health or fitness routine.
My friends and I have talked about it, and the idea we keep coming back to is this: it's easy to be self-conscious, and it's easy to think anybody else who passes through the doors of the gym is a hardbody, a person with perfect willpower, a judgmental person with two percent body fat, or whatever. And the longer people stay away because of those thoughts, the easier it becomes to convince themselves that they'll go back...someday. When the time is right. When the holidays are out of the way. When all the stars and planets align. When they can wear the size they want.
But the regulars already know the secret: Once you get started on your own routine, you're on your way to realizing that most people are somewhere in the middle of hardbody and homebody. And something else: Coming through the doors of that health club on a regular basis (whether you're wearing Spandex, a swimsuit or anything else) is ultimately the only thing that is going to make you look better, feel better, stay on your diet better, wear your clothes better. No matter whether it's January, June or November.
It is an idea that was brought home to me rather abruptly when a woman at my club, whom I hadn't seen for several months, started coming again regularly. Everyone was glad to see her, and I overheard someone ask her what had finally brought her back.
"You know," she said, "I just kept finding reasons to think it wasn't worth it to come. We were going to be going on vacation, and I felt like it wasn't going to be worth going to the gym before that because I knew I was going to eat a lot. Then Halloween was here, and I knew I was going to be eating the kids' candy and it didn't seem like it would make sense for me to go to the gym and exercise. One day I realized the next excuse would be the holidays. There's always going to be something coming up where you can eat too much or not work out, but I was tired of having my life ruled by that."
For her, the tipping point was simple: She was sick of procrastinating. I just wish there was a way to market that mindset to everyone, without the wait.