Life is full of choices. You can decide to work out instead of couch surf, or save for a down payment instead of buying designer sunglasses. When you really start to think about it, the same kind of fiscal discipline that applies to living on a budget also rings true for keeping up with a physical fitness regime: Get in your 30 minutes of cardio every day. Contribute the matching amount to your employer-sponsored retirement plan. Save for the future. Put down that doughnut.
Okay, let’s be honest: Maintaining our physical or fiscal fitness isn’t always the easy – or fun – choice. It requires commitment and stamina, two things that take a lot of energy in our already busy days. Plus, the repetitiveness of staying on track can become quite draining. After a long day at the office, it’s a lot easier to park it on the couch and spend twenty bucks on a delivery pizza than to force yourself to pump some iron and go to the market to get healthy ingredients for an inexpensive dinner.
But while it may be tough to stick to a financial or physical fitness plan, the benefits are pretty clear on both counts: gaining financial freedom and good health. For me, my quality of life is immeasurably better when both my fitness and my finances are under control.
Doing it the hard way
Right out of college, I wasn’t making enough to pay off my debt or cover my bloated spending-habits. I don’t have a distinct “a-ha!” moment but I eventually just became fed up with the way things were going. I stopped making excuses and started forcing myself to be disciplined and stick to a budget. As the years passed, I became debt-free. It felt like a great weight was lifted off my shoulders, and it made me feel energized: If I could achieve this I could achieve anything.
The same thing happened with how I approached my health and fitness. I learned to love fitness and healthful living instead of seeing it as a chore. When I first started running, I thought my lungs were going to collapse after half a mile and my muscles burned with each stride I took. It was painful! But once I kept at it, I found the benefits: My legs got stronger and the exercise became a catharsis. It took years of discipline to get to this point, but now I look forward to that feeling of renewal when I finish a hard run. Ditto with my food habits: Today I’m a reformed woman who would rather chill-out with a Yoga class than a bowl of ice cream.
Sometimes it’s hard. It’s always a moving target. On those winter days when there is 10 inches of snow on the ground, it’s really tough to make it to the gym. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t – but what’s important is that it’s a part of my life now and I know that one missed treadmill session – or one weekend of overspending - won’t derail my entire plan or my discipline. I’ve realized that it’s all about finding balance in finance and fitness.
No one ever said change was easy
Today, both my physical and fiscal health is much improved and I know I could never go back to my old daily habits towards food, fitness and money.
Of course, abandoning our reckless financial and physical health habits can feel quite drastic at first – as all changes do. There are countless studies on how long it takes for a new habit or change to really stick – from 21 days to 30 days – to even a 2009 study at University College London that claims the new perfect habit-forming number is 66 days.
Whatever the number of days, the desire to change will come and go until we accept the fact that we’ll have to stick it out for the long-run. Short-term changes, after all, don’t typically provide long-lasting benefits. My initial desire to shape up my physical health was only due to my desire to fit into a cute pair of skinny jeans the next weekend. But it was only after I started believing that I wanted to make a change for the long-haul (versus for next weekend’s outfit) did my healthy habits finally stick around – for good.
It’s always tempting to take the easy (and usually too-good-to-be-true) way out. There are countless get-thin quick schemes on the market today, but studies on crash dieting have shown that whatever results participants initially attain often don’t last. The same could be said for those get-rich quick plans that are always accompanied by that ambiguous “results not typical” disclaimer. Both plans are usually doomed for failure because they lack those important components of any successful method for cleaning up your finances or your health: long-term discipline, commitment, and the willingness to change.
No one ever said that making a commitment to our physical and fiscal health was easy or fun, especially when there are more exciting things to do with our time. But I think it’s pretty evident that the end results are more than worthwhile – whether you’re paying off your debt or trying to lose those last ten pounds.
Guest Post by Amber Nash, the founder and writer of BlondeandBalanced.com, a blog and website about striking a balance in life, health and money.
Photo at top of page: adria.richards via Creative Commons 2.0