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October, 8, 2010 | 9Comments

Fiscal and Physical FitnessLife 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

  • http://Mattandashley16.blogspot.com Matt

    Excellent article… I recently renewed a commitment to working out again. Two weeks so far. This is great encouragement. Thanks amber!

  • http://www.domesticallyflawed.blogspot.com Heather

    That was inspiring, Amber. Thank you!

  • http://mattandashley16.blogspot.com MrMrsBruce

    Excellent Article! I am currently on a new workout initiative and I have been going two weeks strong. Fitness and Financial responsibility have to become a priority in our lives otherwise they will only be desires. This article is of huge encouragement to me, as I seek to make working out a stable habit in my life. Thanks.

  • http://www.mintingnickels.com Lindy Mint

    You’re right, change is hard. But it’s nice to know that the small steps we take now can lead to big changes, and we won’t even remember our old selves down the road. Motivation to change plays a big factor in making discipline less hard too.

  • http://punchdebtintheface.com Ninja

    You are a baller. Motivating the world, one dollar and one pound at a time!

  • http://www.financiallyfitafter40.com Lea Ann Knight

    Great message Amber. On the financial fitness side, too many people spend money to create a comprehensive financial plan, but never put it into place OR track their progress over time like you would with physical fitness. It takes the same commitment to the long run to have financial success as it does to losing 20 pounds.

  • http://www.investwithpassion.com Freddie @ Real Estate Investing

    Thank you for that, Amber. I can really relate to the not having an A-ha moment, but I am tired of living like this. I came out in debt, built my way out from other everything, bought a home, got a bit careless with spending, business went under and now and I starting over again.

    Drives me nuts, but this time I am going to get out of debt and stay there. As for my physical fitness, I have always been all over that. Had a period where I fell off, but overall I am good there. Doing P90X routine right now and will be training for the chicago marathon next year (did 12 weeks of training this year, but hurt my foot).

    Anyway, thank you for making me thinking and looking forward to growing with you.

  • http://frugalzeitgeist.com Forest Parks

    I took a few weeks off working out but generally am a 6 day a weeker when it comes to keeping fit….. Starting again today with some Yoga.

  • jennie

    During the past five years I have lost 55 pounds, and have kept it off. I will say this was and still is very difficult for me. As I was always over weight and started as a young child…I love food!!! especially bread and sweets.Now I have learned to keep it off and exercise quite frequently. My next difficult problem I am working on is paying off all debt…I am putting this in the same prospective. I am reading and taken classes with Dave Ramsey.. I have paid off two credit cards and working my way down to be debt free!!!!!! It works..