Making a Lifestyle Change – 7 Lessons Learned After a Year of HIIT

This weekend marks one year since I made a lifestyle change to
include regular HIIT workouts into my weekly routine. was having a
sale on their 12-week HIIT program.

And
although I finished that program a long time ago, I have continued to
incorporate other HIIT workouts into my routine and consistently
exercise five days a week.

This is the first time that I’ve
stayed consistent for a full year! If you’re looking to make a lifestyle
change, here are a seven things I’ve learned in the past 12 months that
have helped me make the change and stick to it.

1. You don’t need the “perfect body” to be happy

I
don’t say this because I have what I consider a perfect body. It’s
because I don’t, even after a year of dedicated exercise. (And what is a
perfect body anyway? It’s more than a little subjective!)

You
can do hundreds of ab bikes every week and still have a soft tummy. At
some point, you have to take a moment to contemplate why being fit is
important to you.

My clothes fit better, I have more energy,
and my body is stronger and healthier than it’s ever been before. That
is what makes me happy and comfortable in my own skin. Being healthy is
how exercise makes you happy.

2. Regular exercise pays off everywhere else in your life

The
mood boost alone is reason enough to exercise. But that’s just the tip
of the iceberg. With every passing week of exercise, you’ll experience
more motivation, more confidence, more energy, (including mental energy)
and a greater ability – and desire – to push the envelope on your
personal growth.

Not to mention you’re less likely to catch that nasty cold that’s going around, and you’ll get better quality sleep at night.

Speaking of sleep…

3. Sleep is more important than you probably think it is

In
the past, I’ve failed to stick to a fitness routine because I was too
tired to get my butt out of bed when the alarm went off. Or if I did
make it out of bed, I would be cranky and tired by 10am.

If
you’re doing early a.m. workouts, the only way to make it work for the
long term is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. I can’t stress
this enough!

4. HIIT can actually be enjoyable

Stay
with me here. Yes, there are still days when I feel like a HIIT workout
has kicked my butt. But there’s something so satisfying about it. It’s
hard to explain, but think of it as an acquired taste.

It’s like
the first time you eat an olive. You’re like, “Ugh, this is briny and
weird tasting!” But then you try it a couple more times and your brain
decides it likes olives. Next thing you know, you’re craving them.

And you’ve become an olive-eating machine.

This
is similar to how I feel about HIIT, and I don’t think I’m alone. Our
bodies are made to move, it just takes a little getting used to!

5. Take a break from exercise when you need it

There’s
been a few times when I had to take a break from exercise for a week or
two. It’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean you’re going to
backslide into a couch potato.

Breaks from exercise are still part of your healthy lifestyle change. In fact, breaks actually help you get fitter.

So
whether it’s because you pulled a muscle or you need to look after your
mental health, taking the occasional break from exercise is a
necessity.

Trying to exercise through times when you should be resting is not healthy.
 
6. A balanced diet is what works for you

I recently wrote a whole post
about this topic but it’s worth revisiting. Your diet is your diet, no
one else’s. You can literally drive yourself crazy trying to keep up
with all the latest diet trends, or you can craft your own sustainable
diet.

Mine has bread in it. Maybe yours does too, or maybe it doesn’t. Either way, it’s okay!

I’m
not saying you can eat a bunch of crap every day and still be healthy
and/or lose weight. But there’s no need to get super strict about your
diet to be healthy.

Sustainability is the name of the game.

I
loosely track calories, try to put a focus on protein, and stick with
foods that aren’t overly processed. But I’ll also have the occasional
cinnamon crunch bagel from Panera and all is well with the world. 😉

7. You can achieve way more than you think

A
regular exercise routine taught me that I am capable of much more than I
thought. For years I would never attempt HIIT or strength training
because it looked really hard and I felt like I would eventually just
give up anyway, so why start?

How I changed that perspective was
partly from just making up my mind to do it, but the other part was
finding a structured routine to follow. But following through and
proving to myself that I could stick with it really built up my
confidence.

It made me wonder what else I could achieve if I just tried.

Exercise fills you with motivation and inspiration because it helps you realize that you’re brimming with untapped potential!
Before and after my lifestyle change

I’ve
been meaning to post a “before and after” picture of my lifestyle
change for some time, but it’s been difficult finding a decent “before”
picture. (Mostly because I wasn’t so much into taking “selfies” when I
was out of shape.) I

did start taking progress photos when I
began HIIT training last year, but by that time I’d already lost ten
pounds from walking and counting steps.

Then I went through some
old vacation photos the other day, and was surprised by how different I
looked. (And not just because of the bad dye-job.) Full disclosure,
there’s over two years between the left photo and the right, which I
just took this morning.

I wasn’t at my heaviest yet in the left photo, but there’s still over 15 lbs difference between the before and after:

Weight
loss and fitness is about making a lifestyle change, and your progress
is something you see slowly over a long period of time. At least, that’s
how it was in my case.

Change will only happen if you’re consistent. And you can only be consistent if your routine is sustainable for the long-term!

Have you made a lifestyle change or are trying to make one? What are your struggles or successes? Shout out in the comments!

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