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If there’s anyone that lives and breathes fitness, it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. The former governor of California and seven-time Mr. Olympia knows what it’s like to taste success in the realm of health and fitness, but he’s also all too familiar with the challenges involved in this journey, as well as failures and setbacks. Having the mindset of a champion means knowing how to bounce back and start again no matter how difficult it is.
In his recent opinion piece on CNN, The Austrian Oak acknowledges that getting in shape isn’t the easiest thing for anyone, especially if you’re trying to reach your past fitness levels.
Having undergone open-heart surgery earlier this year, Schwarzenegger understands the pain and struggle of starting from scratch. But his advice for improving yourself and being as fit as you once were is simply by taking things slow, and not to care so much about the numbers.
“I didn’t worry about six-packs or bench pressing 500 pounds (220kg). My only goal was improving a little bit every single day, and eventually, all of those small improvements and all of that support brought me back to a strong, healthy place,” he says.
And even if you do need a tangible goal to aim for, set smaller, more achievable targets for yourself instead of big, unrealistic ones. According to a study in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, there’s a higher chance of you sticking to your plan if you have weekly targets instead of larger goals.
Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has also found that it’s important to have smaller goals if you find yourself struggling to stay motivated. Aiming to hit that one big achievement may feel too overwhelming to work towards, which may end up demoralising you.
“If you think about a single action relative to a larger amount, progress can seem like a drop in the ocean—you’ll have little motivation to continue,” says researcher Ayelet Fishbach, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Chicago
It really is as straightforward as it sounds. But the 71-year-old believes people nowadays have the wrong kind of mindset towards fitness. Instead of pushing on and progressing at a slow and steady pace, there’s too much emphasis on instant results and magic solutions.
“Going through that process showed me that many people put too much faith in big moments, believing they’ll suddenly flip a switch and be healthier. There’s no such thing. A healthier future is every tiny step we take, or every little rep, that ultimately leads us to our goal.”
So, if you’re still hesitant about starting your own fitness journey because it seems so daunting, take Arnold’s advice and take it slow. It’s not about how fast you get there, but the baby steps you take to improve yourself.
“Don’t chase the next big thing. Be better. Today. That’s all.”
By Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer