The best personal trainers are the ghosts of fitness past, present and yet to come.
Most of us are familiar with the classic tale A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Oftentimes told to promote a sense of generosity and righteousness to kids, the book revolves around the life of Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. He is so aghast at the visions shown to him, especially of the future, where no one cares to attend his funeral, he decides to turn over a new leaf and to correct his miserly ways.
Most people would associate the story with the joy of sharing. But I personally feel that its beauty lies in the lesson of future pain. You see, most people don’t take action until they feel some sort of pain associated with their current behaviour. For example, if you are a smoker and have been experiencing chest pains or difficulty breathing, the symptoms might prompt you to quit. If it hurts to squeeze your ass into a tiny Airasia seat for a 13-hour flight to Paris, you might ditch those late-night double Ramly Burgers for celery sticks and hummus.
Such instances prompt you to take action because you are experiencing the pain now. But many are happy to carry on with their current lifestyle of poor food choices, high stress and zero exercise, as long as there are no visible signs of trouble. It’s a bit like playing with nitroglycerin—you know it’s a liquid explosive, but you think it’ll never blow up on you. And suddenly, one day… BOOM!
How do you then force yourself to take action now, instead of waiting for the bomb to detonate? One way is to experience what I call the Scrooge Effect. Compare your current health status/looks/ weight/fitness level with how you were 10 years ago. Now project that deterioration 10, 15 or even 20 years into the future, and assume that you will continue to slide down the health ladder. Imagine how much worse you will feel, from the sluggishness to the diseases you might face. In other words, try to experience it like Scrooge did. Feel your future pain now and make it as realistic as possible.
If you find it hard to look into the crystal ball and visualise your future pain, try another tactic that works wonders for those who place a high priority on vanity. If you have put on a few kilos and gained some inches around your waist, avoid buying new clothes at all costs. Give the impression your shirt might burst at the seams at any moment and allow your pants to grow so tight you can’t sit down. Soon, your colleagues will notice, mum will comment, the girls will snigger, and your fellow Esky men will throw disapproving looks your way. Criticism is painful for many, especially when it comes to weight issues.
Whether you read the book or watched the 2009 Disney version, stop saying “Bah! Humbug!” and just do it. Your health might depend on it.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” scrooge said. “but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” Try fitting that onto your next #fitspo Instagram post.