How Family and Friends Can Be Your Fitness Inspiration

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No matter how old you are, you can find motivation within yourself or all around you to commit yourself to becoming healthier.
No matter how old you are, you can find motivation within yourself or all around you to commit yourself to becoming healthier. (Airman 1st Class Jessica Weissman/U.S. Air Force photo)

After a weekend of reading answers to the question, "What was your first inspiration to start training and exercising?" I noticed a trend.

Most people were originally influenced to start exercising by family and friends. Though the reasons varied from sports improvement, martial arts and body image, there was also an inspiration for many who saw their grandparents and parents not age well due to their less than healthy habits.

Regardless of where they are on the exercise spectrum, most were greatly influenced through healthy and unhealthy examples alike.

Competition Helps

Did Your First Inspiration Trigger a Lifetime of Healthy Activity and Fitness Training?

For many, they remember their first push-up or pull-up challenge to see how they could do more in a single set. Some recalled their first timed run or foot race across a field or race across a swimming pool or body of water. Then these evolved into weightlifting contests with friends and peer groups that inevitably made each other stronger, faster or better.

"Iron sharpens iron'' is part of a Bible verse that is an appropriate explanation of the usefulness of working together with others and can be a source of true inspiration to get started and stay moving for life.

Though we live in different cities now, some of my teenage workout partners and I still share workouts, weight-loss goals and personal records today. Find a partner to go on this fitness journey with you.

Bodybuilding Days

For many, the beginning days of bodybuilding took off in the 1970s and early 1980s with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno battling it out in movies like "Pumping Iron."

My personal journey started with a beginner bodybuilding book by Joe Weider and a 110-pound concrete weight set I received as a Christmas gift when I was 12, both purchased from the Sears mail-order catalog. Movies like "Rocky" (workout montages were always inspirational) and "Conan the Barbarian" set a generation in motion to start working out with weights, calisthenics and doing martial arts.

There are many ways to be inspired to get off the couch, turn off the movie and get moving. Find yours and turn the initial inspiration and motivation into good habits that evolve into discipline and will last a lifetime.

Future Marine Going to the Gym with Dad

If you had family members that led by example, you likely joined in on workout time with older siblings or parents. Reader Mike D. states:

"When I was 12, my dad asked me if I wanted to go to the gym. I said yes sir! And he said ok, here's the deal, you have to be 14 to come up to the weight room, so if anyone asks you have to tell them you're 14. For almost three years I was 14. I'm more than positive that everyone there knew I was too young, but nobody cared.

We trained together for almost five years before I started working out on my own and whenever I'd come home on leave during my time in the Marines, we'd get some gym time in before he went to work. Those were some of my favorite days -- working out with my dad. I'm 42 now and still getting after it on the tactical side of fitness and he's almost 70 and still in the gym staying young."

Tying physical training to a nice memory is another way to never want to give up your training.

Unhealthy Elderly Family Members

Many were inspired by the opposite of a healthy lifestyle. When parents or older family members or friends get diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes or other illnesses, it can give you a future glimpse of your own life 20-40 years from now.

My friend Lyle turned his life around after seeing family members die from diabetes and heart disease in their 50s and 60s by joining our local training group. Lyle states:

"Being diagnosed with diabetes like many others in my family. And having you to inspire me. And working out with you guys I took off 112 pounds. Thanks again for all the motivation and Never Quit attitude."

Having a group or training partner can go a long way with helping you with the most important part of adding fitness to your life -- being consistent, regardless of why you are training.

It's Never Too Late

No matter your age, you can make small changes that can bring big benefits to your life. Cliff decided something needed to be done personally. He says:

"I looked at the scale and mirror and decided I couldn't sustain how I was living anymore. I joined a fitness challenge and lost almost 30 pounds and began eating better. It was a mental change in how I want to live and to inspire my kids who are also having weight issues. I just woke up one day and said no more."

Objective measurements like the scale and the tape measure are always brutally honest with you. Start doing something when you see them get to unsustainable limits for you personally.

Otherwise, you will see them in other objective scores such as blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides. Check in with your doctor if it has been awhile since you trained and are pretty out of shape before joining a program.

Looking back, I can say older kids in the neighborhood introduced me to lifting weights for fun. I then applied it to sports as I entered high school. Having a supportive family was a big help, because turning the garage into a weight room was not always the ideal option in a small house.

As I aged, the journey changed to military-style training that led me on a journey to not only creating my own healthful lifestyle but also helping others with theirs. Being a part of anyone's journey toward health, wellness and military performance has been one of the most gratifying honors. To think, it all started with a young kid seeing others training that put it all into motion.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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