Fitting Fitness into Your Life
Sometimes the hardest thing about staying fit is not the physical exertion but bringing ourselves to take action. Who knew putting on tennis shoes and yoga pants could be so hard? In a time where fitness can be found online and next door, what stands between us and being fit is mainly ourselves. So in the spirit of small steps to create big changes, below are some tricks and tips to get you going.
1. Be Honest (with Yourself)
Do you find it hard to wake up early in the morning? Do you cry just thinking about running a 5k? Listen to yourself and choose your fitness style accordingly. If you know your eyes are really only half open until 9am, don’t plan on a morning jog and go for a lunch walk instead. If you notice your motivation slugs around 3pm, sign up for a morning class or commit yourself to an early afternoon class. If lifting weights feels awkward, don’t set your goal on going to the gym five days a week. Love ballet? Take a barre class. Don't like to stand? Try spinning. Today’s expansive fitness space truly allows people to find something that fits their personality. In order to stay consistent and reap long terms rewards, consider your temperament and likes/dislikes when choosing a fitness route.
2. Put Your $ Where Your Muscle Is
If staying fit and and healthy is something you truly value, then you might want to put a number on that. Weight Watchers, the weight loss giant operating in more than 30 countries, has its members pay a small fee if they do not meet their weight goals within a certain time. Similarly, purchasing a limited time class membership provides more incentive to consistently patron your fitness studio. It's worth noting that paying a few bucks a month for a gym does not seem to give enough incentive for most people to actually attend. For example, half of Planet Fitness members don't ever go to the gym. So, if need a little help in the accountability department, try to invest in a monthly class membership or wager a small bet with yourself and give any losing proceeds to charity. You might spend a little more, but you’ll also gain more by making an actual impact on your wellness.
3. Sharing is Caring (About your Health)
Telling a partner, friend, or family member about your goals will not only help you stay committed but will also cement your vision as a part of your current identity. Divulging the information that you are working on your fitness will not only increase your sense of pride but also will create an affirmation that will focus your brain on your goal. Try to be as specific as you can; go into detail of the how, when and where. Perhaps you will inspire a loved one to take a similar step. They might even want to join in and be your workout buddy. Try taking a class together and agree to call each other prior to encourage each other to attend. Arrange for a lunch time walk with a co-worker on a specific day of the week. Found a gem of a fitness instructor? Tell a friend and take their class together on a weekly basis.
4. Know the Reasons Why
Hopefully your reasons to become active is more than just a six pack. Before you sign up for a class, or even purchase a jump rope, it's important to understand your underlying motivations. What value do you see in being an active? Ask yourself what do you see as important that you are trying to improve or make better. Some parents see exercise as “me time” so they can mentally and physically be present with their children. Some are trying to avoid a hereditary health issue like high blood pressure or diabetes. Even if all you want is to feeling a little less snug in your jeans, make sure you understand why and list the benefits in your head. Obtaining a deeper understanding of the values that fuel your motives will not only will provide you with focus and motivation, but also make your workouts more meaningful and fulfilling.
5. NGT (No Guilt Trips)
It's important to acknowledge that for most people healthy living does not come effortlessly. Individuals who wake up excited to get their workout out done before starting their day are in the minority. For most people it takes a some effort and self-work. It’s natural to occasionally feel unmotivated. Every so often something will come up that will make you skip a workout or (gasp) two. Even if you spent the entire weekend watching re-runs of your favorite show, don't beat yourself up. Relish in the time you had to relax and then get back on track. There is no need to feel guilty for the little things you enjoy as long as you are able to get back on track.
6. Do Something
Research has shown that the adage “Something is better than nothing” strongly applies in fitness. Even small gains in activity levels can improve energy, mood and lifelong health. The minimum recommendation (for general health) is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week plus two hours of full-body strength training per week. However, for those who engage in little daily physical activity, this might still sound daunting. If you are in a similar position, start a brisk walking routine of 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week. This can be accomplished while walking the dog, the baby or even at lunch. Then add a strength class or something similar once a week. Once you build a regimen that fits your lifestyle and schedule you will find opportunities to integrate further activity in a practical and enjoyable ways.
7. Have fun
Once you understand your motives, set goals and decide on a game plan. Make sure to do some maintenance work and keep your workout (somewhat) pleasant. If you have decided to take on walking but found it boring, try to have a friend join, or gather a list of your favorite tunes and take them with you on your walk. Find a podcast or two you really like and download them for the gym. Studies show that people who save their audio books for the gym attend it more often. Find a studio with a great vibe and get to know the regulars. Once you look forward to being in a place, you will be more likely to get to that 6pm class even after a grueling day of work. Try avoiding forcing yourself to exercise and instead remove the obstacle (physical or mental) that you believe is making exercising bothersome.
Routinizing is a straightforward and highly effective way to maintain fitness levels and stay consistent. Keeping an exercise routine trains your body to be ready to take action rather than resist it. It will set you on autopilot so there will be less time for excuses and easy-way-outs. Your friends and family will also know that certain hours or times are yours to be active. I find that many clients who stick to the same class or training schedule do best because it is ingrained into their week. It does not mean it needs to be repetitive, and you can add variety by doing different things. For example- a Pilates class on Monday afternoon, a weightlifting session on Wednesday afternoon and a jog on Saturday mornings. Schedule, attend, repeat.
9. Savor victories
Squeezed in an extra walk this week? Took that advanced Pilates class and survived? Take a mental note and give yourself an imaginary pat on the back. Tell yourself how well you did and pay special attention to how you feel. Take notice when you hold that plank for extra ten seconds and allow yourself to be proud. Take fun post class pictures with your friends or alone and share them with someone who cares about you. Get yourself a nice workout outfit if you are on a roll. Remember and celebrate small moments of achievements and store them in your positivity bank. That will help you keep going on a tough day and maintain your overall sense of well-being.