When it comes to exercising, the hardest part is getting started. At some point most of us have said, “I’m going to get fitter.” We have then joined a gym or signed up for a class but found an excuse not to go. Everyone at some point or another has found an excuse not to exercise.
Life happens, plans get changed, children get sick and all those best laid plans get put on the back burner along with your motivation. But why let those unexpected things stop you? Why not change just one thing NOW which will help you bring exercise into your day to day life?
I know you may think that this is easy for me to; after all, it is my job. But just like everyone else, trainers need their days off. My motivation is often missing. So what can you do to help you get started?
Small steps can bring the biggest of changes. Let’s face it — if you don’t like something you’re never going to stick with it. You wouldn’t cook a three-course meal if you were just beginning to learn to cook, so why not take the same approach to exercise? Start small.
WALK: Simple but effective. Get off the tram, train or bus a stop earlier than your usual one. Travel to work by car? Park a 10 minute walk away from your office, even if its raining. Use the stairs instead of the lift. If you’re going to the 25th floor that might be a bit of a stretch but why not get off 3 floors earlier?
STAND UP: Many of us find ourselves sitting at our desk for the majority of the day so why not schedule in breaks in your diary to make sure you get up and away from your desk? Make a drink, walk over to speak to someone instead of calling them. Getting up and moving away from your desk will ease tension in your neck, improve your posture and leave you feeling a little less stressed.
FIND SOMETHING YOU LIKE
There is nothing worse than committing to something for 10 weeks and then finding out after the first week you hate it. So find something YOU like. Not what is popular or what everyone else is doing, but something you are going to have fun at (yes, you can have fun exercising) and enjoy returning to week in week out. Look at what you like and don’t like and base your choice around that. If you like dancing, why not try a Zumba or dancerise class? If you hate cardio, why not try yoga or pilates? If you love being outdoors but hate running, strap on your walking shoes and go for a wander. Whatever your likes and dislikes, there is some form of exercise for you. It may take a few attempts to find your perfect exercise fit but don’t be disheartened — you will find something.
Sometimes the hardest part to getting started is getting over the fear of the unknown. What if I don’t like the instructor? What if the class is too intense? What if I embarrass myself? The unknowns far too often hold us back, so find someone to support you and to help you get started. If a friend has a gym membership, or is taking a class, why not ask if you can be their guest?
This visit can be as informal as you want it to be — no need to book a session with a trainer. Most classes will offer taster sessions which will allow you to attend to see if you like it — plus, if you are going with a friend, it’s a little less daunting. Ask your friend if they can show you around and they may be able to answer some of your questions. Remember — they were a newbie once, too, and that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back. Have someone to help you in those first few days, or weeks, to give you that motivation and accountability. If you decide that you’d like to go walking ask a friend to tag along and put a date in the diary, ring one another a few days before your walk to keep that motivation going. Set yourselves a small goal to work towards together. And don’t forget the instructor isn’t just there to teach the class. Good instructors want to ensure you keep up your exercise regime (and not just for the money), so if you need someone to give you that little extra push, just ask your instructor.
Yes, you will continue to encounter obstacles, but look at them as something positive. This might sound a little strange, but not exercising for a few days or weeks does not mean you have failed. Look at these times off as giving your body time to rest and recover, and, when you return to exercise (which you will), make sure you note how much easier it was to start up again.
There will also be days when you feel like you are starting from scratch even though you have previously made amazing progress. You have no energy, your mind was elsewhere, you didn’t do as well as previous session. THIS, TOO, IS NORMAL. This is not you failing, this is your body telling you it can’t quite manage 100% or even 50% today. Often this is due to other external factors: stress, lack of sleep, workload, teething babies, teenagers. My point is don’t be too hard on yourself, do a quick check of what might have had an impact, look how far you’ve come and pat yourself on the back. Which brings me to my final point…
Often we are too eager to criticize ourselves but not as quick to congratulate ourselves or recognise our own achievements. Rewards are a massive motivational tool, even to yourself.
When you start on your fitness journey you will probably set yourself a goal — drop a dress size, lose so many kilos, run a 5k — so why not set yourself a reward as well? This does not have to be done only when you’ve reached your goal. Book yourself a massage (in advance) for attending six workout classes in a row; have a pedicure the first time you run without putting in a walking break. Be proud of what you’ve achieved and celebrate it. After all, you are now on your fitness journey.