A little while ago I wrote a blog post about my fitness and health routine where I detailed what I eat and what type of work outs I do. Now one thing I see people struggle with most isn’t the fact that they know that they should work out or eat healthy. No, what seems to be the biggest problem isn’t making the decision but to stay motivated and stick to it. Because let’s be honest: even the most hardcore work out junkie has an off day and would much rather sit on the couch sometimes than get moving. Everyone struggles with it at a point in time and it isn’t always as easy as ‘kicking yourself in the butt’. I know I have, do and will. Here’s what I do to skirt the work out blues.
1. Find a work out you like
The most important part is for you to figure out what type of exercise suits you. Educate yourself on what’s out there and go with what suits you and your needs. Don’t go with whatever your friends are doing and don’t go with whatever happens to be the latest fitness hype. Ask yourself basic questions: what can my body handle? Do I want to work out alone or with others? Do I want to work out at home or at the gym? What would I like to achieve with my work out?
For me this was simple: I’ve been dancing for as long as I can remember, and all my other work outs tie into that. Bodybalance and Yoga improves agility, flexibility & strength, Bodycombat helps with my core and cardio and Spinning hits my cardio & legs and my core too if I work hard enough. Plus all of it helps me to alleviate stress and feel good, which brings me to my next point.
2. Set goals (or don’t)
Setting clear goals can help you stay motivated. You may want to run a 5K in a certain amount of time. Or maybe you simply want to shed some pounds and fit into smaller clothes. Having a goal can be motivating to people, but it can just as easily turn into an obsession where each gram lost counts. Charting your progress also means charting your setbacks and depending on how strong you are mentally that might lead to demotivation. So choose wisely.
Personally I don’t have a goal other than wanting to feel good and be happy with myself. If I don’t work out, I get tired, my back muscles jam up and stress has a much bigger chance of affecting me negatively. When I do work out I feel energized (I often get so hyper I end up doing something after I get home from the gym), and it has saved me a ton of trips to my physiotherapist. I don’t count calories, weigh myself or strive to be a certain size. I just want to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what I see.
3. Be realistic
Setting goals is one thing, but making sure they are realistic and attainable is another. If you think those love handles and flappy thighs will disappear within a few weeks time: think again. Your body doesn’t change overnight and it takes a lot, especially for ladies, to flatten abs and tighten buns. It takes 6 months of strenuous exercise and strict eating habits to achieve the toned bodies you see in magazines. If you don’t stick to a strict diet, then it will take longer. In other words: when setting your goals, make sure your time frame and expected results line up.
And then there’s the issue of being skinny = being fit. You do not have to be skinny to be fit or healthy. That’s a general misconception. I don’t eat anything too crazy and work out 4 – 6 hours a week and still I have love handles and flappy bits. When I tell people how much I work out and when they see what I eat they generally give me the once over and I say: well I surely didn’t think that. I am anything but skinny and supermodel perfect because I am not build to be supermodel skinny. I am a stocky, wide-hipped and slightly chubby girl with real curves and real boobs.
Do I notice a change in my body? I definitely do: strength, stamina and fitness wise, but visibly the change is minimal and it took me 7 months to do it. But this is a routine (not only exercise but also foodwise) that I can maintain without sacrificing my social life, work life or my sanity.
4. Make it part of your routine
Regular work outs only work if you strive to make them part of your routine. And again: this takes time. If you expect to start working out and then you simply do it and keep doing it for the next part of your life time, just like that, then I’m afraid I have bad news for you. Getting work outs into your routine is a challenge. And working out too much if you are not in the best shape of your life is also inadvisable. It will be too strenuous for your body and you will feel fatigued and sore in a bad way.
I always danced but never did anything else. When I crashed in 2008, I couldn’t dance and in order to stay in shape I joined a gym. The first class I took was Bodybalance. Once I felt better dance came back into the picture and I simply did that: dance and balance classes. I added Bodycombat when it was introduced in my gym a few years later and I’ve only been doing Spinning since November. I quit my hiphop dance classes and was looking for something to replace it. It took me three months to find a work out I liked and that fit into my schedule. So my work out routine is the result of years of practice, so don’t be discouraged when you can’t stick to your routine after a month. It has to grow.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
The best tip I could possibly give you: don’t punish yourself if you can’t make it. Don’t berate yourself for not going or not feeling like it. Once you’ve built a routine and exercise becomes part of your life, you will find yourself not wanting to go without it. So as long as your work out to no work out ratio is in favor of the first you’re all good to go. And if you slack, for health, motivation or whatever reason: pick it back up and get going.
In April I was super busy, away on a trip, my asthma played up and the gym was closed a few times. Do you really think that I substituted all those work outs I missed? No! For 2 weeks I did next to nothing and once I my life settled down I slowly pushed myself back into the swing of things. Starting with 3 work outs in the first week, 4 in the next and 5 the week after. Right now I am back to my regular schedule and I even have some dance classes to retake so I can easily push myself into the 6 hour mark these next few weeks.
So those are my 5 tips to get started and stay motivated for working out. Perhaps I should do one of these on diet soon?