by Sarah Hughes
Don’t you just hate those smug fitness fanatics who swear that they adore springing out of bed in the morning to start their day with a workout? The ones who say they feel awful if they go a couple of days without a gym session? Ugh. Put a (running) sock in it will you guys?
Ok. Full disclosure: I am one of those highly annoying people. But I haven’t always been!
As a child I was always pretty active, spending my evenings and weekends at gymnastics. Although I knew I was never going to be a competitive gymnast, I loved the environment and really enjoyed the physical challenges the sport presented. But like so many girls, once I got to about 16 my activity levels took a nose-dive. I discovered partying and boys and soon staying fit disappeared from my list of priorities. It’s a very typical experience for females unfortunately. Whereas boys are much more likely to stay engaged in team sports like football, rugby and cricket in their teens and beyond, girls; affected by the start of menstruation, body image issues and peer pressure are far more likely to ditch exercise altogether. In 2019 the World Health Organisation published a study of 1.6 million adolescents worldwide. Shockingly it found that in all but four of the 148 countries it studied, teenage girls were less active than boys.
As we all know, the consequences of becoming sedentary are far-reaching and worrying for our physical and mental health. Yeah, yeah… we know that don’t we? But knowing it and actively doing something about it are two very different things.
Throughout my late teens and early twenties I exercised very sporadically, gained weight, lost it and overall had a pretty negative relationship with both food and exercise. I saw food as the evil which might stop me being able to zip up my jeans… and I saw exercise as the punishment for my calorific ‘sins’.
Fast forward 15 or so years and I now work as a fitness and Pilates instructor… hell, I even write articles like this one, helping other people to fall in love with fitness. So; I’d like to share with you some of the ways I got my exercise mojo back, and kept it for good. Hopefully these five top tips will help you stay motivated to exercise even when January and all of its high-pressure New Years Resolutions are a distant memory.
Find your why
Finding your ‘why?’ sounds a bit new-agey doesn’t it? A little bit waffly. Let me explain though why this task is so vital to succeeding on your fitness journey: If you don’t know really, truly why you are embarking on this exercise regime/eating program/healthkick, you are likely to struggle to keep on track. Finding your why involves asking yourself some pretty tough questions, ones you might not like the answers to. I’ve had clients break down in tears telling me they worry they are so unhealthy they won’t be around to see their kids grow up, I’ve had others say that they know their permanently painful lower back is down to lack of core strength. Once you come to the realisation of why you want to make a change, it’s so much easier to prioritise your fitness. It gives you purpose and focus.
Make it a habit
Those people who post their Strava Stats on social media? I promise you that they don’t have some magic super-power you don’t have. Unless they’re professional athletes, the chances are they don’t have ‘sporty genes’ or boundless natural energy. Chances are; they’ve just stumbled on a secret that lots of new exercisers don’t yet know. The secret itself isn’t groundbreaking. Here it is: Everyone (yes, even you) can grow to love exercise… but only if you prioritise making it a part of your weekly routine and turn it into a habit.
One of the problems with the fitness industry today is that consumers are bombarded with ‘7 Day Challenges’, ‘14 Day Transformations’, ‘30 days To A New You’! But science tells us that whilst some people can form new habits quickly, for others it can take a much more prolonged period of time. Think about how long it takes children for teeth cleaning to become habitual, right? I still have to drag my kids to the basin kicking and screaming most mornings. The good news is that human beings are indeed creatures of habit, so it’s absolutely possible to make exercising as much a part of your day as showering. It will just take time… and a bit of dedication.
Look at your schedule carefully. Where can you fit in three or four 30 minute workouts each week? Do you need to get up earlier, factor them into your lunch break or incorporate them into weekends and family time? Write them into your diary like you would a work meeting and hold yourself accountable.
Get a workout buddy
I credit this tip with being one of the key things that helped me succeed when I decided in my mid twenties that I wanted to take control of my fitness. My friend Siri was in a similar headspace to me and so we set out on this journey together. The fact is, you are not going to feel motivated to exercise every time that class is booked or the gym session is scheduled in your diary. This is where your workout buddy can really spur you on. If you’ve planned to work out with a friend you’re far less likely to cancel a)because you don’t want to let them down and b)someone will know you’re ducking out of what you’ve committed to.And we don’t like to look flaky do we?
Your workout buddy can provide words of reassurance and motivation… they can also provide a bit of healthy competition (which comes in handy on those nights where you’d really rather veg out on the sofa!).
Dress the part
Yes; you may take this tip as permission to treat yourself to some new active wear. We all know that we tend to feel better when we feel confident in our clothes, but that’s not always possible… especially in lycra… in January… after the Christmas calories have been consumed. But take it from me, you will feel far more motivated to exercise if you are wearing great clothing. It’s exactly the same as in any area of our life. Going to an interview, heading out on a first date, meeting the in-laws for the first time; the way we feel in our outfit will affect our confidence and our mindset. So spend a bit of time researching activewear brands that cater for your shape and your needs and then invest in clothes and footwear that you’ll want to show off in the gym.
Keep it fresh
Your relationship with exercise is a bit like your relationship with your partner. If you do the same things over and over there’s a chance it might start to feel a bit stale… We’ve all been there, right?
The great news is that there is absolutely no need to get bored in the fitness arena in 2022. Whether you’re exercising virtually or in person, there are endless options to suit every ability level and taste. From low impact options like boxing, swimming and weights, to high energy HIIT and trampolining classes. From ‘kind to your mind’ classes like Pilates, Yoga and Barre to the more zany and adventurous classes like Pound, Aerial Yoga and Hula Hooping, there are so many new trends to try. This means you can keep it fresh, keep it fun and keep that fitness mojo alive and well.