There is no better time than the start to a new week or even better a MONDAY to talk about gym & exercise motivation!!
The discussion around going to the gym or exercising used to be once a topic I’d avoid, however over the last few years my tune has dramatically changed and I actually LOVE it now. The overall feeling of either being on the path to being fit (it’s a journey for most – let’s be honest!) or actually reaching and maintaining a level of fitness suitable is amazing and something for me which is very much a ‘learned’ aspect!
My journey started about 7 years ago, when I injured my lower back (disc) during a personal training session, due to me not understanding and utilizing my core during our session. This resulted in a hospital visit, heavy pain medication and being unable to walk properly for a solid week. I then went into ‘rehabilitation mode’ where I had to take steps to understanding my body better in order to get myself 100% again (or even able to walk properly and without my hips also moving out of place to compensate!). It’s amazing how much can be affected by issues stemming from the back area and it’s a topic which is so common in many people unfortunately.
I started with getting treatment from a Myotherapist (if you don’t know what this is, it’s basically deep tissue massage) which was amazing and made such a tremendous difference for me initially and over the years and I still to this day get treatment. As my back and body got stronger, I moved to Pilates to understand my core muscles and body better, then to yoga for further strengthening until finally I made the move back to the gym 4 years ago – where I can honestly confess my love for exercise.
I’ve done a lot of research over the years on different exercises and fitness trends, various diets & weight management tools, the best days to start new ventures and even researched the best times of the day to eat. What have I learned you ask?
It’s all about YOU.
There no magical fitness routines that will get you pounds and kilograms lighter in a week, or to increase your fitness straight away – it’s a work in progress and is very dependent on your body and your mindset as to how you progress.
My personal trainer has often said that it’s also about priorities – some months you may have the head space, motivation and time to dedicate five times a week to some sort of exercise, then you may go through a busy season at work or have family commitments and find you can only spare one time per week. All of this is OK! No one is perfect and the fact that you continue to try to go back to exercise or continue an achievable routine is amazing – so remember that!
In thinking about my four year anniversary for my gym membership, it got me thinking – what has kept me going and motivated to continue going? (Four years is a long time in ‘gym years’) 🙂
There are multiple suggestions based on what has helped me, which over the coming week I will be sharing with you and I hope these motivate you also!
So now we’ve covered a lot of back history on WHY I had to start my fitness journey and now I’ll share some of the ‘HOW’ aspects and the actual science of MOTIVATION is definitely key!
Some of these may sound pretty basic, but often it’s the little things you do that keep you and your motivation going (and are in no particular order – just do what fits!)…
ONE | Find what physical activity fits you and your lifestyle -By knowing your schedule, what your budget is, what distance you’ll travel, and what setting you will actually be comfortable doing exercise in is really important, not only for the foundation of your new adventure, but also in sustaining it. When I started, I wanted to go to a gym and somewhere close to my work (where I’d have little excuses for not going before, during or after work). I also asked for feedback from others who went to various gyms to see what worked for them. I ended up at a Fernwood Women’s Health Club (gym) and have been there for four years and have recently moved to Snap Fitness, as it fits better with my work life. It’s always been a good distance from home and has new equipment and a really positive setting overall – so ticks a lot of boxes for me! For others, you may like a mixed 24 hour gym, a martial art, a group sport or even just jogging around a park in your area– the possibilities are endless. The key is whatever will fit into your lifestyle – this should never be a chore for you to get to or do (if possible).
TWO | Invest in an expert – Where possible (and if applicable), invest in someone to actually give you guidance on what you are doing. I chose to get Personal Training sessions to ensure I learned a good technique especially when I was doing weights. My trainer provided a basic program for me to follow to start with and over the years I’ve learned a lot about various aspects of weight training and what is good for my body. You may only need a few sessions with someone to really get the basics of whatever sport or physical activity you’re doing, but the platform of this can really save you a lot injury time and you’re more likely to get the most of your workout
THREE | Start slow! – Remember, there is no race to being fit and healthy! Be dedicated but also remember to listen to your body and work up to fitness. I have seen countless times (particularly in group Personal Training sessions) where people will start in a group and will want to be up to the same fitness level as the others in the group – they’ll push themselves to the point where they’ll struggle breathing, they’ll get frustrated that their body isn’t keeping up and the next day (and days after) they’ll be incredibly sore. What they don’t realize is the other people in that group may have been training for many months and years more, so of course their fitness is at a different stage! Unfortunately what comes after this is the feeling of not being good enough and many people give up. Ease into it and you’ll be less sore and more motivated in the long run!
FOUR | Dress for success – The workouts that are generally the best for me are the ones I am actually comfortable in what I am wearing. This may sound shallow to some, however feeling as though you look like you belong somewhere, and also actually being able to move properly in what you’re wearing is so important. For me, I invest in a few key items that will last- things that will not go see-through when I am bending over, are breathable but also absorb sweat or moisture and weather appropriate (long leg length, ¾ length, shorts etc). I also prefer singlets that are a little higher around the neckline (hard to find sometimes!), whereas my best friend who I often train with much prefers t-shirts. This doesn’t have to be expensive either! I’ve bought some of my favorite items for around $20 – $50 in some cases. It’s all about you – men and women need to be comfortable and overall it’s a formula that you need to design for yourself.
The below gym ¾ length tights are from a brand called Under Armour and were only AUD $20 (on sale) from Rebel Sport. I also love Everlast for pants (i had a pair of ¾ length tights last me FOUR years!) , and GAP singlets (if you can get to a store in the US! Lorna Jane is also a great brand, however is more expensive.
FIVE | Listen to Music – I have literally been part way to the gym and turned around to get my IPod. I’ve tried working out before just by myself and listening to whatever was on the radio but just realized I cannot do it! I am much more motivated when I have music and I completely zone out. I’ve known others who like to work out and chat with friends and that’s perfectly ok too! However for me – it’s all about the music. I have also created different playlists depending on my mood on the day and also what activity I’m doing (cardio or weights) and this also helps get into the rhythm. Again, this is whatever works for you – you may like a good jazz song or even death metal – who cares! As long as it makes the time go quicker for you, I’ve often found it a good distraction to what I am doing, especially if it’s a day that I found it harder to be there!
SIX | Set Goals! – This doesn’t mean this needs to be just a weight based goal either. It can be if that’s what you want and is often the easiest goal to start with, however if this is the case – start small and work your way up. You may start with wanting to lose 10 kilograms – however this is quite a large chunk to lose at one time. Break it down into smaller increments, which mean you’ll get to celebrate your achievements more along the way, and feel like you’re making progress. The other type of goals to set could be things like how many times you get to the gym or do physical exercise in a week, or building up to a length of time or distance you ran, or even the amount of weights you’re able to lift perhaps? Keep a journal if you want? Think outside the box of what your goals are, and it will feel more positive when you’re aiming to achieve them
SEVEN | Celebrate the wins – Sometimes we focus on the aspects which aren’t to our liking – Those pants still aren’t fitting right, I’m not three sizes smaller in a month, I’ve ‘only’ lost 2 kilograms… the list can go on and it often does. Flip your thinking! Start to say things like – wow, I actually lost weight, I’m feeling so much better in general, I haven’t lost weight this week – but I have lost inches around my body (can mean you’ve built muscle). Focus on the good achievements – whatever your goals are – and celebrate! Tell your family & friends, record it and track it and reward yourself when you reach whatever goal it is. The key to this however, is not rewarding with junk food. I will often get my nails done!
We’re half way there!
Some of these may sound pretty basic, but often it’s the little things you do that keep you and your motivation going (and are in no particular order – just do what fits!)
EIGHT | Post on social media – Yes, I said it! A lot of people think it’s self-absorbed and narcissistic – to some level it is – but hear me out! The angle I’m coming from with this point is to make yourself accountable and what better way to do that than to your family & friends network. I’ve often found by being in my workout gear, and posting something about my intention to work out – I am way more likely to go – I have just broadcasted that I am going to work out and I am making myself accountable to my social networks. It doesn’t have to be a Selfie either – it can just be something inspirational or funny, which just promotes you going! You’ll often find that people are really supportive of you getting off the couch to exercise, so that’s always a plus when encouragement is received
NINE | Be & stay hydrated – Keep your body happy – This may sound really basic, but listen to your body when you need to eat or drink before, during and after your exercise. Quite often we’ll run out the door and get straight into exercise – particularly in the morning – I have been guilty of this before and it didn’t do me any favors during my Personal Training session! It may take a while to work out how your body responds to when you eat around your training, but you will figure this out quickly (often like in my case via trial and error). I will often make sure I at least have a banana about 30 minutes before I work out – good for energy levels and keeps my tummy happy hunger-wise while I’m burning energy. There are many different ways to go about your nutrition and it has to suit your body and lifestyle – I am not a nutritionist, and I would highly recommend doing your own research and talking to others! The other key is to stay hydrated! I’ve heard of a woman nearly fainting because she didn’t have water with her – you need it! Magnesium & protein are also well worth looking into for muscle repair!
TEN | Do something regularly– It’s OK to not want to work out every day or some weeks we may just not be able to physically get there – it’s all about balance. We’re only human! However – do something! It may be a light walk around the block for 10 minutes with your dog, yoga at home in front of a YouTube video or even just some ab exercises for a 15 minutes. Something is better than nothing, and often the routine of being active is far more important than sweating it out intensely once a week. Your body and mind will thank you for it – treat it as ‘you’ time.
ELEVEN | It’s a LIFESTYLE – not a fad! – Many people click the ‘GO’ button and it can become a short lived quest of health & fitness within their lives and time frames are set of when people want to achieve this. I’m all for goal setting, however see the overall changes you are making to actually get to exercising as an overall lifestyle change and not just something to do for three months while you aim to lose the kilograms and pounds. This will keep the motivation overall in check and goals will be achievable and sustainable overall. Build this into your routine and mindset and say ‘this is something that is part of my life’ and not just three months.
TWELVE | The start doesn’t have to be on Monday’s – Almost weekly and particularly at my work, I hear people say “my diet / exercise regime starts on Monday”. Again – great to have goals, however why not start on the day you are motivated to do something? Monday’s are hard enough – why make the hurdle of adding a new routine to the mix. Sometimes this can be a mindset thing where it’s often ‘a new week, a new start’ type mentality- again, great if that works for you, however long term – if you know you can start on any day, it becomes easier to incorporate into a lifestyle change. In the age old wisdom of Nike -JUST DO IT!
THIRTEEN | Repair, Repair, Repair – I cannot stress enough – take steps to help your body recover (Check yourself, before you wreck yourself type vibe)! I am a huge fan of protein shakes (or foods high in protein) and magnesium (tablet or powder). Especially if we haven’t worked out in a while, our bodies are super sore and it can be a huge de-motivator to get back into it, even after a few days of rest. Take measures to speed up recovery so you can get back out there comfortably!
FOURTEEN | Shake it Up – In the words of Taylor Swift – Shake It Up! I’m the type of person who responds to routine, as many of us are creatures of habit. This I’ve found to be a good trait to get to the gym or workout, however our bodies get used to this quickly and results can often decline and then our motivation also wavers. Change what you do and how you do it, even if it’s slightly. For me, after a month or so, I’ll change the type of cardio I do between a few machines, and then the type of weight exercises I do will also change along with the overall weight I am lifting. Circuit training is awesome for this too, along with incorporating body weight exercises into what you do. I love things that are killing two birds with one stone (body weight exercises + interval training = Cardio and toning). Maximize your time and keep your body guessing!
FIFTEEN | Smile & Socialize (if you want) – By just smiling when I think of working out, helps me mentally associate exercise as something I enjoy (and now I genuinely do!). Quite often I find myself in social settings or coming across really friendly people at my gym, and my theory is purely that we’re all there for a common purpose. Most of the time, this is instigated by just smiling at people. It also shows that not everything has to be a competition and it’s a way of encouraging someone else without even speaking. My gym has a fantastic atmosphere in general, however with whatever activity you do – it all begins with you and the vibes you put out. I often say now ‘the gym is my happy place’ where I can come and go as I please, talk or not talk to people and switch off from everything.
Try one or all of these and let me know what you like when you’re working out or working on your fitness game!
What works for you?
And remember…. Just be the best version of YOU!