How to Start Exercising and Stick with It Long-Term
We already know there are numerous benefits to exercising, from improving energy levels, enhancing mood and improving sleep patterns, through to reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. And then, the number of detailed exercise and workout sources out there seem to be endless! Just do a quick search on YouTube for ‘workout ideas’ and it will return about 2,330,000 results. Nonetheless, the thing is, even by knowing how and why to exercise, it’s sometimes still not enough. Making exercise a habit takes more than what and why, you need the right mindset and a smart approach.
Now, whatever your age or fitness level, even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life before, there are tactics you can use to make exercise much less daunting and agonising and far more fun and enticing. But first, let’s just work through a few things to help get your psychological state for exercise on point…
What’s stopping you from exercising?
If you’re having trouble beginning an exercise program, getting back to the gym or just can’t seem to follow through long-term, you’re not alone. Due to our lifestyles, many of us seem to struggle with getting out of that sedentary rut, despite our best intentions and it’s more common than you might think.
While practical concerns like a busy work schedule, family commitments or poor health can make exercise more challenging, for most of us the main obstacles are mental. Maybe it’s a lack of self-confidence that keeps you from taking positive steps, or your motivation quickly dies out, or you get easily disheartened and give up when things don’t go to plan. We’ve all been there at some point, haven’t we…?
Here’s what you can do to break through mental barriers:
Eliminate the all-or-nothing mindset. The truth is, you don’t have to spend hours exercising every day or force yourself to do uninteresting, monotonous or painful activities to experience the physical and emotional benefits of exercise. Doing some exercise is better than not doing any at all, so just move! In fact, research shows that by adding just modest amounts of physical activity to your weekly routine, you can have a profound effect on your mental and emotional health.
Really what we are trying to tell you here is that you should be kind to yourself. Research also shows that self-compassion can increase the likelihood that you’ll succeed in any given endeavour, fitness included. So, don’t beat yourself up about your body, your current fitness level, or your supposed lack of self-discipline and control. All that will do is demotivate you. Instead, look at your past mistakes and unhealthy choices as opportunities to learn and grow.
Check your expectations:
What is important to remember here is that you didn’t get out of shape overnight, and you’re not going to have the body and health you want return overnight also. A common mistake is expecting too much, too soon, and it only leads to frustration a disappointment. Try not to be disheartened by what you can’t do or how far you must go to reach your fitness goals. Instead, turn that reactive perspective on its head and start reminding yourself of the things you can do and how far you have come. The secret is to stop obsessing over results and to focus on consistency, that’s all that matters. And just so you are aware and have time to prepare, what happens first is improvements in mood and energy levels, which can happen rather quickly, but then the physical payoff will come in time.
Now let’s bust the biggest exercise excuses we see here at F1rst Class Fitness:
Are you making excuses for not exercising? Whether it’s lack of time, energy, or fear of the gym, there are solutions. Here are some of the most common excuses we hear and what you can do about them
“I hate exercising.”
You are not alone! The truth is, many of us feel the same. If sweating in a gym or pushing weights isn’t your idea of a great time, try to find an activity that you do enjoy, such as hiking, jogging, tough football or beach volleyball. Or, why not take a walk at lunchtime through one of Brisbane’s beautiful parks or a lap of the river loop? There really is no excuse to exercise as exercise comes in so many forms. Just find something that works for you and be consistent with it.
“I’m too busy.”
Let me break it to you… Even the busiest people in the world can find time in their day for things that are important. It’s your decision to make exercise a priority. And don’t think you need a full hour for a good workout. Short 5, 10, or 15-minute bursts of activity can be very effective. If you’re too busy during the week to plan your exercise program, use one of F1rst Class Fitness’ Personal Trainers to do the thinking for you… Then, all you need to do is arrive, get active and then get on with your day.
“I’m too tired.”
Alright, we particularly like this one. It may sound counterintuitive, but physical activity is a powerful pick-me-up that reduces fatigue and boosts energy levels. With regular exercise, you’ll feel much more energized, refreshed, and alert. Give it a try next time you are feeling lethargic at your desk during the day. Stand up from you seat and walk to the closest set of stairs and lightly jog 2-3 flights. Then, do 10 star jumps before walking back to your desk to return to work. I promise you that you will be feeling refreshed and recharged for hours to come.
“I’m too fat,” “I’m too old,” or “My health isn’t good enough.”
Ok, we need to cut this negativity out of your vocabulary right now! It’s never too late to start building your strength and physical fitness, even if you’re a senior or a self-confessed couch potato who has never exercised before. Just remember that we all must start somewhere. The situation is what it is! All we can do is change it for the better and take small steps in the right direction.
“Exercise is too difficult and painful.”
Remember the old saying; “No pain, no gain” …? Well, it’s outdated! Exercise doesn’t have to hurt. And you don’t have to push yourself until you’re soaked in sweat and every muscle aches to get results. You can build your strength and fitness by walking, swimming, even playing golf, gardening, or cleaning the house. What we recommend is finding a form of physical activity that you enjoy, and then build the intensity gradually so you are being consistently challenged over time. Then, you will look back in 6-12 month’s and feel accomplished that you have come so far.
How much exercise do I need?
Current recommendations for most adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. You can achieve this figure by exercising for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Now, what do you do if you can’t find 30 minutes in your busy schedule? Well, it’s absolutely fine to break your sessions up. Two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute workouts can be just as effective.
And they aren’t your only alternatives. A recent study in the UK found that squeezing a week’s worth of activity into one or two high intensity sessions can be almost as beneficial for your health as spreading it out over the week.
How hard do I need to exercise?
For most of us, moderate exercise is the most beneficial intensity for overall health. You don’t need to keep intensifying your workouts or sweat buckets. In fact, exercising too strenuously can sometimes lead to diminishing returns on your fitness levels or cause injuries or other problems.
What does moderate activity mean for me?
Moderate activity means that you breathe a little heavier than normal, but are not out of breath. For example, you should be able to chat with your friend as you walk on a treadmill, but you shouldn’t be breathing so easy you could sing a song. You might also want to be moving enough that your body starts to feel warmer.
Safety tips for beginning exercisers
If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a while since you’ve attempted any strenuous physical activity, keep the following health precautions in mind:
- Health issues: Get medical clearance first. If you have health concerns such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor before you start to exercise.
- Warm up: Warm up with dynamic stretches. These are active movements that warm and flex the muscles you’ll be using, such as leg kicks, walking lunges, or arm swings. If you’re going to run, start with walking, for example. Or if you’re lifting weights, begin with a few light reps.
- Cool down: After your workout, it’s important to take a few minutes to cool down and allow your heart rate to return to its resting rate. A light jog or walk after a run, for example, or some gentle stretches after strength exercises can also help prevent soreness and injuries.
- Drink plenty of water: Your body performs best when it’s properly hydrated. Failing to drink enough water when you are exerting yourself over a prolonged period of time, especially in hot conditions, can be dangerous.
- Listen to your body: If you feel pain or discomfort while working out, stop and find another way! If you feel better after a brief rest, you can slowly and gently resume your workout. But don’t try to power through pain. That’s a sure-fire recipe for injury.
How to make exercise a habit that sticks:
There’s a reason so many New Year’s resolutions to get in shape crash and burn before February rolls around each year. And it’s not that you simply don’t have what it takes. Science shows us that there’s a right way to build habits that last. Follow these steps to make exercise one of them.
- Choose activities that make you feel happy and confident: If your workout is unpleasant or makes you feel clumsy or inept, you’re unlikely to stick with it. Don’t choose activities like running or lifting weights at the gym just because you think that’s what you should do. Instead, pick activities that fit your lifestyle, abilities, and taste.
- Start small and build momentum: A goal of exercising for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week may sound good. But how likely are you to follow through? The more ambitious your goal, the more likely you are to fail, feel bad about it, and give up. It’s better to start with easy exercise goals you know you can achieve. As you meet them, you’ll build self-confidence and momentum. Then you can move on to more challenging goals.
- Make it automatic with triggers: Triggers are one of the secrets to success when it comes to forming an exercise habit. In fact, research shows that the most consistent exercises rely on them. Triggers are simply reminders. For example, a time of day, place, or cue that kicks off an automatic reaction. They put your routine on autopilot, so there’s nothing to think about or decide on. The alarm clock goes off and you’re out the door for your walk. You leave work for the day and head straight to F1rst Class Fitness. Find ways to build them into your day to make exercise a no-brainer.
- Reward yourself: People who exercise regularly tend to do so because of the rewards exercise brings to their lives, such as more energy, better sleep, and a greater sense of well-being. However, these tend to be long-term rewards. When you’re starting an exercise program, it’s important to give yourself immediate rewards when you successfully complete a workout or reach a new fitness goal. Choose something you look forward to, but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercise.
- Set yourself up for success: Schedule it. You don’t go to important meetings and appointments spontaneously, you schedule them. If you’re having trouble fitting exercise into your schedule, consider it an important appointment with yourself and mark it on your daily agenda. Also, make it easy on yourself. Plan your workouts for the time of day when you’re most awake and energetic. If you’re not a morning person, don’t undermine yourself by planning to exercise before work.
- Remove obstacles: Plan ahead for anything that might get in the way of exercising. Do you tend to run out of time in the morning? Get your workout clothes out the night before so you’re ready to go as soon as you get up. Do you skip your evening workout if you go home first? Keep a gym bag in your work locker so you can head straight to the gym from work.
- Be accountable: Commit to another person. If you’ve got a workout partner waiting or a Personal Training session booked, you’re less likely to skip out. Another effective method is to announce your goals to your social group (either online or in person). This can also help keep you on track.
So there you have it. At F1rst Class Fitness we know that starting an exercise program and then sticking to it long-term hinges on so much more than knowing why we should exercise and what activities and movements to do. It’s just as much about mindset as it is about the how and why and this blog post should assist you with bringing these three aspects together.
See you in the gym.
– The FCF Team