The end of 2021 has come and gone but with Omicron throwing us head first into another gym lockdown, many of you may have scrapped your plans to getting fit in 2022. Maybe you need to get back on the fitness wagon or your present fitness routine feels just blah and you need to shake things up to stay motivated. Whatever your situation may be, here are 5 steps to take before you jump head first into something new.
Step 1: Find Your Why?
What’s your internal motivation? All too often we focus on external motivators like weight loss for appearance or to make someone else happy; but if you want to start a fitness plan that works for you and makes YOU happy, you need to identify your fundamental reason for being active.
What internally motivates you to move your body and seek a healthier, active lifestyle? For example: do you want to feel stronger, more confident, and energetic? Do you want to relieve aches and pains that come from leading a sedentary lifestyle? Or are you an avid endorphin chaser that has hit a wall and wants to make a change?
External motivators won’t keep you motivated for long because more often than not, goals like weight loss are too subjective and depend on a variety of other factors such as nutrition, sleep, stress, hormones, and much more. When we fail to attain these goals we get demotivated. However, once you find the root reason for being active and feel it working (energy, strength, mood elevation) you’ll be more likely to stick with your fitness goals.
Step 2: Baby Steps
You may have lofty goals but trying to overhaul your entire lifestyle (exercise, nutrition, sleep, water intake, etc) all at once will most likely leave you overwhelmed, drained and defeated. Start with what you can reasonably manage and add on from there. If you currently don’t exercise at all, eat a diet of processed foods and have a low water intake you shouldn’t start by buying a fridge full of whole foods, plan a 4 day a week gym routine and try to drink 2 L of water daily all at the same time. Try adding 2- 30 min walks to your week and cooking a healthy meal 1-2 times per week. Real, sustainable, and healthy change takes time because the outcome is to become more intuitively healthy for life. If you’re stressed about getting everything right from the get go; you’re more likely to fall short of your goals, feel like a failure and give up.
Ask yourself on a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to stick with a goal (Ex. Exercising 3 times/week) if the answer is less than 8 out of 10, you will most certainly not meet your goal. Adjust your goal until your answer is 8 or higher and you will most likely succeed.
Step 3: Don’t Overcommit
If committing to an hour long session at the gym or Bootcamp class feels daunting, then start with 20 minutes a few times a week. Some studios offer 30 minute classes, or you could work with a trainer to write you a 30 minute workout program. Heading out for a 20 minute bike ride or walk is better than doing 0 minutes and you will feel much better physically and mentally for having moved your body. You can gradually work your way up to the recommended 150 minutes of weekly activity.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you feel like the only way you will commit to a fitness routine is to make it official, look for a 6 week training program that takes into account your fitness level, your personal goals, and keeps you accountable. 6 weeks is better than 30 day programs as the slightly longer set up is more sustainable than trying to do it all in 30 days and will help you build better habits over time.
Step 4: Recovery is Essential
Often when people jump into a new fitness regimen, they have an all or nothing mentality; this mentality is certainly fed by the fitness industry telling you that to be fit you have to be 110% committed. This mindset can lead people into dangerous territory, particularly when it comes to over training. Rest days, and active recovery are just as essential to your training program as your gym days. Cool down, stretching and recovery help your body heal and ultimately get faster and stronger more efficiently. Recovery looks like stretching, yin yoga, taking a walk, getting a massage, stretching, meditation, gardening, etc. Your body and your mind will benefit from these recovery activities, giving you time to enjoy other things which creates a more balanced lifestyle.
Step 5: Find What you Love!
Getting to the gym is half the battle; if you hate running on the treadmill and find yourself dreading it then DON’T run on the treadmill! If you absolutely abhor gyms, cardio machines and lifting weights then by all means abstain from doing these activities. The most important thing you can do to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle is to find an activity that makes you happy. Go hiking, skiing, skating, biking, rock climbing, or dancing. Join a soccer league or learn a new sport. If nothing truly interests you, don’t underestimate the power of a workout bud to make the gym or a fitness classes more interesting. Most importantly, keep an open mind; just because your high school gym teacher made you run beep tests and you hated it doesn’t mean you won’t like running now. Or you might think yoga is for hippies, cross training is for bros and biking requires far too much spandex, but you’ll never know what you enjoy most unless you get out there, lay down your heart and give it a go!
***Depending on your situation, you may want to get a doctors clearance before you start exercising and its always good to consult a professional trainer to ensure you are setting out on the right path.