If you’re stuck in an exercise rut, lacking in motivation and finding yourself back at square one again after starting yet another diet or fitness fad which promised to be the one for you but actually ended up zapping all the energy/enjoyment/fun out of life, it’s no wonder. With so much information out there circling us 24/7 – all the conflicting advice, the do’s and don’ts, and the endless options – trying to find a fitness routine that actually does what it’s supposed to do can feel pretty impossible at times.
Everyone will have their own motivations and goals but, for me, a good fitness routine should:
- Be sustainable (otherwise what’s the point?)
- Prioritise overall health, wellbeing and happiness (yes, it can be fun!)
- Focus on and celebrate what our bodies can DO (instead of what we look like)
- Enable us to really FEEL the increase in strength and fitness and enjoy the benefits in every aspect of our life (not just the gym)
- Promote intuitive training (PT’s, fitness instructors and gyms can offer a wealth of advice, expertise and information on how to achieve your fitness goals effectively and safely. However, each individual should also have the confidence to listen to their own body and understand what works best for them.)
- Give us MORE energy instead of draining us. (The right type of exercise will get our blood pumping and leave us bursting with energy, motivation and confidence.)
I genuinely believe there is something in the fitness world for everyone. You just have to find your thing. This involves a) a bit of trial and error and b) a lot of filtering out the fads and the hype and finding what works for you – so you can work with your body, not against it.
I believe the best place to start is to strip it all back, step boldly out of the comparison trap and focus on yourself. So, in this blog, we go back to basics and reset our mindset for a fresh approach to health and fitness.
But first, a confession.
I haven’t always been into fitness. In fact, I never used to bother that much at all about exercise and on the few occasions over the years when I did guilt-trip myself into joining a gym, I used to come up with every excuse in the book not to go.
Why? Because I was coming at it from completely the wrong perspective. I treated it like a chore; a punishment for the takeaway I had at the weekend; something I felt like I had to do. I would turn up at the gym already convinced it was going to be awful, give a half-hearted attempt on a few machines which I didn’t really understand and then tell myself off for not being good enough.
It’s no wonder so many of us are wired to dread exercise. Our social media feeds, magazines and minds are constantly filled with unrealistic ideas of what we should be doing in the gym, how we should look and how much we should weigh. And so going to the gym can often be something we force ourselves to do because we don’t feel good enough as we are.
But here’s the thing – when you treat exercise like a punishment, it will always feel like one.
And then we wonder why we hate it! My whole approach to health and fitness changed when I finally discovered the massive impact it could have on the way that I felt – if only I stopped getting in my own way.
My aim is to break down some of the common mindset barriers to exercise and give you a few tips to help you kickstart a healthier, more sustainable fitness journey. So let’s start by going back to basics with one simple question:
Why should we exercise?
The simple fact is that we only get one body which we rely on to take us through every step of our lives and if you think about all it does for us on a daily basis, it’s not a bad idea to give it a little help!
The human body is incredible and we all have a tendency to take it for granted. Every single second, there are countless processes and functions taking place in every inch of our body just to keep us alive – and that’s before we actually start doing anything! We’re made up of trillions of cells, 206 bones, 650 muscles and a complex variety of systems which all work together to maintain homeostasis – an internal balance – to keep us alive and functioning. Our body is constantly processing, growing, repairing, defending and adapting to ever-changing environments in order to keep us operating efficiently – without us even realising it!
Pretty much everything in our body functions more efficiently when we’re maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle. A regular exercise routine can lead to healthier, stronger organs, bones and muscles; we are able to maintain a healthy weight; we have increased energy levels due to improved blood flow; reduced blood pressure; a lower risk of developing many chronic conditions; improved relaxation and sleep quality, and an increased tolerance to stress as our body continually adapts and becomes more resilient.
On top of this, because our physical and mental health are so closely connected, what you do with your body can have a powerful effect on your emotional and mental wellbeing, i.e. exercise can, by default, help us feel more positive and so much brighter and better in ourselves. The great thing is the mental health benefits can actually be pretty instant once we get going. Just a short burst of brisk walking can increase our energy, boost our mood and can make us feel more alive, alert and able to think more clearly. Regular exercise can reduce stress, as our body becomes better at controlling cortisol levels, and provide an effective outlet for anxiety symptoms.
This was actually one of the first things I noticed when I started to exercise – the things I would often be worrying about on my way to the gym never seemed quite so big afterwards! I realised that when I felt physically fitter and stronger, I actually felt mentally stronger too. I felt more confident, energised, but at the same time more laid back. Things didn’t seem to stress me out like they used to.
But to get to that stage and reap all of these rewards, we first need to build and maintain a healthy exercise routine which works for us. And this all depends on our mindset, our ability to let go of the idea of what we should be doing and focus on the real, long-term benefits which a good fitness routine can offer us – in our everyday lives, as well as the gym.
In the next post, I’ll be explaining some of the common mindset barriers to exercise and giving you some tips on how to overcome these.