About three years ago, I studied abroad for a few weeks in Asia. It was the trip of a lifetime, filled with memories, experiences, and tons of pictures. When I came home and developed, framed, and revisited those pictures is when it hit me: I was very out of shape. I had gained about 15 pounds that year, avoided exercise, and developed terrible eating habits. Ever since then, I have made working out a priority. Although my diet has improved greatly since then, I am not one to give up pizza, cupcakes, or candy. Say what you want about my reasoning, but working out, in my mind, allows me to indulge and still stay fit and healthy.
I think being active is such an important part to being healthy and happy. Here are some useful tips I believe anyone can benefit from, no matter what stage of fitness you are in.
Starting from Scratch
- When you are starting from scratch, motivation and choosing the right activity are key.
- Choose an activity that is enjoyable and challenging but not overwhelming. Do not sign up for an intense spin class or a 6 mile race thinking that will motivate you. That will just emphasize how long you have been out of the game. Try run/walk intervals, elliptical training, zumba, bicycling, or even yoga/pilates. At this point, it is important to just get moving doing something you enjoy, but make sure you stick to a consistent schedule.
- Motivate yourself! For $10 you can create an awesome playlist that distracts you, gets your body moving, and sets the tone and pace for your workout. For $20-$30 you can buy some cute workout gear that you will look forward to wearing. Or, you can sign up for a class at a local gym or studio.
- Make your workout something you look forward to. If it’s something you dread, you won’t do it. Even though activities like yoga and walking are less intense (and you will burn less calories) than other activities, if it’s all that you will do, it’s most definitely better than nothing.
- If you feel like time is a huge factor preventing you from working out, two important things to do are to plan and be realistic. Map out your week and realistically allocate certain days to certain activities, based on time. Some helpful suggestions are to invest in a few workout DVDs, a yoga mat, and some comfortable weights. Pick a TV show that you can watch mindlessly (Real Housewives, anyone?), and workout as you watch! You can get tons of great workouts for free online.
- Also for busy individuals: remember, not all your exercise needs to be done at once. A 20 minute morning walk with 20 minutes of toning at night is 40 minutes you won’t even miss, trust me.
- Don’t forget old reliable friends such as push ups, planks, crunches, squats, and lunges. These babies are classics for a reason and seriously require less time than an episode of Big Bang Theory. Added bonus: NO equipment required. No excuses for you frequent travelers!
Getting Too Comfortable
- You’ve started working out, but now you are stuck in your comfort zone. Now is the time to kick it up a notch.
- Challenge yourself. Were you walking/running? Try just running- you can probably go farther than you think! Were you bicycling? Try spinning or upping the resistance on your bike. Loved pilates? Mix in some resistance bands or switch to more intermediate level moves. No matter what your activity: change moves, add resistance, or up the incline
- Mix in a new activity. Ultimately, you want a good mix of cardio and strength training. Most of us tend to enjoy what comes more naturally to us. Just be sure to mix in a little of the other category for a nice balanced, diversified work out.
- Update that playlist! Even a few new songs makes the world of a difference.
Been There, Done That, Now I’m Bored…
- You’re fit and accomplished but the worst plague of all is hitting you: boredom.
- Obviously, mixing up your routines are key. However, beware that sometimes trying a new activity is not as satisfying as your old passion. If you are a seasoned runner and try cycling, you may not like it! That’s ok. In that case, your disdain of cycling will remind you of you passion for running. Just try mixing up something: your pace, your time, your route, your company, your music.. anything to give your mind a new focus.
- Constantly explore new options and activities. They key is not to give up what you used to do, but to add in a little variety so that your old routine is new and exciting again.
- Find new motivation. I find signing up for frequent events such as races, especially for a meaningful cause, always ignites a spark in me. There are many more events out there than road races. Visit active.com to find events in your area.
- Splurge on new equipment. This is different than the “beginner motivators” such as music and workout gear. These items should be more of a reward to help re-spark your love of something; expensive running shoes, a Garmin, a good bicycle, a fitness class membership, expensive golf clubs, you name it! Or, ladies, any item from LuLuLemon!
- Take a break! It sounds counterintuitive, but try not working out for 4-5 days. Take the time to relax, physically and mentally, and by the time you start again you will probably be itching to do whatever it is you do.
And Always Remember:
- Every little step counts! Being fit is about being active. Taking the stairs, the long route, or walking your dog do count.
- Push yourself, but within limits. Exercising should be kept as enjoyable as possible. Some days, exercising can wipe away your stress. But then there are always those days that Ben and Jerry will help you more. And that’s fine! Working out should be an ongoing lifestyle, not a daily chore.
- One of the quotes that really sticks with me about working out is from Bethanny Frankel. “Do what you can, when you can”. Do not forego food, plans, or time doing other things in order to workout. Instead, maximize your free time, no matter how small, to doing something active.