Possibly the most unbearable thing at the gym is the loud, motivational, and ridiculously good looking instructor. Their shouty voice constantly nags at you. ‘NO PAIN, NO GAIN,’ rings through your pounding head as you suffer through another set of squats.
When the torture is over, you open up your Instagram feed. You double tap a few ‘fitspo’ shots of perfectly sculpted abs. The captions remind you that if you want to get ‘results,’ you must forego that leftover piece of lasagne that your Mum saved for you. Your body confidence takes a hit, as you wonder if you’ll ever look as good as the girls on the internet.
You go back to the gym consistently for the next few weeks, but then life gets busy and it’s the first thing that gets dropped from your routine. You join the ranks of ex-gym goers who couldn’t be motivated by the superficial goal of a ‘hot bod.’
Despite what the fitspo warriors suggest, having a conventionally attractive body does not have to be the main reason why you should exercise. I’ve realised that taking care of my body is necessary if I’m going to get as much happiness and contentment from this life as I can, and that’s something that sure motivates me.
So, if you want rock-hard abs or the perfect ‘bikini body,’ then I can’t give you any advice. But if you want to be more productive, sleep better and lessen your risk of obesity-related illnesses, then let’s chat.
1. Do it for yourself
The biggest exercise mistake I’ve made in the past is doing it for the wrong reasons. I wanted to be fit so that my body would be more attractive to other people. I wanted to look hotter in my social media photos so I could get more followers. My motivation came from the ‘fitspo’ models that filled my Instagram feed even though they only made me feel shit about myself.
A truly healthy exercise habit begins with acknowledging how wonderful your body is and how lucky you are to be able to move it. When you love your body, it’s easier to make taking care of it a priority.
Exercise because you want to get more out of life. Exercise because it’s fun to climb a mountain and to dance all night. Finally, exercise because being healthy can make you feel empowered to live a more fulfilling life.
2. Do something (ANYTHING!) every day
The best form of exercise is the one that you will actually do. For the first month of building an exercise habit, I did a 10 minute Yoga youtube video or ran around the block. At least when you’re starting, it helps to do easy, consistent workouts rather than hard, irregular ones (that you end up dreading).
3. Write it down
The only thing I love more than writing a to-do list is ticking things off said to-do list. For me, writing it down on my schedule helps to solidify my intention to exercise. There’s something rewarding about having a plan and then making that plan come to life.
4. Exercise according to your mood
Don’t force yourself through a brutal, fast-paced workout when you’re feeling a bit blue and reflective. Some days it feels great to put on some doof doof music and run flat out to release all the feelings of stress and frustration. But other days I want to go for a pleasant stroll and do a few stretches. Listen to your body and exercise accordingly.
5. Schedule it after the shittest part of your day
I have to bribe myself with the promise of breakfast and a nice shower to get myself out of bed in the morning. There’s no way I would ever get up if I knew that a workout was the first thing on my schedule.
However, it’s a different story after a few hours of staring at my laptop screen, writing emails or trawling through a textbook. At that point, going outside and moving my body seems quite appealing. I find that scheduling exercise after the boring parts of my day makes me look forward to exercising.
6. Reward yourself
I usually exercise before I have lunch or dinner. This is partly because it is uncomfortable to run on a full stomach. But it also means that I can look forward to the reward of food afterwards. The promise of food is a surefire way of motivating me to do anything.
7. Keep it simple
Find something that you don’t hate doing and then turn it into a routine. I have a running route and Yoga sequence that I do regularly. I don’t have to think about it or negotiate a plan because I already know what I have to do.
Although the effectiveness of your workouts will decrease if you don’t shake things up every now and then, you can worry about this later on. Just start by building the habit.
8. Embrace your own skin
DO NOT stand in front of the mirror, pinch your flabby bits and cry yourself into despair (Yes, I am guilty of this). Remember, even if your body never changes, this exercise journey is still worth the effort for the personal benefits, like improving your strength and mental health. The physical changes are just an added bonus. Keep in mind that ‘healthy’ and ‘skinny’ are not synonymous.
9. Stop the comparisons
Go right now and unfollow every single ‘fitspo’ model on your Instagram feed. The only thing you need to aspire to is being better than who you were yesterday. I’ll say it again, you’re doing this for yourself, and not to conform to society’s cruel and arbitrary standards of hotness. Most of us will never look like that, and really, why would we even want to?