The “no pain, no gain” approach to physical activity often scares us away from doing frequent workouts, but how do you overcome the intimidation and make exercise your friend? Worry not! We’re here to offer easy strategies that can help you incorporate exercise into your daily routine and accomplish some of those fitness and health goals you may have been putting off.
The greatest barrier to your fitness goals may just be your interpretation of what exercise is supposed to look like. What comes to your mind when you think of a workout? Do you picture strenuous and painful activities that make you sweat profusely? Does setting aside an entire hour of your day seem like too much? Are you expecting excruciating muscle soreness the day after a gym session? If this is your idea of exercise, you’re not alone, but it's thoughts like these that prevent us from achieving our fitness goals. So what can we do to change that mindset?
To see some of your health goals manifest themselves, you need to start with replacing intimidating images of workouts with a more positive view. Remember: your form of exercise doesn’t have to cause you pain, and you don’t need to be soaking in sweat before you call it a session. Contrary to popular belief, you also don't need to devote an entire hour at the gym every single day to successfully adopt a fitness regime. Whether you’re a former high school athlete who fell off the wagon after graduation or are rather new to the idea of regular exercise, there are several ways you can make a new routine more inviting.
So other than this idea of exercise being a scary thing to do, your approach to actual workouts could also be holding you back. An all-or-nothing attitude, for example, can cause you to spend too many hours at the gym working yourself to literal exhaustion. This often results in very serious, discouraging pain the following day. That constant pain can create a mental aversion to the gym and workouts as a whole and can kill your motivation to reach your fitness goals.
Starting with simple activities like one five minute walk a day and easing yourself into a routine is a great way to prevent burnout and overcome the intimidation. If you're struggling to maintain a routine, consider using the “habit stacking” strategy to help develop new, healthy habits.
Based on James Clear's best selling book, Atomic Habits, habit stacking helps build new routines by adopting small habits that are easy and require little motivation at the start, then slowly building up until you achieve a sustainable pace. For instance: you can start with that five minute walk a day, then increase it to ten minutes, then thirty, and then an hour until you might be ready to take it up a notch to a full jog.
There are no fixed rules on the activities that can be considered “exercise.” You don’t have to jump into running five miles or lifting seventy pound weights if that’s not your style. So choose an activity you’ll actually want to do. If you love being out in the fresh air, you can take a nature walk. If you like listening to music, dance around your room wildly. Or hit up your friends for a weekly bike ride around town. Do you love video games? There are tons of options out there for fitness games and machines that allow you to get a solid workout in while playing some of your favorite games.
Another limitation many people put on themselves is the “instant fix mentality.” If you are too ambitious with your goals and you don’t give yourself enough time to achieve them, you run the risk of creating an unrealistic routine that will hurt your health instead of improving it. Remember: Rome wasn't built in a day, it took time. If one of your goals is to lose weight, you have to keep in mind that you didn’t gain all of your weight in a week. It may have taken months or years, so of course it’s going to take a significant amount of time to lose it in a healthy way. Looking to run a mile without ever having put on a pair of running shoes? It’s probably not going to happen the first try. You build up strength and endurance over time.
Segment your overall fitness goals into milestones that can more easily fit into your life. Keep those goals in mind, but be patient with yourself and try to reward the little victories as they come. Remember that a sustainable exercise routine is not a race, everyone's body and journey looks different. Give yourself some grace and learn to enjoy the process.
While routine is important for keeping up healthy habits, your busy schedule may not give you much free time for your exercise. Early morning meetings, after school events, and much needed grocery trips might take precedent over your daily workout. It's normal for work or familial responsibilities to consume your day. However, you should be taking note of any and all free time you have available. Capitalize on this free time by scheduling in a few minutes of physical activity over, let’s say, “couch time.”
Research has shown that short and sporadic exercises can be just as effective as long workout sessions. You don’t always need a solid, uninterrupted thirty minutes to fit in all your daily exercise. If you’ve planned to take a thirty minute walk every afternoon but are short on time, turn one walk into three ten minute walks spread throughout the day. If you’re busier on Monday than on Tuesday, take three twenty minute walks to make up for it or add the extra time throughout the week.
If you find a physical activity that really works for you, don’t be afraid to jump into it during the free moments you have. As long as you’re hitting about seventy-five minutes of vigorous exercise per week, you should be well on your way to achieving a healthier lifestyle.
Renowned journalist Charles Duhigg formulated an idea known as the habit loop concept. This idea explains how individuals can change bad habits into good ones. The habit loop has three components: cue, routine, and reward. The cue is what triggers you to start an activity, the routine is the repeated activity, and the reward is what you get after forming the habit.
In order to make exercise a regular part of your life, you need to create a strong cue to regularly encourage the start of a workout when an opportunity arises. Your cue needs to be so appealing to you that it triggers even in times when exercise might be the last thing on your mind. If you find the right cue, chances are you’ll develop a routine more easily, turn that routine into a habit, and enjoy fitness as your reward.
Let’s say you have a goal of getting your heart rate above 120 beats per minute for sixty minutes a week. You have found that you really enjoy freestyle dance as your preferred workout. In the world of habit loops, your favorite high energy music acts as the cue, dancing vigorously for ten minutes a day is the routine, and seeing your heart rate goal achieved on your fitness tracker is your reward.
At SymGym, we’ve revolutionized exercise by incorporating fun into your workout. Our exergaming machine acts like a controller for your favorite video games and requires you to move your arms, legs, and core to control your characters as you compete for a personal high score or against other online players in real time in a high intensity workout. You can start at a more basic resistance level and increase it over time to build strength and endurance. Make it a part of your home gym and hop on whenever you like. And the nonstop fun of playing video games creates an irresistible cue for your exercises.
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