There seem to a billion different ways to try and get fit, and there are just as many fitness gurus out there trying to sell their systems as the perfect gold-standard. That’s not even to mention the different dieting and nutrition advice, the different vitamins and supplements which promise miraculous fat burning results, and all the rest.
As if that wasn’t enough — there’s the fact that exercising is hard and it often doesn’t feel too good until you’re done and get to bask in the sense of accomplishment.
It’s almost as if the world is against you ever getting into a happy, productive fitness routine which allows you to look good, feel good, and avoid unnecessary stress.
In reality, it sort of is. No need to panic, though. Here’s a guide on how you can make fitness a part of your everyday life without getting a headache.
Join a functional fitness class
One of the best ways to stay motivated to train is by doing something that’s going to have a direct impact on your day-to-day life in the near future. Going for a jog is great for your health, sure, but it’s hard to feel like you’re getting anything out of it in the short term apart from runner’s high, sore feet, and the ability to jog more next time.
Functional fitness is one of the hot new crazes of the 21st Century, and you’ll find businesses such as BlockFit.com.au offering classes focused around this trend wherever you go.
The basic philosophy behind functional training is that every exercise you do needs to make you better at doing something in your everyday life. This can mean being able to carry heavier groceries, push your car up a hill, pick up a sofa, or even carry a wounded loved one out of a burning building.
Unlike with other, more standard, forms of exercise, functional fitness classes will make you feel like you’re actually becoming better prepared for whatever life may throw at you.
Choose the “hard way” more often
There’s almost always an “easy way” and a “hard way” of doing things in any situation. Although it’s usually a pretty good idea to go with the easy way, all things being equal, there are some real benefits of choosing the “hard way” with regards to physical fitness.
When you find yourself having to choose between the elevator and the stairs, consider taking the stairs. If it’s a choice between driving to the supermarket or cycling down, have a go at cycling. If you have a bunch of grocery bags to carry from the car to the front door, try and carry as many as possible in one go instead of making 3 or 4 trips.
And when you find yourself having an adventure in some exotic foreign land, it can be a great idea to get out and about on your own two feet, hike, explore, and stroll around, rather than letting the tour bus carry you from place to place.
This isn’t a workout plan — but it is a simple system that you can carry with you, and which will have a positive impact on your fitness, health and even wellbeing.
Make fitness a habit that’s too easy to fail
The thing that you really want, if you’re going to be successful in introducing fitness to your everyday life, is to make fitness a habit. Something that takes no willpower to accomplish, but that you just do out of routine (and ideally feel pretty good about).
The thing about picking up new habits is that it can be a bit of a tricky procedure. That’s why leading experts on habit-building suggest a couple of steps:
- Firstly, perform your habit every day to really cement it in your mind.
- Secondly, when you’re first building a habit, make it something so easy to do that’s it’s impossible to fail. The main aim in the early stages is to develop the habit loop. The rest can come later.
The way this might look with a fitness habit could be “every morning after my cup of coffee, I will put on my running shoes. If I feel like going for a run, I will. If I don’t, I won’t.”
Firstly, this creates the habit trigger in your mind that your fitness routine begins after having your coffee. Secondly, you’re creating a situation where the habit itself is so simple that you can’t fail. Thirdly, you’re allowing space to do the exercise if you feel like it (and you often will after getting your running shoes on). This also helps create the association in your mind between exercise and pleasure, rather than conditioning you to view exercise as something you hate but have to do.
Do fun things and let fitness sort itself out
Fitness doesn’t have to be a thing that you intentionally seek out and think about all the time. If you structure things right, fitness should just be the natural side-effect of doing fun, active things that you enjoy.
One of the best ways of accomplishing this is by joining a sports team and getting lost in the thrill of the competition. Sure, you’ll be running around and sweating, and your heart will be racing, but you won’t be focusing on that stuff. You’ll be focusing on having fun and beating the other team.
The more you can focus on activities that you enjoy, that just happen to also make you fit, the happier you’ll feel about life in general, and the more likely you’ll be to get fit for life.
Commit to a future fitness challenge
One of the reasons why News Year’s resolutions often fail and the January gym crowd are nowhere to be seen by February, is that it’s easy to get out of doing something that you find difficult or stressful when you don’t have anything to hold you accountable.
One of the ultimate ways of creating this kind of accountability for yourself is to sign up to a fitness challenge in the near future. Great examples include obstacle course events like the Tough Mudder, 10k runs or half marathons, or even sporting competitions.
The important thing is that you commit to something which is no more than 6 months in the future, let people know you’re doing it, and use it as motivation to push forward with your training.
A couple of things will happen here; you’ll probably feel too embarrassed to drop out after letting everyone know that you were planning to participate. And you’ll be scared and excited enough about the event to actually put in the training hours so that you don’t have a complete crisis when the day arrives.
Keep it simple, stick to the basics
We live in an age with more choice and info available to us than ever before. In a lot of ways this is great, but when it comes to fitness, it can easily be paralysing. Which of the millions of exercises listed online should you add to your routine? Which of the dozens of machines in your gym should you use? All of them?
The truth is that simplicity is often the best policy. There’s no need to over-complicate things. If you’re getting your heart-rate up and breathing heavily, you’re getting some cardio exercise. If you’re lifting heavy things, you’re getting some resistance training in.
Stick with natural full-body movements like barbell squats or yoga asanas instead of machines and dumbbell curls. Do what feels right, and see how you’re getting on after a few months.