Happy New Year! This is traditionally one of the busiest months for gyms. Every January, hordes of people emerge from their cozy, eggnog-laced, chocolate-soaked, couch-shaped stupor, put on neglected workout gear and sign up for a membership. They come thinking they’ve gotta suffer to get fit; some have wildly unrealistic exercise goals (like one gentleman in my class who asked me to help him lose 26 lbs in four days!). They slog through exercises they hate, like running, because they think they “should”. And when they fail to achieve their superhuman targets they get discouraged and quit — usually around February.
How do I recommend you stick to a routine? Make it fun! With a few simple strategies anyone can learn to enjoy exercise. Even the most dedicated couch potato can become a longtime, active exerciser.
So — how not to fall off the exercise wagon? Here are 5 stick-to-it tricks to get you started on your fitness journey!
1. Attend Group Fitness Classes
Group fitness classes are a perfect solution for those who find going to the gym alone boring or intimidating. In a group class, you’re led through exercises and shown how to do them properly, taking the guesswork out of the workout. There’s a communal accountability factor: you’re all in it together, for the same reasons. Everyone there was a beginner once too. And it’s not always easy to quit: no one wants to be “that person” who gets busted trying to slink out of the studio 15 minutes after class starts!
I try to encourage a sense of playfulness and humour in my group fitness classes. Sometimes when I’m teaching, I’ll see a participant smiling and even laughing during a particularly gruelling sequence. And it truly makes my day, because I know that person has found a way to have fun while they’re working out hard. And that keeps them coming back.
2. Find a Workout Buddy
The buddy system really works — exercising with a friend definitely ups the “fun” factor. If exercise feels like another obligation, how about a brisk lunchtime walk with a co-worker instead? Or ask a friend to come to a class with you instead of going out for after work drinks. By making it a regular habit, you’ll encourage and motivate each other to stick with it.
3. Hire a Trainer (One That You Like)
Can’t find a workout buddy? Hire one! Set up a regular appointment with a certified personal trainer — one you click with. A trainer doesn’t have to be a scary person that yells at you, especially if that style doesn’t motivate you to keep working. Look for someone who makes you feel excited and positive about working with them; someone who helps you set realistic goals and celebrates with you when you achieve them.
4. Track Your Fitness, Not Your Pounds
I loathe the scale; I tell all my clients to get rid of theirs. It’s a faulty and often inaccurate way of measuring fitness that makes people obsessive and depressed. If, for example, you lose 2 kilograms of fat and gain 3 kilograms of muscle (an impressive accomplishment), the scale informs you that you’ve gained weight. And that can seem like failure. A better way to track your progress is to record measurements at your waist, belly and hips and repeat every 4 weeks. Monitoring your energy, stress and sleep levels helps you notice the more subtle — but just as powerful — effects of regular exercise.
Another way to measure your progress is simply to notice how your clothes fit. Your jeans don’t lie! If they feel like they fit you just a bit better, you’re making changes.
5. Reward Yourself
Incentivizing your workouts with (non-food) rewards can be a fun way to meet your fitness goals. Set an achievable, realistic weekly or monthly target and treat yourself when you succeed! Get a pedicure, go for a massage, buy yourself some flowers or — my favourite — treat yourself to a new workout outfit!
To sum it up: find a type of exercise you like, do it in a supportive, social setting, track your progress appropriately and reward yourself when you achieve targets. Do all this and before you know it exercise will become a lifelong habit.