It’s never enough, never, never….seems to be a constant refrain in life. But I’m not just talking about the Greatest Showman soundtrack, although I could – I totally could. I’m talking about exercise and the amount of information I’m drowning in. There are too many should’s and shouldn’ts. Words I wish to remove from my vocabulary. Besides often being unhelpful, guilt-inducing or unattainable; they’re also often contradictory.
If, like me, you don’t exercise because you truly enjoy it. But rather approach it in the pursuit of that rare and elusive quality known as fitness. Then it stands to reason that we need clear advice and specific goals. Or at least, a consensus that we can tailor to our specific needs. So I thought. But it turns out, what we really need is to make working out, work for us.
I’ve never been naturally athletic. Tending towards the academic. I tried to avoid physical education with increasingly inventive excuses. Where PE lessons failed to instil in me a love of exercise or sport; it certainly challenged me to think creatively. But, since my school days, I have discovered that not all exercise is awful. It can, in fact, be enjoyable or fulfilling if one simply knows where to look.
Establishing an Exercise Routine
In the past few years, I’ve curated a regular exercise routine for myself. After much trial and error, I’ve found what works for me. But this didn’t happen over night. There have been many failed schedules and workouts. And it’s still not cut and dry. As my life and commitments change, so does my exercise schedule.
My first step involved joining a gym. People recommend the gym as an obvious first step. But many of us have reasons to avoid them. Whether the money, lack of privacy found in a gym changing room, wondering how to use the machines. Or a lingering fear of exercise started at school. And then there’s accessibility issues too.
Making the Gym Work for You
If the gym sounds like a good place to start. But some of these worries are on your mind. Here’s my advice:
- Research First. Look into local gym options first. Many have free day passes or trials. Go have a look around and/or attend a class. Look at the facilities and the dressing room. If you feel uncomfortable, it’s probably not the right place for you.
- Machines? On joining the gym I had no clue where to start when it came to machines. But our gym had an introduction you could book with staff. They introduced you to the facilities and recommended which settings you might want to try. And importantly, how to use the equipment safely.
- Or Classes? Check your gyms timetable. Make sure there are classes you may want to try. And hopefully at times you can make. They’re a great way of kickstarting an exercise routine and getting variety in your workouts. It’s also a nice way of spacing exercise throughout your week where possible. I started off with kundalini yoga; the yoga of awareness and Zumba twice a week.
- Don’t Compare. This is true of any group exercise. Whether at a gym or in a class – wherever you attend one. It’s easy to see someone running faster, dancing better or lifting more. But they’re not you. They’ve not been when you have and your goals are likely different. The road to comparison gets you nowhere good.
Sticking With It
Once you’ve established a routine, the hard part starts. Whilst a good routine will be easier to maintain. It’s never easy. There will inevitably be times you’re stressed or under the weather. When a social or professional engagement clashes. Or a class may be cancelled for a week or indefinitely. For me, a change of Zumba instructor left me disappointed and with a gap in my workout routine. No longer enjoying the classes I had to turn elsewhere.
How to Maintain a Routine
Life changes all the time. And the need to be flexible is paramount. So, how does one stick with it:
- Prepare Ahead. Some days exercise will come more naturally than others. But don’t leave it to the last minute to discover what kind of mood you may be in. Get your kit ready or wear some it, if appropriate. When you’re all set, you’re more likely to do the workout even if you don’t feel like it.
- Be Flexible. Be willing to change your routine if need be. For the weeks where you have a clash, you’re ill or you need a break. Have an alternative ready to go. Whether that’s another class that week, a commitment to walk rather than drive, or a home workout.
- Diversify. As you get used to your workouts, put feelers out to try something new. Once I was settled in my routine of yoga and Zumba I started a dance aerobics class to keep things interesting. Look into what other options there are both in and outside your gym. There’s always opportunities to try something new whether you work out outside, in a gym or at home.
- Make It Fun. I’ve never really enjoyed working out. And found the most fun in classes. But however you work out, make sure you find it engaging. A change in instructor substantially decreased my enjoyment of Zumba. So, I sought out a new class. When I began to use the weight machines and treadmill, I downloaded a new playlist or podcast in advance. With something to focus on or a good soundtrack, my mood and enjoyment increased.
- Find What Works. I briefly tried out running when the weather was better. Going for a run in the local park sounded idyllic. And yet, it didn’t stick. It’s great to explore other forms of workout. But remember, the ones that work for you will be the ones that stick. No matter how much I wanted to be a runner, it wasn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy it and I didn’t feel good at it either. So, my motivation waned.
- Think Outside the Box. Gyms may be the obvious place to start. Or not. Any form of public exercise might have us filled with dread. Enter the home workout. This revolutionized my workout routine. Providing me with a huge variety of options. Not just in type of exercise but also instructor and length. Working out at home also gives me the aforementioned flexibility. If I miss a class, I can find time to workout at home. When the skies are grey, likewise.
For 7 top tips for finding the motivation to exercise read here.
Embrace the Home Workout
Adding a home workout option to my routine really helps. It gives me the ability to make my workout schedule work for me. And there really is something for everyone. Youtube is a great place to start for workout videos. There are loads of instructors with the necessary qualifications. So you can find the right one for you. I’d tried a few different yoga instructors before I discovered SarahBethYoga. And Yoga With Adriene. When I want something a bit more upbeat The Fitness Marshal is excellent for dance routines. And if you’re looking for a one stop shop for a variety of workouts PopSugarFitness and BodyFit by Amy have a great mix. They’re the perfect place to try something new.
But YouTube isn’t your only option. There are apps for your phone. Whether a daily reminder for your abs. Or the Couch to 5K app from the NHS. There are exercise blogs and articles where you can learn different moves and curate your own workout. And there are paid online platforms and exercise machines and equipment you can use at home. With a home workout the world really is your oyster.
Disclaimer: Please ensure any workout you follow is safe and the instructor is qualified. Ensure you are working out safely and follow all instructions. Check with a medical professional if you are unsure.
What are your thoughts? Do you find exercise a minefield of information? What works for you and how did you work it out?