Most of us are well-versed on the physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise, but converting our good intentions into action and staying motivated is another matter.
After all, we have plenty of excuses to push exercise down our list of priorities. A common cry is that we’re just “too tired”. And yet, conversely, exercise boosts our energy levels.
Then there’s the classic “too busy” line. It’s interesting then that so many of us can still find the time to keep up-to-date with social media and binge-watch our favourite TV dramas.
The trouble is, until exercise becomes a habit, it’s all too easy to talk yourself out of it: “The average person will find more excuses not to work out than reasons to do it,” says Jo Parry, fitness instructor and co-founder of online health and fitness programme, MCL.
So how do we get beyond that tipping point so exercise becomes as habitual as brushing our teeth? We asked a team of experts to share their advice on getting motivated and staying that way.
Make it the first thing you do
Rather than waste the first half-hour of your day planning how you’re going to squeeze exercise into your hectic schedule – or not, as the case may be – just get up and do it:
“...Yes, even before caffeine,” says Niki Rein from Barrecore ballet-inspired fitness classes. “It may feel like a rude awakening, but you will get right in the zone before all the ‘noise’ enters.
“If you wait until later, it’s likely that other things like children or work emails will get in the way. Schedule it in and set your alarm for the specified time at least three to four mornings per week.”
Make it fun
“Finding a class or activity you genuinely enjoy will make it much easier to stay committed,” says Parry. “For example, if you love to dance, attend a dance class – it won’t feel like a chore and the health benefits will be secondary to the enjoyment.”
Need inspiration? Swap Pilates for parties with one of the new wave of ‘fitness raves’, featuring 90s dance anthems and neon glow sticks; Pulse powered by Clubbercise classes are hosted by Virgin Active gyms nationwide. Or if making shapes on the dance floor doesn’t appeal, get messy with a mud run, like Tough Mudder, or a charity Colour Run, where you can cavort in clouds of rainbow paint and make money for a good cause while you’re at it.
Set small, achievable goals
Over-ambitious goals, like exercising five times a week or losing a lot of weight, could lead to feelings of failure. Break your goals down into smaller increments to enjoy those little victories along the way.
“Set yourself short (1-4 weeks), medium (3-6 months) and long-term (12+ months) goals,” suggests Chris Foster, Head of Fitness at Nuffield Health. “Every time you hit a small target you’ll feel motivated, giving you an additional push towards achieving success.”
Sam Yassin, leading strength and conditioning coach with Back 2 Fitness agrees: “Five sub-goals will be much easier to achieve than one big one. Ticking one goal off after another is progressive and will have a snowball effect on your training.”
Make it a social activity
Exercising with a ‘workout buddy’ increases your accountability: if you don’t turn up, it’s not just yourself you’re letting down. Plus, a supportive friend can be that little voice of encouragement along the way, patting your back when you achieve your goals and spurring you on when you feel like giving up.
Research by Strava, a social network for athletes, found that running as part of a group encourages runners to run further and faster. The data, which analysed 90 million runs found that Strava members ran seven seconds faster per mile and 1.3 miles further when with a group.
Look after your body
The setback of an injury is enough to burst anybody’s motivation bubble. But tempting as it might be to get back in the game as soon as possible, it’s important to allow injuries to heal safely to prevent further harm in the long term.
Voltarol Pain-Eze Emulgel provides up to three times more effective pain relief than non-medicated gel, offering a triple effect, which helps relieve pain at the source, reduces inflammation and helps speed up recovery. Be patient and you’ll hopefully be back on track soon.
Voltarol Pain-Eze Emulgel contains diclofenac diethylammonium for relief of pain and inflammation.
Always read the label. ©2017 GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.
Colour run image courtesy Flickr CC-BY Rog01