You’re reading Move, the nudge we need to get active, however makes us happiest and healthiest.
Sometimes it can be pretty hard for our minds to imagine how great we’ll feel after a workout. That’s just how our brains can work. Exercise can feel daunting, especially for those who are new to it or haven’t found a workout they enjoy doing. And so even if, ahead of time, you commit to going for a run, long walk, or a HIIT workout, it can feel so easy to bail when it’s time to get going.
The thing is, we all feel better for moving more – even if it’s just a short, light jog for 10 minutes. With that in mind, we spoke to two personal trainers to get their advice for those oh-so familiar moments when we’ve all been tempted to bail.
If you get that nagging feeling, here’s what you can do.
1. Make sure you’re about to do exercise you enjoy
Some people hate running – and that’s okay. Don’t force yourself to go for a run if you’re not going to enjoy one second of it. This can make all the difference, says Calum Pettitt, a personal trainer who works for the Sport in Mind UK charity. “One of the best ways to achieve the maximum benefits from exercise is to do something you enjoy,” he says.
And remember, any movement is better than none at all. “If you would prefer a shorter, more scenic running route – do that instead!” says Pettitt. That way, you may find you don’t associate the exercise with ‘hard work’ and think of it as a relaxing or entertaining experience instead.
Joe Wicks’ back catalogue of YouTube workouts emphasised this fun-first approach under lockdown, with his three-times-weekly PE sessions being all about keeping entertained while keeping fit.
2. Remind yourself of the mental health benefits
Exercise can make us feel mentally, as well as physically, stronger – so a great reason not to bail on a workout is to focus on your mental health.
It can help you to sustain a more positive mental outlook – something we can all benefit from. “Working out releases endorphins,” explains Ben Walker, personal trainer from Anywhere Fitness. “These chemicals promote happiness and can counteract mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
“Endorphins are a natural painkiller for preventing general pain and stress. Stress can be detrimental mentally and physically.”
If you really can’t face the idea of exercise, try going on a bike ride or a walk. “These are brilliant, low impact ways to exercise which benefit our mental health and enable us to experience the benefits of being outside, allowing our body to rest, and providing a quick boost to our serotonin levels,” says Pettitt.
3. Switch up your workouts
“My advice would be to regularly change up your workouts to keep them fresh and interesting,” says Pettitt. “This will help keep you motivated and help you get the maximum benefits mentally and physically.”
If you’re after new ideas (and have exhausted the Wicks’ back catalogue), try Mark Wright’s routines on Instagram, or some of the fabulous dance workouts from Danielle Peazer for a bit more fun. We also pulled together lots of different home workout ideas if you’re not a fan of the gym.
And remember: sport counts, too! What about a game of tennis with a friend outside? Or badminton, squash, or even a swim. Think outside the box.
4. Remember: working out helps you think better
Working out increases your metabolism on any given day, which means the body’s functions “react and work more efficiently” for hours after your workout.
“This sends more oxygen to our brain for critical thinking,” says Walker. “If returning to work after exercising, you’ll feel more clear about your decision making and have longer lasting stamina.”
The body’s ability to burn energy at rest gives a better feeling of self-confidence and self-efficacy, adds Walker. Again, this helps you to make better and well thought decisions throughout the day.
Pettitt agrees. After exercise, “your concentration levels will improve, and you will be more productive in the rest of the day”.
5. Think about how well you’ll sleep
Your sleep is likely to improve after exercise, so even if you feel tired during the day, remind yourself that a short burst of movement will increase the likelihood of sleeping better at night. This is because exercise increases blood flow and sends more oxygen to the brain, explains Walker.
Better sleep can help lower blood pressure, and decrease anxiety and stress. “Increased levels of sleep can also reduce the risk of heart related diseases or issues such as diabetes or tachycardia,” he adds.
6. Know that rest days are essential
Are you thinking about bailing because your body needs a rest? If you’re a bit of a seasoned exercise pro, taking days off is essential.
Our bodies need time to recover from high intensity training, says Walker. “Training every day affects the body’s ability to repair broken down muscle fibres. Every muscle group requires 24-48 hours rest between each weight training session. That needs to be considered with taking one or two days off a week.”
The body needs protein, rest, sleep and hydration to heal and grow, he adds. So if you’ve already trained four or five days in a row, it’s okay to bail on your workout.
7. Finally, just think how great you’ll feel after
Honestly, you really will. Get yourself in the post-workout headspace before you work out and you’ll be prancing around doing drop lunges before you can even entertain the idea of bailing. Here’s hoping, anyway.
“There are few better feelings than when you didn’t feel up to completing a workout or session, but you push through and have a really great session and feel amazing afterwards!” exclaims Pettitt. We couldn’t agree more.
Move celebrates exercise in all its forms, with accessible features encouraging you to add movement into your day – because it’s not just good for the body, but the mind, too. We get it: workouts can be a bit of a slog, but there are ways you can move more without dreading it. Whether you love hikes, bike rides, YouTube workouts or hula hoop routines, exercise should be something to enjoy.