About six years ago, I decided to take up personal training in a boxing gym in South East London. At the time, I thought I was pretty fit. After all, I had just run my first half-marathon. But, I can assure you that no amount of running could have prepared me for my first personal training session. I soon found out that my abdominals were weak, my upper body strength was very poor, and I seriously wondered how on earth I had managed to run half- marathon in the first place.
I am also not exaggerating when I say that I suffered from severe muscle soreness for about 10 weeks and that I truly hated every session…But that’s where my journey began. And look at me now, I am a fitness coach!
Like most people, up until then I had been exercising on and off for most of my life. I knew about the countless benefits of exercising. I knew that exercise, amongst other things, can help with losing weight, can boost your confidence, improves sleep and can keep diseases at bay. And yet, I couldn’t make it a consistent part of my lifestyle. Was anything wrong with me? Did I lack will power? Was I lazy?
My intention in this blog, is to outline some strategies I used to get started. You might find them useful, especially if you haven’t exercised for a while or struggle to keep up the exercise or find the whole idea of starting a healthier lifestyle quite daunting.
Think about the immediate benefits of exercise
Yes, goals are important and you should set some long terms goals, such as ‘I want to lose 10kg and maintain a healthy weight’, or ‘I want to run a 10K/marathon’.
My experience as a fitness coach, however, has taught me that people who struggle with exercising generally have an ‘all or nothing’ mentally and are usually also really hard on themselves. Every time they don’t keep up with the exercise (or diet) they feel they have failed and beat themselves up about it. They feel that something may be wrong with them, they may feel flawed because they think they lack will power etc. Yes, of course you want to lose that weight and be able to run. If those long term goals seem too hard to keep up, however, I found that focusing on more immediate mental benefits of exercising helped. I asked myself: How do I feel after a long brisk walk, for example? Do I feel more energised? Do I feel happy? Do I feel a sense of achievement because I have done something for me? Have I done something I have never done before? Try not to be too hard on yourself and start with how you feel after having done some exercise.
It takes time to get the ‘living a healthy lifestyle’ thing right
Have you ever tried to learn a new skill? For example, have you tried to learn a new language or to cook? Would you expect to be fluent after 2 classes in French or would you expect to be able to serve up a 3 star Michelin supper after a few cooking classes? It’s probably safe to assume that you wouldn’t. Now, changing your lifestyle is a skill too. Living healthily is a skill and you’ll get better at it as you go along. I have fallen off the wagon plenty of times in my life and have beaten myself up about it too. However, if you do fall off, get back on it again. Try to remove yourself from the ‘all or nothing’ mind set. Starting to exercise and changing eating habits is hard and sometimes we need several attempts before we figure out what works. It’s part of the learning and you’ll get better at it as you go along.
Find an activity that you enjoy
For me, it was boxing that got me hooked. For you, it might Zumba, dancing, yoga, tennis, Nordic walking, swimming etc. Start slowly with something you know you can do, even if it’s once a week.
Focus on what you can do
Start slowly and focus on what you are physically capable of doing today. Don’t compare yourself to others who might be more experienced exercisers.
Do whatever you can. If it’s not much, still keep going with the activities. You may think that low intensity activities won’t change your shape, but they are important to building good habits and to getting your body used to exercise. Always remember that it is the start and you’ll progress from here.
Get a training partner
Ask a friend or partner to join you on your fitness journey. You are more likely to be successful if you have a partner to share your activities with. And, of course, you can always hire a fitness coach to get you started….If you are looking for a good coach, I happen know a good one…
Antonia Bannasch is a Fitness Coach and Co-Founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot specialises in bringing the science of genetics to the world of fitness. Connect with the team @BodyshotPT or Facebook or visit our website at www.bodyshotperformance.com.