About two years ago, I started seriously working out. Initially I wanted to lose a few kilos for my wedding which was at the end of that year. But after my wedding, I decided to stick with it. For one, I loved the results I got from losing those extra kilos I was carrying around. And two, I felt a lot much happier, healthier and energised. I was no longer constantly fatigued and tired all the time. My only regret was that I wished I had taken up exercise much earlier in my life (and not constantly dodged cross-country and sports in high school).
As 2016 begins (which marks the third year of my fitness journey), I thought I would share a few tips that helped me stay on track and stick with exercise, even when I didn’t feel like it. I am no expert on fitness, so this is not a prescription piece. These are just a few tips that worked for me and will hopefully work for you too.
1) Workout first thing in the morning.
If you are morning person who doesn’t mind getting up early to workout, then this tip will work for you. I have found that morning workouts are the best way to get you started for the day, as it leaves you energised both physically and mentally. Morning workouts are also great because you get it done first thing in the morning and it is out of the way. You don’t have to worry about where to squeeze in your workout during the day. Plus you are more likely to keep to your workout schedules if you do it in the mornings, rather than in the afternoons or evenings, where unplanned events can interrupt exercise plans.
2) Get enough sleep
In order to get up at the crack of dawn to work-out, you need to get enough sleep the night before. So if you are a night owl that stays up late into the wee hours of the morning now is the time to kick that habit to the curb. Even if you don’t generally workout in the mornings and you would rather workout in the evenings, it is still important that you get between 6 to 8 hours of sleep, as it prevents you from feeling lethargic and tired. You will also get the most from your workouts if you are well-rested.
3) Schedule workouts in your diary
As with anything else in life that is worth diarising, workout schedules should also be diarised. See it as an appointment with body, mind and soul which should not be missed. It’s the time of the day you take care of you and give love back to yourself. Just like you wouldn’t miss a scheduled appointment with a potential employer, business partner or an events coordinator, you should endeavour not to miss workouts with yourself. And set an alarm on your alarm to ensure that you don’t miss this crucial part of your day.
4) Find a workout buddy
Some people find it quite daunting or boring to workout alone. If this is you, then find a committed workout friend who shares the same fitness goals as you. You could workout with a friend, your partner/spouse or sibling etc or you could join a running or sports club. That way, you will become less likely to miss workouts. This is because you will motivate each other to keep at it even when the other doesn’t feel like it. You also become somewhat accountable to each other to show up.
5) Mix it up
When I first started working out, I did only home workout videos which I downloaded from YouTube. For me, it was easy to work-out in the comfort of my own home (especially on cold winter days) and I didn’t want to spend extra money on gym membership, (when I could put the money towards my wedding). But after a while home workouts got boring, plus I also hit a plateau and wasn’t seeing any more changes in my body. So I decided to mix things up. I incorporated outdoor running, jump rope, in door strength training, boot-camp and gym (when my friend invites me to her gym). Once I started mixing things up, I started noticing changes again. My thighs and arms were becoming more toned and defined, and my endurance also increased. My brother who is an avid fitness enthusiast once told me that “the trick with exercise is to keep your body guessing”. That way you will constantly see improvements, increase your endurance levels and beat boredom.
I have often heard people say it’s difficult for me to lose weight because I don’t have money to join the gym or I need a personal trainer or the closest gym is far from where I live etc. The excuses are endless. The truth is you don’t need a gym or a personal trainer to lose weight and become fit. All you need is your own body weight and the will power to workout. While I still don’t have a gym membership, I have incorporated various outdoor and in-door exercises to help me keep fit, build lean muscles, improve my endurance and beat boredom.
6) 30 Minutes is all you need.
People often think that you need a whole hour or two to get the most out of your workouts and lose weight. But the truth is many people live extremely busy lives and struggle to put in an hour of exercise every day. And you don’t have to. Research shows that you only really need 30 minutes a day of high to medium intensity exercise, which adds up to 150 minutes per week (if you workout 5 days a week). 30 minutes every day (combined with a healthy eating plan) is enough to help you achieve steady weight loss and get fit. Plus working-out for 30 minutes helps to speed up your metabolism by 20 percent, so that you keep burning fat, long after your workout is over.
7) Be flexible
When it comes to exercise and fitness, the key is to be flexible. You can’t be rigid with your workout schedules and say “I only do cardio on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays etc”. Because, if the weather outside is not favourable for running or you can’t get to the gym on a Monday, you will end up skipping your workout for the day. Instead you should be flexible and allow for changes. Say you can’t do your scheduled cardio exercise on Wednesday because it’s raining cats and dogs outside, then do a home workout video or in-door strength training. The next day you can do outdoor cardio or run on the treadmill at the gym if the weather hasn’t improved. That way you will ensure that you don’t skip workouts.
8) Get enough workout clothes for the week.
A good way to stay on track and make sure to you stick with your weekly workout schedules is to get enough workout clothes for the week. Some people use this as an excuse to skip workouts because they don’t have time to get their laundry done during the week. In that case, it is better to organise your workout clothes for the entire week. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get workout clothes for an entire week or buy expensive brand names. All you need is a pair of leggings, a good sports bra, a t-shirt and comfortable trainers. Don’t be deceived by the hype to buy brand sport items. There is no difference between designer and no-name brands when it comes to fitness. So don’t lose sight of what’s important and keep your eye on the ball.
9) Be patient
Many people give up on exercise too quickly. For some they don’t like feeling of being out of breath and not being able to complete a routine. And for others they give up because they haven’t seen any progress in terms of weight loss as translated on the scale. If you have ever felt like this, don’t be dismayed, because it happens to all of us. The key is to remember that weight-loss and fitness takes time. If you stick with it, the routines will get easier and you won’t be so out of breath. You will also eventually lose weight. Always remember that it took your body more than a month or two to gain all the weight, so it will take your body longer than a month or two to lose it and become fit. While the scale may not change at the initial stage, look at how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror. Often you will lose centimetres from your arms, thighs and stomach before this is reflected on the scale. You should bear in mind that it takes about 4 weeks for you to notice a difference in your body, 8 weeks for friends and family to begin to notice and 12 weeks for everyone else. So give yourself 12 weeks before you think of quitting. If you are trying to gain lean muscles, you might even see the number on the scale go up by one or two kilos, once you start strength training. If this happens don’t quit in horror and go running for the first green salad you see. Rather be patient with the process, as muscle weighs more than fat and building muscle is actually a good thing because it helps speed up your metabolism and ensure that your body is constantly burning fat all day.
10) Subscribe to fitness websites and blogs.
When I first started working out, I decided to subscribe to pop sugar fitness website to help keep me motivated and remind to work-out in the event that I lose momentum and don’t feel like working out. And guess what? It worked. Whenever I checked my email, there was an email from pop sugar fitness about a new workout to burn belly fat, or a healthy smoothie or ways to become a better runner etc. The point I am trying to make is that I was constantly reminded of what I should be doing, which helped keep me on track. In addition I also follow a couple of fitness enthusiasts on Instagram and twitter. So that when I scroll down my news feed, I am once again reminded of what I should be doing (if I have jumped off the exercise bandwagon for a week). These fitness pages and websites also introduce you to new workouts and help you mix things up in your workout routines. The goal here is to surround yourself with images, words and post that will help you stay focused and continue to realise your fitness goals in 2016 and beyond.