My work, as a personal trainer and health coach, is very rewarding. I get a lot of pleasure helping women who have previously never exercised or struggled to be consistently active; to adopt a positive relationship with exercise that sees them enjoying moving their bodies. I want to reach more women and help them see how good moving your body can be for mental and physical health. So I’ve written this beginner’s guide to exercise, for those of you who feel it’s not for you, to show that it is possible for everyone to enjoy an active life.
Here are my 5 Top Tips for embracing and enjoying an active life.
Make it Fun
If you want to make exercise a habit and a routine part of your life you absolutely have to choose something you actually enjoy. It’s a huge challenge to stick at something if you really don’t get any pleasure from it, even if you know it’s doing you good. This doesn’t mean you have to enjoy every single moment, but that there’s an element of it you like. You may not get a massive endorphin rush or post-exercise high, but you can feel good in the moment and a sense of achievement afterward. Start with thinking about what kind of exercise you might enjoy. Do you want to be inside or outside; with others or alone; do you want a high energy workout to music or do you need some headspace, so a quiet walk will do . You might have to try a few things before you find your exercise mojo. There is no right way or wrong way, just the way that works for you. My clients often tell me that boxing is their preferred form of exercise. It’s a great, fun, way of challenging your body and your brain. You work hard but you laugh too. My weekly boxing class has spaces so get in touch if this sounds like your kind of thing.
Start at the beginning
So many women give up on exercise because they feel out of their depth in a class or feel too sore afterwards. Like anything in life, you have to start at the beginning. If you’ve never lifted weights before then throwing yourself into a kettlebell class isn’t a great idea. Likewise, if you’ve only ever been for a gentle jog, then going to a high intensity (HiiT) class with choreographed high impact moves is more likely to injure you than lead to sustainable change. Ask friends you trust for recommendations. If you go to a class, try and speak to the Class Instructor before hand. A good instructor will always be happy to talk to you prior to you signing up and help you work out whether the class is right for you or whether there’s a more suitable alternative. Sarah’s Runners is a great place to start running. It’s a great community running group, where the focus is on running in a non-competitive environment, without judgement or pressure. You are very well looked after and encouraged to run for pleasure. Find out more about Sarah’s Runners here
Set small and realistic goals.
It’s very easy to over-commit and end up falling short of what you set out to achieve. If you’re completely new to exercise then increase your currently activity level by just a small amount. Once you’ve established a routine and you feel comfortable with how you’re moving, you can increase it a little more. Wait a few more weeks and increase it again. It won’t be long before you’re incorporating activity into your daily life. It’s far better to start with one class or gentle jog a week and consistently build up from there over a number of weeks or months, than aim for 3-4 sessions in week one and then burn out.
Movement is a very broad term.
Positive mental and physical health is a product of moving your body. But the path to it doesn’t necessarily have to be a punishing exercise regime. Building any kind of movement into your daily life really does make a difference. Walking the school run instead of driving, playing football with the kids instead of watching, washing your own car rather than taking it to the car wash will all have an impact if it is done consistently. If you are completely inactive at the moment, start with increasing your informal opportunities to move, such as walking at every opportunity. If you get up each morning and think ‘how can I move my body today’ that’s a great start, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Starting out with a sociable group walk with your friends could be just the way to get started.
Focus on consistency not intensity
Being consistently active on a weekly or daily basis is far better than spending a few weeks exercising intensely, then not doing anything for ages. Despite what many fitness professionals will say, you don’t have to feel the burn after every workout to enjoy a positive effect. There are so many benefits to moving your body. If we only focus on calorie burn and weight loss we’re missing out on all the other lovely benefits such as improving our mood, increasing our energy and being sociable. Look at your diary and see what you could realistically do, on a consistent basis, to make positive changes. I hope these tips are helpful and have inspired you to make some changes. Can you change just one thing about your activity levels today? What would that one thing be?
Make a change this week, keep building on it and in six months you’ll be significantly fitter, stronger and healthier than you are today.