Hi everyone! Before I jump into this post I would like to issue an apology for my absence – these last weeks were full of studying and I literally had no time for anything else, but now that my workload has eased I will be back to posting on a regular basis. Thank you all for sticking around and I cannot wait to be involved in the blogging world once again, and I have managed to accumulate a nice list of ideas while I was away so be expecting a lot of content in the run up to Christmas!
Okay, now let’s leap into the main topic of this post: when you’re just starting out a new exercise programme, it can understandably feel like climbing Mount Everest, in particular if you’ve never been athletic before. To some people, sport can feel natural and easy, while to others it connotes hours of difficulty and pain, and this category of people may not understand how others workout for fun rather than just for the physical benefits. Whether you’ve started a fitness journey to build muscle, lose weight or prevent one of the diseases associated with living a sedentary lifestyle, those first few weeks of jumping between exercise machines may be anything other than enjoyable and as a consequence, many people quit because ‘they don’t like exercise’.
I have been going to the gym for around four years at this point, and prior to joining I have been sporty for my entire life. Despite the fact that at certain points my relationship with exercise has been less than optimal, as a whole I love movement. Going to the gym is one of my favourite parts of the day. However, even as a ‘seasoned’ gym goer, I experience dips in motivation. The time I dedicate to my workout goes by much slower than usual and every exercise just fundamentally feels harder and heavier. Sometimes, I do workouts I don’t wholeheartedly adore (e.g. spinning) because I know of the health benefits they deliver and that accomplishment I experience afterwards. In both cases, I have to implement a few tricks to make the workouts feel ‘easier’ without compromising the actual difficulty of the workout. Sounds contradictory, but hopefully you all know what I mean.
That being said, at times it is perfectly okay to skip a workout or take it easy. If I’m absolutely dreading a cardio session, I will go for a light walk outside with my mum instead. Do not ever let the pressure to workout and be on top of your game 24/7 compromise your mental health because as I mentioned in my post about procrastination, we are not machines and at times need to take it easy. Being sensible and vigilant in regards to your own wellbeing is not the same as being lazy, and I guess there is a challenge in finding the boundary between them.
Find an exercise programme you enjoy
Seems obvious, but many people neglect this in favour of picking programmes they’re compelled to do due to external pressure. You shouldn’t have to force yourself into the vast majority of your workouts. If you do, this implies that you should look elsewhere because such an approach is unsustainable: if you hate it, chances are you will quit before any results start to appear. Heavy lifting is not for everyone. Running isn’t for everyone. You don’t even have to join a gym to get fit, and some of the healthiest people I know have found such a state though ‘lighter’ forms of exercise such as Pilates and yoga (which is much harder than it seems – I can barely hold a downward dog pose without dying physically and emotionally).
Switch it up and try new things
If you’re ever stuck in any aspect of your life, changing something up can often reignite your passion for a particular activity or just engender much needed motivation. I like to incorporate at least one new exercise into each gym session as something to look forward to, and Instagram and YouTube are the best resources for when I am running low on ideas. Or, you could even even try out a whole new sport altogether! Who knows, you may discover a hidden talent in the process.
Listen to music or podcasts
I am convinced that those who do cardio without music are superhuman. I cannot get through five minutes of running without my tunes playing in the background (unless I accidentally unplug my headphones and end up playing 2012 Lady Gaga out loud which happens much more frequently than it should). I lift weights without music because I have to concentrate on keeping good form and mind-muscle connection, but cannot survive more monotonous forms of exercise without it.
Split your workout and exercises into smaller chunks
To elaborate, I’ll give an example: instead of saying ‘I have to do 15 push-ups’, opt for ‘five pushups three times in a row’. Then, start counting down from five, and when you finish go back up and repeat x3. This is a mental trick which makes trickier exercises seem easier because you’re faced with smaller chunks rather than the whole thing all at once. This is particularly useful for cardio, during which pushing through ten minutes three times is more bearable than the whole thirty minutes in one go – obviously, you are still doing the same amount but it feels a lot less daunting. A couple of years ago, I was borderline obsessed with watching Man vs Wild and in one episode, Bear Grylls states that soldiers often employ a similar technique to get through physical challenges, which is quite cool because I’ve been unknowingly using the same technique as the military while at the gym!
Make sure you’re properly nourished and hydrated
It is unlikely that you will be able to enjoy your workout and breeze through it if you haven’t had enough to eat or drink. Do not exercise on a full stomach, but have a good meal 2-3 hours beforehand and then a smaller snack right before you start. A lot of people use pre-workout supplements but I’ve never actually tried them because I find that eating nutritious and abundant food gives me all the energy in the world (unless coffee counts because you will see me drinking plenty of that every day, lol). This is one of the reasons for why I go to the gym in the evening – it’s much easier for me to have a good time when I’m fuelled up by a whole day’s worth of food!
Let me know if you have any other tips that you use to deal with dips in motivation. I think the key, however, is definitely finding a workout programme or a sport you enjoy – after that, it becomes a hobby rather than an obligation!
Lots of love, Maria ♡