Tips For Starting Your Fitness Journey
I wasn’t always into health and fitness, I mean, not in the way that I am today. I was active back in college, I played hockey for my school, ran track and field, but that all came to an end after college. I didn’t participate in any form of physical activity for years after, I ate horribly unhealthy, didn’t pay attention to my nutrition, my attitude was that I was already slim and I didn’t need to watch what I ate and that I didn’t need to exercise. Well, that’s where I got it terribly wrong. Because as the years went by I noticed I wasn’t as fast as I used to be, couldn’t run up the stairs without almost passing out, I was weak. I didn’t put on a whole lot of weight, but I was most certainly out of shape, unfit, and out of touch with my body, I felt disconnected from it. I realised then that I had to do something – to be active again. I wanted to re-introduce myself to my body, to re-connect with it.
I wanted to understand my body in its entirety – how it moves, what it can do, its strengths, what breaks it, how far it can go when pushed past its limits, how strong and fast it can get. I wanted to feel good. But how was I going to achieve all that?
Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know that you’re not alone. Whatever questions that might be going through your mind right now, I also asked them – “Where do I start?” “Who do I ask?” “What can I do?” “When can I start?”. It can be daunting. In this post, I’ll share with you some of the things that helped me get started. Hopefully, you’d find them helpful too.
It’s All In The Mind
Getting in the right mindset is essential when embarking on any lifestyle change. Start by accepting and loving yourself, no matter the circumstance. Avoid negative sabotaging thoughts and self-talk. I came up with all sorts of excuses why I shouldn’t embark on this lifestyle, but what helped me get started was having a positive mindset. Having a positive mindset of “I’m doing this because I love and accept myself” will help you focus on your goals and succeed in your fitness journey, or any lifestyle change, especially when the novelty and excitement wear off. And believe me, it does wear off!
“The first step to making progress is acknowledging the need for change. Only then will you reach your full potential”
Know Your “Why”
Why are you starting a fitness journey? When I began my fitness journey, my “why” was to get re-acquainted with my body. Knowing what you want to achieve will be a motivating factor that will help you towards achieving your goals. Are you doing it for weight loss, to get fit, to get stronger, to be more healthy, to feel better about yourself, for confidence, fit into a particular dress, or to look good? Or like me, you just want to re-introduce yourself to your body? Whatever your reasons are, first, make sure they’re well defined, clear and honest. Secondly, make sure that your “why” is everything to do with you, because you’re doing this for you, and not to impress anyone else. Making it about you will be your driving force and will inspire you to keep going and, push yourself when no one else is watching. Do it for you!
Now, you take the first step. Keep it simple. Although it’s probably best to enlist the help of an experienced fitness coach, however, there’s no need to hire one right away. Taking that first step could be as simple as going for 30 minutes walk or jog 2 to 3 times a week. You can get a workout DVD and do the workouts at your convenience, go swimming. Do this until you feel motivated and comfortable enough to add more variety like joining a gym or a group workout class, Yoga or Pilates, even Zumba if you enjoy dancing. I started by doing Yoga 3 days per week. You can decide to hire a personal trainer later if you feel like you need someone to help you further in achieving your fitness goals.
Do something you enjoy. What activity do you enjoy? Ignore what other people are doing. It’s crucial that you take up an activity you love and look forward to doing. It shouldn’t feel like a chore. I love weight training, its something I look forward to doing every day. What’s your Jam? If you’re not sure what activity you like, try different things until you find one that you genuinely love and enjoy. Once you’ve decided on an activity you enjoy, you’ll then need to set a time to do it and stick to it. According to the NHS, you’re more likely to find time to be active if done at the same time and the same days every week. You will also want to make this new activity a part of your daily routine. Making it part of your everyday routine gives you some form of structure, and it builds habits. It will make your new lifestyle fit smoothly into your busy life schedule.
Set Goals. And Re-Set Them
Having a goal is great, especially for days that you feel unmotivated. Your goals should be specific and relevant to your reasons for wanting to embark on this lifestyle. The more specific your goals are, the more chances you have to reach them. According to the psychologist (Heidi Grant), having specific goals would mean that you don’t end up settling for less, or thinking that you’ve done just about enough work. Your goals don’t necessarily have to be weight loss. It could be trying to become more active, get fitter, healthier. Whatever your goals are, ensure that they’re also achievable, measurable, not to mention realistic. Start small. If your goal is weight loss, aiming to lose 0.5 pounds a week is realistic and attainable. It’s measurable too. When setting goals, think about the positive aspect of achieving them – how will you feel when you actually reach your set goals? How will you reward yourself? Are you going to set new goals? Also, think about the obstacles you might encounter along the way, and how you intend to overcome them. Fitness goals are not easy to achieve, there will be obstacles, there will be setbacks. When you encounter them, what will you do? Will you persevere, or will you throw in the towel?
Rethink Your Nutrition
Nutrition. Nutrition. Nutrition. Oh, this one piques my interest every time! It’s fundamentally the most critical when embarking on a fitness journey. Your body deserves proper nutrition to function correctly. Research has shown that our actual food choices are less important than just paying better attention to what we eat. When you pay more attention to what you eat, you’ll find that you unavoidably start to eat a lot better. Clean up your diet. Add vegetables and fruits to your diet. Eat more whole and less processed foods, or at least make sure your food is 80% whole. Eat foods that you like or can learn to like. Keep a food journal, if your goal is weight loss, you need to create a negative energy balance in the form of calorie deficit. Using Apps like myfitnesspal will help you stay on track, not only that, you become more aware of what you’re putting in your body – what works or what doesn’t. And if you’ve been doing an activity you love, you may even start to ask yourself if improving your nutrition could help you get better at your chosen activity. Being active changes how your body uses nutrients from the food you eat, and eating the best quality whole foods gives your body lots of valuable nutrients and your health will be significantly improved. Knowing this, it just makes sense to bid “au-revoir” to unhealthy food choices. Wouldn’t you agree?
Fitness is a lifestyle, and to be successful with any lifestyle change requires that you have a positive mindset. The journey starts in your mind. Once you get the mentality in the right place, the rest will slowly fall into place. It also requires focus, discipline, dedication and patience. Avoid being too hard on yourself, it’s a learning process, and you’ll discover what you like along the way. Give yourself time to achieve your goals, it’s much easier to achieve goals that are small and specific. Reaching these small, specific goals allows you to be more successful with the big, long-term goal.
Finally, nothing beats consistency. One setback is not a complete failure, we all go through challenges, and remember that life is about balance. Commit to yourself, have fun and stay consistent.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
– Francis of Assisi
Thanks a bunch for reading!