Starting A Fitness Journey
Making It Work For Unmotivated People
- Establish the right environment to help you stay consistent with a new lifestyle and routine.
- Start with basic exercises that embody common movement patterns and are not too challenging in terms of technique.
- Explore the type of activities that you enjoy, for example, cardio, strength training, calisthenics, bodybuilding, etc.
As resolutions go, fitness targets seem to top the list for unfulfilled promises. If one were to whittle down the premise, it is that, while people understand that staying active and healthy are important and desirable goals, there are just too many priorities fighting for attention. And, it turns out that psychology has something to do with it.
Humans are predisposed to form routines, and we tend to follow the path of least resistance. Those who are unmotivated to exercise will share “reasons” from conflicting schedules and lack of equipment to costly classes and inconvenient locations. As legitimate as some of them are, they are actually examples of us feeding excuses into our habits so that we can remain in our comfort zones.
“It is hard to stay consistent with a new lifestyle and routine, unless your environment supports it,” says Lim Zheng Jie, 28, a personal trainer at two training studios. “It’s often easier to show up at the gym when we have workout buddies there, just as it’s easier to eat healthy when we don’t keep junk food at home. To effectively stick to our routines, we need people and things that constantly cue us to make the right choices, often subconsciously.”
And according to Psychology Today, other behavioural trip-ups are also fencing us in, including:
- The power of now
Bad habits form because we cater to the most immediate pleasurable need, such as bingeing on food or a Netflix series. As Melvyn Yeo, 38, Education and Onboarding Manager at a local gym, acknowledges, “Hunger pangs and snack cravings are easier to give in to, so they tend to distract us from our well-intentioned goals.”
- Projection bias
When we make a resolution, we are often inspired by something that’s happening, such as a celebration. But we forget how difficult it is to wake up an hour earlier (for a workout), or how tired we feel after climbing a flight of stairs. We project our feelings into the future without considering the present.
- Limited focus
As we make plans for that better diet and fitness regime, we forget that it’s going to be challenging to stick to the plans. We may commit to hitting the gym twice a week but end up choosing a dinner plan with a friend because it’s perceived as more rewarding.
TAKING THAT FIRST STEP
How does one even begin on a fitness journey?
Some people prefer self-contained set-ups like gyms to focus their workouts, but the truth is that a fitness routine can be done anywhere, and without a gym membership or specialised equipment. Crucially, we need to convince ourselves that the benefits of starting that workout outweigh the reasons for not doing it.
We’re all built differently, but tapping into what naturally inspires us will help. “Start with something that you genuinely like!” suggests personal trainer Lim. “It totally depends on what the beginner enjoys doing – cardio, strength training, calisthenics, bodybuilding – but it is a good idea to start with basic exercises that embody common movement patterns and are not too challenging in terms of technique. For example, learning how to do a deadlift proficiently first will give a beginner the confidence to perform other hinging exercises like the kettlebell swing. And, achieving small wins at the start will also encourage us to seek greater fitness goals in the future.”
Novel workouts get you excited? How about bouncing on trampolines? It may sound like child’s play but new participants always get a surprise at how much energy they expend bouncing on the mini-rebounders. Accompanied by thumping music, every session is invigorating and delivers a cardio burn. You can also get an interesting workout atop a surfboard in a pool, where you’re led through a series of routines and yoga poses. If you like getting into the water, there are classes that let you work against the natural forces of the element while you spin (cycle) on your underwater machine. Or grab a glow sabre and follow the instructor through the cardio and plyometric movements that’re both toning and visually spectacular.
WORK OUT AT HOME
Gyms can be intimidating places for beginners. Fortunately, online fitness programmes and apps are freely available and can often be done in the comfort of home. Hybrid Calisthenics uses bodyweight training to deliver visible benefits for strength and weight loss. Think simple movement exercises like sit ups, squats and bridges, but done in small changing sets to support constant conditioning. The online videos are easy to understand, with clear instructions from the affable founder. There’s even a physiotherapist on hand to answer your questions.
PIIT28 asks you to invest 28 minutes for 28 days to see and feel the difference. The founder channels the core-strengthening power of Pilates into a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) format to deliver training in a short timeframe. The small combinations of 40-second workouts require minimal space and no equipment, making it perfect for a home workout.
GETTING AN EXTRA BOOST
Sometimes, the first step is the hardest. For those who can’t seem to commit to something “extra”, integration can be useful. Here are some ways to get an extra boost of energy, and get more out of your routine.
- Music moves the world
Don’t underestimate the power of tunes. “Listening to music that you love can improve your mood and distract you from the fatigue you feel during a tough workout,” says Lim. “Upbeat music can give you an adrenaline rush and motivate you to push harder.” Start by promising yourself a run that lasts as long as a song. Don’t be surprised when you’re running to the whole album in a few months! Adapt this to other activities like skipping or dancing and you’re moving for all the right reasons.
- It’s the company that counts
Have to watch over kids or want to spend more time with your pets? Walking is an often-overlooked exercise. Spend some time wandering about the neighbourhood with your loved ones and be rewarded on many levels.
- Office moves
Most of us spend a lot of time at work and even though hybrid work is settling into a norm, throwing in a bit of exercise at the desk can be rejuvenating and rewarding. Apps like 100 Office Workouts (Android) uses your chair as a handy tool, while Office Yoga (Android and iOS) squeezes in soothing poses on your seat. Workout Trainer by Skimble (Android and iOS) has a wide range that can let you graduate from the chair into full short routines if you have a room to spare at the office.
Health is most definitely wealth. With the right mindset, you can embark on your long-talked-about fitness journey. No excuses. Get going today.
PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIERS, BE GONE!
Set realistic goals
While it is possible to drop six kilogrammes in three months, it will require a lot of commitment. It’s best to work on a sustainable pace that’s possible to stick to. “For someone who has not exercised for the past three years, embarking on a four-day-a-week HIIT routine might be a huge shock to the system. To ensure consistency, it is better to make small, gradual changes that can be confidently managed,” advises Lim. “Being at least 90% consistent in doing the simple things right can add up to significant transformations over time.”
Establish short-term goals
A long-term goal spanning a year is much more attainable when broken into smaller ones. Short-term targets allow you to regularly review your progress and tweak your regime, in line with your overarching objective.
Remember it’s your journey
This is easier said than done, as we tend to consciously or unconsciously compare ourselves with others. Someone will always be stronger and leaner within a shorter time. Just remember that we are all built differently, and if your regime is moving you towards your end goals, it’s already a win.
Set that priority
Family, friends, work. We readily integrate time-consuming activities related to them because they are important to us. If we have the same regard for our own health and fitness, then exercise must become a priority as well.
This article was published for ISCA at the following URL: https://journal.isca.org.sg/2022/09/20/starting-a-fitness-journey/pugpig_index.html