5 things to consider to get and stay fit
Updated: Jul 5
Getting and staying fit isn’t as easy as it sounds. If it were, I wouldn’t have a job as a personal trainer. There also wouldn’t be a big industry offering so many different ways of going about it.
There’s certainly no shortage of fitness advice on the internet either. No doubt plenty of it’s useful but much of it only makes the task more confusing.
You definitely won’t have any problems finding new exercises, the latest programs or the fancy gear that seems to be the thing that’ll make the difference.
To really succeed at getting and staying fit it pays to look beyond all the trends and hype. Equipment and effective exercises of course do matter but behaviour and a sound strategy are massively underestimated.
Taking time to consider the following 5 points will increase the chances of not only getting fit but just as critically staying fit;
1. Have a plan, a program- know what you’re going to do in each workout
The less you have to think about what you’re going to do the better. We only have so much mental energy to make decisions. It’s probably best to save that energy for decisions at work or home.
While simplicity is good, a level of detail is needed. Know how long and how hard you’re going to run or ride. Strength training sessions need to be mapped out with specifics about the exercises, the amount of weight, repetitions and number of sets. Even the rest period between strength sets matter.
Don’t leave it to chance. Use your precious time well. Having that level of structure with the various aspects of workouts means there’ll be a momentum and focus about them.
Don’t go by feel. It may be wise to modify a workout if tired, injured or ill, however the vast majority of times you need to stick with what you have programmed.
It’s inevitable there’ll be days when you don’t feel like it. Don’t surrender to those feelings though. Often getting started is the hardest part. Once under way an effective workout can flow. By pushing through sluggishness you’ll learn the power of exercise to shift mood and energy.
Developing the trust, the knowing, that following and completing your program is a reliable way of immediately improving how you feel really helps with developing a long-term habit.
Commonly exercise is started with the goal of changing how you look and/or to lose weight. That is a fine (and usually} healthy motivator, however it can often slowly and subtly change towards mood boosting as a driving factor.
Plenty of those who haven’t been able to develop a regular exercise routine have a mindset which makes that shift in motivation hard. That mindset is that exercise is regular short-term pain only for long term gain. This may have come about through many unpleasant experiences with exercise.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Sticking with a realistic, suitable program for a month or so can provide the evidence that there’s actually great very short-term gain. The pay back for moderate effort in the form of uplift in mood and energy is actually really quick.
Having an appropriate program is like properly following a recipe- it’s far more likely to bring about that result you’re after.
2. Think about involving other people
It’s probably more important than equipment.
Humans are mainly social creatures. Most of us find exercise more enjoyable when others are involved.
I’m pretty self-motivated with exercise, it’s more or less part of my job. As you’d expect I like exercise more than most, however the last 2 weekends I’ve been reminded of the positive effect of working out with another person.
I’ve been doing an hour run each weekend for some months now, it’s not my favourite workout of the week. Doing the last 2 with my friend Mike have made the experience so much more enjoyable though. Not only that, it feels easier. That’s in spite of actually running a bit quicker.
We also round the workout off with a special cool down method. I’ll share that method with you right now- coffee while gentle strolling along for 20 minutes! I bet you won’t find that cool down on YouTube.
Naturally I’m finding these sessions with Mike easy to get motivated for. The social aspect matters.
There is that simple accountability as well. Neither of us want to let the other down. We don’t want to be in poor form or turn up late or worse still, not at all.
That’s a big part of what makes Personal Training work. You commit to an hour of focused exercised. It’s in the diary, it makes workouts happen. And happen often. There’s no doubt some people can and do exercise solo regularly. Many, many others though find a training partner, a group, an exercise class or a personal trainer to be more fun and motivating than going it alone.
3. Aim to make it practical, repeatable, habitual.
It’s easy to look at seriously fit, fast, lean or strong people and the complex exercises they do and think that’s what you need to be doing.
Just like the gear they use or wear may seem to be essential. Or that the great drive they have to get through tough workouts must be what separates them from you.
Those things might be part of the formula of getting a high fitness level. However what matters most is consistent workouts over time.
Habit is king.
A mediocre exercise program done often is far better than a brilliant program done occasionally. Prioritise building the habit. It’s what people who get and stay fit do.
As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success in life is just showing up.”
Put energy into showing up. You can add most of the complexity and intensity later.
It’s not exciting or radical advice but it’s true and helpful.
We all know that an astounding number of people pay for gym memberships they don’t use. Don’t become another one of them. While you need to try things, consider if you’re joining a gym in the faint hope it’ll get you motivated. That doesn’t mean gym membership is a bad option but just that you need to think realistically about what is going to work for you.
Here’s 3 questions to ask yourself when thinking about a new way of exercising;
Is it easy to get to, set up, get started on?
Knowing your lifestyle and schedule, is it very repeatable?
On a scale of 1 to 10 how practical is it?
Be real. Be practical. Do what you can to boost your chance of making exercise into a strong habit.
4. Ask yourself’ ‘Can I see myself doing this in 5 years?’
As mentioned, fit people maintain the habit for the long term. It becomes so routine they barely have to think about it. They don’t move from fad to fad.
Again, you do need to try new things to see if you like them and whether they work for you given the demands on your time. Try them though and still ask yourself the question, ‘can I see myself doing this in 5 years?’
A definite no, gives a pretty obvious sense as to whether that path is worth pursuing.
If the answer is ‘possibly’, well it might take more time, trial and error and analysis before making really firm commitment.
‘Yes’, of course would indicate it’s likely a sound option for you.
This is very much an individual thing. Your preferences, personality and life circumstances are all factors in answering the question.
What has or hasn’t work for you in the past is worth considering. Along with whether you’re a really social person. Another factor could be that you love the great outdoors.
If in doubt consider whether the people who know you best could see you doing a particular form of exercise in 5 years.
Admittedly you could use this question in really limiting way. If you can’t see yourself doing any form of exercise at all in 5 years but you need to do something, then be prepared to simply give things a genuine try. Unlikely transformations do happen.
A friend of mine went from a very overweight couch potato who drank and smoked way too much, to completing an ironman triathlon within 3 years. That said, he did have that long- term vision and dream, even when way out of shape.
This is not a failsafe or fool proof question but will go some way toward making better choices. It can be deceptively effective at getting you to think differently and realistically. It’s also a way of importantly trying to take a long-term approach.
5. Make it progressive
Tiny increases over weeks and months add up to big long-term improvements.
It’s like saving money. Make small, regular deposits and your savings can really grow.
Adding 30 seconds to your bike sessions each week would result in an extra 26 minutes of cycling per workout in a year! Simple but effective.
Progressing like that is a great motivator too. You won’t feel much difference session to session. However, when you take a moment to reflect, you’ll realise you really are moving forward. This’ll make the effort actually feel worthwhile.
Although I’ve had several clients say they feel like they’re not getting fitter. Ironically this is actually because they’re making progress. What the!?
Let me explain. My method is each week to add a repetition to each and every set of the strength training exercises in the session.
At certain points I’ll have the client increase the weight or difficulty of the exercises and reduce the repetitions, then start progressing again. (You can’t continue to just add repetitions forever, it’ll take too long, you’ll need to increase the resistance or difficulty occasionally too). Anyway, the point is there is regular small progressions usually done in a systematic way.
This means that the intensity of each sessions is roughly the same, so the client feels like they’re not coping better (because they aren’t!) and thus not getting fitter. They in fact are fitter, it’s just that at the same level of exertion they are doing more i.e. lifting heavier or going faster or further.
In the medium and long-term effort stays the same but strength, stamina etc increase. There will be some fluctuations due to factors like illness, stress and travel. In the main though there’s that continuous gradual improvement.
You don’t have to progress with every exercise in every workout either. Say you were doing 3 sets of 6 strength exercises 3 times a week. You could just add 1 repetition to 1 set of 1 of the exercises each workout. If you stuck with that pattern of progression for 3 months, you’d have increased by 36 repetitions per workout!
That’s a great rate of improvement. I’m sure most gym goers don’t get strength gains like that with any regularity. That’s because most people in gym’s don’t have a systemized progressive program. They go by what feels right way too much. You don’t have to though!
Having a gradually progressive approach to your exercise doesn’t take immense effort. It’s more about being organised and committed to a program.
It can be tricky when trying to get fit to sort through all the information and hype. It can get so distracting and confusing, so it’s wise to think about what’s going to actually matter.
To re-cap here are those 5 things really worth considering-
1. Have a plan, a program- know what you’re going to do in each workout 2. Think about involving other people
3. Aim to make it practical, repeatable, habitual.
4. Ask yourself’ ‘Can I see myself doing this in 5 years?’
5. Make it progressive In need of some help in getting and staying fit? Get in touch with your questions or find out how I can help. I offer mobile personal training at your home or nearby park which makes it very convenient and time effective.
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