September often brings with it change: The return to school, the dewy mornings, the darker evenings, all signifying that summer is over. This year that shift feels more poignant than ever. As we emerge from lockdown and try to get back to some sense of normality, many people feel like they are starting over. Health and wellbeing are at the forefront of everyone’s minds and I’ve noticed that lots of people are prioritising exercise.
But what if you’re a complete newbie to this fitness malarkey? Yes, lockdown provided some with ample opportunity to take up running, but for others it was the complete opposite (we’ve all heard of the covid stone) and what if – quite understandably – these past six months have simply been too intense and mentally exhausting to contemplate keeping fit? So whether you’re starting back after a period of inactivity, or donning lycra for the very first time, here are my suggestions for getting going.
- Start small.
A big turn off to exercise is feeling like you’re not very good at it. But all too often I find that novices try to do too much too soon, and those returning to exercise often feel frustrated that they’re not as fit as they were previously. So they give up. Instead, start small: Go for a walk every day, or join a class once a week, or arrange a game of tennis with a friend. Don’t try to run 10k when you’ve never even jogged to the post office! Yes, it goes without saying that we get best results when we really commit to a programme, but sometimes getting going and building a bit of a confidence is the hardest part.
- Do something you enjoy.
When it comes to exercise, it’s a common mistake to do what you think you *should* be doing. You read online that a 7-minute HIIT workout is the best way to start the day, or your mate lost 2 stone when she took up running. But if you hate burpees, then you’re unlikely to commit to regularly doing that morning HIIT routine, no matter how short it is. Think about what fits in with YOUR life and what’s important to YOU. If being outside is something you enjoy, then an online workout from your living room might not be the best fit, and perhaps you’d get more from following a couch to 5k. If you love music, maybe try barre or an adult dance class. If you’re not comfortable working out with others, invest in a few bits of kit to use in the privacy of your own home. There is no ‘wrong’ way to exercise when you’re starting out. Something is always better than nothing.
- Get accountable.
Following on from the above, the best way to be consistent, is to be held accountable. There are people who are truly self-motivated, but even the most disciplined of athletes has a coach. So if your aim is simply to start going for a walk every day, how are you going to ensure that happens? We can all find an excuse (it’s raining / it got dark / work is too busy), but that’s harder if we have someone to answer to. Seeking out a personal fitness coach like myself might not be an option for everyone, but even just having a walking buddy can help. Or a simple action like crossing it off on your calendar each day can help to keep you on track.
- Focus on the journey.
Cheesy but true. We’re taught that having SMART goals means we’re more likely to achieve them. Whilst that might be the case, after 12 years in this industry, I know that when we focus on a specific outcome (such as X amount of weight loss), we lose sight of all the other benefits that come with making exercise part of our lifestyle: Better mental health, friendships forged, improved strength and bone density. Remember that, and enjoy the privilege of moving your body.