It is the end of summer. It is time to reset your mind and your attitude to keep working on what should be your ultimate goal: to be fit and healthy.
It is not a secret that health related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disorders and various forms of cancer are at an all-time high in the US. And nobody is contesting that fit people are generally healthier. They seem to be able to do more things and appear to enjoy life more than their sedentary, unfit counterparts. Fit people frequently have stronger lungs, muscles, joints, bones, immune systems, healthier hearts, and better cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure readings. What is not to like about that!
With that said, you first must change your frame of mind. You are not starting a diet and/or a sport regimen because you want to lose weight (although it is still the first reason mentioned by the people joining a gym or a health club) but because you want to BE FIT AND HEALTHY. This is a totally different ball game. This is a lifelong project and not a number on a scale. You want to be fit and stay fit for the rest of your life. The weight loss should not be your primary goal, although you probably will lose some along the way.
Most of us have no problem initiating the process, but the struggle lies in the challenge of keeping at it. So here are five secrets of the steady exercisers.
They exercise at the same time most days: You must pick a regular time to work out and stick with it. If it becomes predictable you don’t need to invest much thought into it and the behavior becomes on autopilot mode. Please note, I did not say you must exercise every day. In fact, starting a too strenuous and rigid schedule will probably be the first reason you cannot keep at it in the long term. Two or three times a week a regular and planned exercise session might be all you need.
Active people are widening their definition of exercise: Many people think exercise must make you sweaty and exhausted. It does sometimes, but not always. Frequent exercisers increasingly view things like a family bike ride or yoga class as things that count as exercise. I am an advocate of cross training and of listening to your body. Somedays you will feel like you can push yourself, but if you can’t, it is ok too. On that day, choose a gentler option, such as a few stretching or core exercises at home.
Frequent exercisers have a streamlined pre-exercise routine with visual cues: Going to the pool tomorrow? What about having your suit and equipment bag ready and in a prominent place. It will give you the visual cue and prompt you to go.
They are more flexible than infrequent exercisers about how long or vigorously they exercise: Active people are less likely to have all-or-nothing definitions of physical activity. You need to get rid of the old-school belief: you set a goal, it is a bull’s-eye, you hit it or you miss it. But life is busy. When you are more flexible, you are able to shift your position, your stance. It removes the psychological punishment of “Oh, I failed”. If a frequent exerciser’s workday spills into the planned club swim workout, she or he will be creative and swim on his or her own for maybe 30 minutes only, or do something else if the pool is closed.
They are more likely to exercise for pleasure than for weight loss or other long-term health goals: In a 2016 study, some gym-goers were randomly sorted into 2 groups. In the first group, people were told to choose the exercise they most enjoyed, and in the second group they were told to choose the exercise that was the most useful for their health goals. People in the first group on average did 29 reps compared to 19 reps in the second group. If you really care about losing weight or having a healthy heart, it is what gets you to the gym or the pool but it is not what keeps you there.
Instead, be a frequent exerciser, be flexible and mostly enjoy whatever forms of exercise you choose. Don’t focus on a number on a scale, just get FIT. You certainly will reap health benefits and permanently get rid of some weight along the way.