Yesterday, I went on my first run in a fortnight. Generally speaking, I exercise for two reasons. One, because I feel like it legitimises my desire to eat cake. And two, so I have a decent base level of fitness for when I decide to take on a new challenge.
Next up is hopefully going to be the Women’s Rapha 100k in July, so I’m taking my own advice and getting moving again.
But it’s easy to start exercising, what’s hard is keeping going, especially when you’ve got to squeeze it in between work, parenting, and everything else. Over the years of starting and stopping and starting again, I’ve realised what works for me, and what doesn’t. Hopefully some of these ideas might keep you exercising when you just want to sit on the sofa, watch old reruns of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and eat a family sized bag of sweet & salty popcorn…
Find inspiring people.
Not Beyoncé. Real people that you know. The ones who are doing what you aspire to do, and living how you want to live, but doing it in a away that is realistic. I’m very lucky to know Jayne from the brilliant Veggie Runners who really does live what she blogs about and is a constant source of inspiration. I’ve genuinely never met another adult who radiates as much good health and has as much energy as she does. Whatever she and her daughter Bibi at Veggie Runners are doing, it’s working! The wonderful thing about Veggie Runners is that they’re great at sharing advice, recipes and tips to motivate.
Get your own Jillian Michaels.
I’m joking, kind of. But finding someone else to exercise with gets you out of the door if you’re feeling low on enthusiasm. Knowing that someone else is waiting for you will have you pulling on your trainers far more than having just yourself to answer to. I’m very lucky in having a wonderful friend, Jo, to run with. She’s fitter than me, which gives me something to aim for, and knows when to give me the whole ‘pain is just fear leaving your body‘ Jillian-style encouragement, but also knows when to slow things down because I’m in danger of keeling over. On the flip side, she says that I’m the person she channels when she wants to dig deeper and find that last reserve of energy to get up the hill or do a sprint. So, we work well together.
Find the best time of day.
It’s really hard to fit exercise in at the best of time, but one thing I’ve found that really helps is to work out what time of day is the best time for me to do particular types of exercise in. I love to run in the early morning, it feels like a really positive start. That, and it gives me a tiny smug feeling that I did something good before 9am! After a really long day at work, I struggle to run in the evening. However, I really like to swim at the end of the day. Even though it’s cardio, I seem to find it more restful and I always get a good night of sleep after swimming. So, find the best time of day to suit you, how your body is feeling and how it fits into your life. Don’t try to force it, because it won’t stick.
Buy some lovely new kit.
Yep. This advice is coming from the woman with the minimalist wardrobe! I started doing yoga earlier this year and I love it. I feel the benefits in so many ways. In the early days, I wore an old maternity t-shirt and an ancient pair of leggings. Now, I know that yoga is not focussed on how you look, but that old t-shirt, stretched out with saggy elastic popping out from my pregnancy, was a source of embarrassment enough to make me not want to go to yoga at all. So, I invested in myself and bought a whole new yoga outfit from Sweaty Betty which I adore and is a source of pure happiness when I put it on to go to yoga each week. The truth is that feeling good in your exercise clothes will get you exercising.
Find places to exercise that you love.
I use running routes that provide lovely scenery, take classes in Yoga Kula, where everyone is treated gently and with genuine warmth, and swim in Bramley Baths, a swimming pool that’s community-run and has a sauna! All of these places make me feel comfortable and like I belong. Finding places and spaces that make you feel happy will make you want to return.
On some days, I can’t get out of the house to exercise. It’s easy to write those days off, but there are some great YouTube channels with strengthening, yoga or pilates routines on that I can still do without waking my sleeping kids up or annoying the neighbours! I try to do this at least once a week and it’s an easy way to keep going, because I can fit exercise into my day without even putting on my trainers.
Just do ten minutes.
If I really can’t face going to exercise, I tell myself that if it’s all horrible after the first ten minutes’ worth, I have my own permission to quit. I never do though, because once I’m going, I’m ok. It’s getting started that’s the main thing to overcome.
Do something completely different.
It’s easy to get bored of an exercise routine. So, to find a bit of fun, I try new things a lot. Activities like wild swimming, kayaking or surfing pop up in my life every so often. And although they’re not every day occurrences, they keep me active and challenge me out of my comfort zone physically and emotionally. Even trying a different style of yoga or running route keeps things fresh and stops boredom setting in.
Sign up to an event …
There’s nothing quite like a looming deadline to get me motivated. I really struggle to exercise just for the sake of it. Despite all that I know about managing my high blood pressure or improving my long term health, there’s nothing quite like the opportunity to look like an idiot to get me moving. It’s why I’ve just signed on the dotted line for the Rapha 100. Without an event to train for, I really do end up on the sofa.
… then get your friends involved.
Signing up to do something as a team will make you train, because you won’t want to let each other down. It also means you have people to share advice, encouragement and memories with. And, very often, you can sign up to raise some money for charity too, giving you all a warm, happy glow together!
And finally, make it fun!
I used to think that the term ‘fun-run’ was the world’s worst oxymoron. But I’ve discovered that there are challenges out there that are actually great fun. Events that make you forget (a bit, anyway) that you’re exercising at all. Fun running events like Colour Me Rad (as seen in my photo above from a few weeks ago), races with huge community support like Race for Life, or —if you’re of the masochistic persuasion–endurance type events like Tough Mudder, all add an extra dimension to exercise and will leave you with the kind of memories that will make you want to sign up again and again…
How do you stay motivated to exercise?