It’s one thing to make a commitment to regular workouts and a regimented meal plan, but it’s another thing completely to stick to these commitments. And with January often being the month wherein well-intentioned resolution-makers flock to the gyms in droves, they are often noticeable by their absence by February.
Trying to break and build habits is tough- and the bad news is that it often gets tougher before it gets easier. The honeymoon phase of adopting a positive lifestyle change can be enough to make you feel like you’re off to a flying start, but once the reality sets in that, shock horror, you won’t be reaching gold-medal standard within a fortnight, lethargy can take hold. It’s sad to say, but simply paying a gym subscription doesn’t burn calories…
So, for those looking to push beyond the first few months of their foray into fitness- here’s a few tips on building and sustaining healthy gym habits.
5 Gym Tips for You
1) Know what it is you want to achieve and plan accordingly
“Get in shape” is quite a non-specific goal. After all, shapes come in many sizes. Think of the 3 primary goals most have when beginning a fitness regime- lose/maintain weight, gain muscle, and increase cardiovascular fitness. Taking on all 3 of these at once will only result in aimlessness, over-exertion, burn-out and possibly even injury. Once picking your primary aim, use your initial sessions to gauge your current level of fitness and then begin to map out an effective and, most importantly, achievable routine. Going in all guns-blazing can result in disappointment and set you back even further.
2) Create a realistic schedule that you can stick to
Anything worth achieving is generally hard work and requires some sort of compromise. Planning to go ‘whenever I can’ is a sure way to ensure that there’s always something keeping you from getting around to it. Setting aside a couple of hours 3 or 4 times a week with regularity is crucial to building a habit, and quantifies the time spent chasing your goals- making them more achievable. Sacrifices will have to be made- but try and pick times that you know you’ll be less likely to flake on. If you’ve got a particularly demanding 9-5, maybe aiming to hit the gym in the morning is a better idea than after a day at the grind when Netflix in bed sounds like the more tantalising option.
3) Chart your progress
Sometimes working on yourself can feel like you’re chipping away at a cliff-face with a butter-knife. Having statistics and physical evidence on-hand is great for motivation when you feel like you’re not seeing results. There are some excellent progress-charting apps that can help you keep on top of your gains and losses- Nike Training Club, PEAR and JEFIT to name a few. Whether you’re working towards a long-distance race, or looking to build muscle and get ripped, keeping a record of your fitness journey is likely to give you positive reinforcement when you’re doing well, and allow you to pinpoint where you’re falling short and how to rectify your regime.
4) Pick your gym wisely
Everyone has different preference when it comes to the kind of environment they’d prefer to work-out in. Some see a quiet gym as a bonus that allows them to focus fully on their regime without waiting around for equipment, whilst others prefer the anonymity of a busy, bustling free-weights area. But one thing is certain- if you feel uncomfortable at your gym, then you are unlikely to keep going for long. Nowadays there are gym subscriptions to suit every budget- and often different levels of membership for any particular location, allowing you to pick from basic packages all the way up to PT-assisted programmes. Many gyms offer trial hours to let you get a feel for the vibe and services- so you won’t be going in blind. Whilst the common-goal of getting in-shape does mean you’re most likely to be surrounded by like-minded people, some gyms attract a particular kind of clientele that may not always be best suited to the vibe that inspires you to push yourself- so it’s worth dipping your toe in the water before jumping right in.
5) Be kind to yourself
Whilst campaigns for increased mental-health awareness are all well and good, it would be fair to say that we are also amid a somewhat relentless ‘Rise and Grind’ culture. Having a work ethic is a positive thing, but never to the detriment of your mental and physical wellbeing. Only you know how you’re feeling- and if your body is telling you to take a day-off and do as little as humanly possible, then do it! Comparing yourself to others can lead to a toxic spiral- and besides, you’re not them and you’re never going to be- so how is it even fair? Physical exercise of any intensity should feel empowering- not miserable. Whilst it’s certainly not always going to be a walk in the park (though they are also recommended), there’s no need to punish yourself. After all, going a little is still better than not going at all!