I spent much of my teenage and young adult life decrying, nay, despising, exercise and attempts to be active. My parents were active AF and most likely my lazy teenage years were a subconscious rebellion. Since I started college, I’ve dabbled in trying to be less of a slug, but it wasn’t until this year that I’ve really embraced being fit and healthy. Here I have 5 tips if you’re also trying to make the switch.
Consistency. Working out makes you feel great, but you feel even more great when you start to see changes and results in your body. The only way this happens is through consistency. Make a schedule, or better yet find one that is already set up for you. This can be online (I’m a huge Tone It Up fan) or from a book and let it be aligned with your fitness level. I’ve found that I’ve had way more success sticking to a schedule that someone else made for me rather than one I made up for myself. Stick to it every day for a week, journal your way through it, and notice how you feel every day after your workouts and by the end of the week. I find journalling, as cliche as it is, to be helpful when starting a fitness journey to keep track of all of those small changes we notice in our bodies day to day that we might neglect when looking over the big picture. Body transformations are long, slow processes, especially if you’re not looking to lose a lot of weight and just want to be more fit and toned. But the other mental and physical benefits of exercise can be just as worthwhile, so long as you keep them in mind.
Healthy eating helps. There’s an old adage: abs are made in the gym and revealed in the kitchen. I hate it. But yes, if you’re trying to lose weight then it all comes down to a calorie deficit. I prefer to try and fill up on whole, healthful foods because it makes me feel better and I have more energy for my workouts. I try not to get too caught up in it but like noticing how exercise makes you feel, try and see how a few healthy swaps change you.
Baby steps. Doing it all at once is certainly going to mean you fail. So few people can drop their old habits in a snap and adopt a whole new lifestyle. Don’t be hard on yourself – start with adding in some exercise, then next time you go to the grocery store, try and pick up some ingredients for a tasty, healthy meal. Your body is not going to change overnight, regardless of how intense of a lifestyle change you make. Take it slow and your body will thank you.
Find your reward. This can be a little different for everyone. Personally, I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I smash out a super sweaty workout and exhaust my muscles. For you, it might be fitting into an old pair of shorts or going on a long walk without feeling winded. Find the little things that make you say, “Hey, I did a really good thing.”
Don’t freak out. While this year I’ve been really focused on getting into shape, I also experienced one of the worst resurgences of my eating disorder that I have in years; no doubt inflicted by calorie restriction and an overwhelming obsession to get to 115 pounds. (In case you were curious: I made it to 115 once, gave up the calorie restriction, and now am sitting comfortably around 118 and I still wake up with abs in the morning sometimes.) If your fitness becomes something you love, great. But if fitness takes priority over friends, family, and mental wellbeing – that is, fitness is the only thing getting you up in the morning and you will ignore anyone and everything to attain a potentially arbitrary goal – then take a step back. My belief is that everything that I do for my health should only be what I enjoy and what enhances my life, not anything that makes it more difficult. If you’ve started on a fitness journey and are possibly reaching a detrimental breaking point, find someone trusted, whether that be friend or professional, and reevaluate your goals. Wanting to be physically healthier is great, but only as long as your mental health stays in line too.