Prefer to listen? Check out my podcast on this topic (or find it on Apple Podcasts)
I’m not sure about you, but I have never been one of those people who love exercise. I never really played a team sport growing up. Despite living by the beach and having my Dad try very hard to engage me in nippers and surfing, it just never happened. I was too scared, worried I was clumsy and that I would embarrass myself!
Over the past 10 years or so, something has changed. I have tried and enjoyed squash, running, hiking and picked up swimming laps more regularly. No mention of a gym there. I’ll let you in on a secret: I hate gyms. I hate the environment where there are all these fit sweaty people looking muscly and knowing how to use the machines, I get bored just thinking about running on a treadmill or lifting weights (I know know, I should really lift some weights!)
I wanted to share a list of 7 things that have changed my attitude to exercise over the past 10 years. Let me be real here. I am not a consistent Lorna Jane wearing, goal smashing machine, but I do feel like I am making somewhat consistent-ish goals that are helping over the long term. Maybe some of these tips will be helpful for you too!
1. Drop the all or nothing mentality
I am so bad at this. I have a bit of a type-A perfectionist personality, so I generally set goals that are ridiculous and then 4 days in it all gets too hard and I throw the whole thing in. You know, like saying “tomorrow I need to start a new resolution. I am going to go for a 5k run everyday for the next month.” Day 3 rolls around and it’s raining and cold and my legs are stiff as because I hadn’t run for 6 months before I made this new goal. Right then I think ach, its too hard, I’ll just sleep in and start again tomorrow. Except I don’t because I feel like a failure. Epic negativity spiral going on in my brain!
Instead, I have started to challenge myself to realise that (I shouldn’t make goals that are so unattainable!) I need to let myself feel happy about what I HAVE done. Even if I get up and go for a 4k walk, that’s a reason to celebrate (and a good time to revise my goal to something more realistic!). Lets encourage ourselves with positivity, forgive ourselves when our standards might be too high and focus on what we CAN do- no matter how small. Stop the all or nothing thinking and enjoy the growing process!
2. Explore what you enjoy
This has been a game changer for me! For so many years, I thought fitness was all about going to the gym and lifting weights or sweating it up in one of those horrible step classes. I had gym memberships and I tried SO hard to get in the groove and keep up in those step classes! I was up the back corner one day and thought, 'YES! I am getting it!' only to be on the floor in agony with a very badly rolled ankle the next minute (true story).
Roll on 30’s, where I stopped caring about what I was supposed to do and leaned into what I enjoyed. I can now tell you with confidence that if you get me in nature, I am there. If it is muddy, challenging, or involves a hiking pack or very old clothes that can get wrecked, I am there! I realised I hate the gym, but I adore pushing my boundaries and seeing what I can achieve when it comes to endurance. In NZ I have absolutely fallen for multi day hiking. What could be better than being out in nature, being able to sit by a fire at night with a cup of cocoa and playing cards with strangers you have met on the trail?!
I would really encourage you to get out and try something new. It might be a team sport. It might be something totally crazy like slacklining or skateboarding or something simple like walking- OR going to the gym! Just try something new. Don’t commit straight up, just give yourself permission to enjoy trying some things out and then decide what you love and go for it!
I have gained a lot of confidence in doing the things I love. In fact, it has got me thinking more about things I gave up on before like surfing. Doing something you love also helps you set great goals- more on this below.
3. Work towards goals that are fun/engaging and challenging for you
So, you’ve found something you like. Now is there a way you can use that to set goals? For example, I enjoy multi-day hiking. So I have booked one soon with the family. Suddenly, going for a run or a walk or (heaven forbid!) lifting some weights doesn’t seem so pointless anymore. I can create a goal that is engaging for me, because it has a purpose. When I signed up for the Oxfam 50 walk, I had a reason to plan ahead. I also made some distance/time goals (otherwise I was going to let my whole team down and not complete the walk!). Remember, goals don’t have to be massive, they have to be right for YOU! Saying you want to go for a walk on Tuesday and Thursday for 10 minutes might be a huge achievement for you. You should totally give yourself some kudos for completing that goal. Don’t focus on the fact that you want to be able to walk 10k, focus on the amazing feeling of accomplishing what you said you were going to!
4. Make it a meet up or social activity
You want a good reason to get out of bed on a cold windy day to go for a walk/run/swim/ride/insert your thing here?! The reason is this: you have people waiting on you. Maybe you don’t have friends nearby, but there is always some kind of group you could join to encourage your accountability. OR, organise to call a friend at a certain time when you will both be on your walk so you can chat and pass the time quicker. This really works. Could I really be bothered going for that long training walk in the lead up to Oxfam? Well, I knew I needed to, but it would have been very easy to stop ½ way and think, that will do. Not possible when you have 3 other people walking along with you!
5. Be kind to yourself AND harden up!
I’m just going to say this once. Sometimes, you need to be kind to yourself when you don’t meet your own expectations or goals for exercise or fitness. Sometimes life is really crazy and you literally don’t have time. Sometimes you’ve been sick or injured or so many other things. So give yourself some positivity and let it be ok. Tomorrow is a new day.
On the other hand. If you have been in the land of lazy for a while now and using all the above scenarios as actual excuses and they are not legit reasons, then I have some news for you. It might be time to drink some concrete and harden up! Yes, we need to be kind, but YES, we absolutely need to not wallow in our own excuses. It’s a new day, enjoy it! Get out there and do something. I PROMISE you, you will be so glad you did. I need to hear this just as much as you do!
6. Get your gear out the night before and plan ahead
Weird but works for me. If I get my gear out the night before, I am so much more likely to follow through the next morning. If I don’t get going in the morning it is SO much easier to procrastinate and not do anything at all!
Sometimes, starting is the hardest part. It sounds so simple right? Just start! Often it’s the biggest hurdle- or so I have found. I have found that lowering my expectation for the starting part is a good way to ensure it happens. So I might plan to just actually GO for a walk tomorrow at 4pm- no parameters on how long. It’s a soft start, but a start nonetheless! Make a starting goal and JUST DO IT!
YOU are amazing and you CAN make a positive change. I would LOVE to hear about your successes- let me know!