Updated: Oct 4, 2021
Enjoyment is critical if you want to adhere to a fitness program. Suppose you don't enjoy what you're doing, you're probably going to struggle to keep it up in the long term.
In my past, I had many failed attempts to get into shape. I'd make the same mistakes every time, not changing my strategies and wonder why things weren't working out.
Today I want to highlight a couple of areas I went wrong in and give you some information that I hope might help you.
Set an appropriate difficulty level.
A common theme for me was that I would set the difficulty to 11 and not maintain the long-term changes. I would go from never running to trying to run 5km, less than 1km in, I would have to stop, gasping for breath and a stitch that wasn't that far from being a medical event!
If you're looking to start a new fitness habit, start small and gradually increase your time or effort. Your body needs time to adapt to the stimulus. Giving it maximum beans on day one, while it may seem like a gallant effort, could be setting yourself up for failure.
It may take a bit of time and effort, but understanding where you are and your limitations is tremendously beneficial. Athletes rarely ever train at 100% effort. Instead, they work at 80% or less over a long period of time. Giving 100% effort every time isn't sustainable. I know it may seem counter-intuitive, but more progress is made working at a moderate effort over a long time compared to maximum effort in the short term.
Find your motivation.
Where your motivation comes from to get or keep active is very important. Sometimes people start working out to help achieve a goal, like when someone wants to lose weight, and they start running to help things along. The motivation to use running to burn calories can be quite effective in the short term, but weight loss takes a long time. Is this thinking going to help motivate them over the many months or years it takes to lose weight? Or will it start to whether away, do they begin to skip a day, then a week, then a month?
Does your motivation align with what you are doing? If you are using exercise as a tool to achieve a goal, will you still be working out when you achieve it? Everyone has a different reason for getting active but finding one for you that works throughout your life instead of a short period will be the best foundation you can give yourself.
Exercise can, of course, be used as a way to help people achieve specific goals, but it's imperative to find something that you enjoy that also happens to assist your goal. Something that you'll upkeep even after you achieved what you want.
These days I exercise because I enjoy exercising. That's all the motivation I need. If I go off track with my goals, that doesn't affect my workout. I'm going to do that either way.
Monitor the little voice inside your head.
Most people have an inner monologue. The self speak you have in your head, providing a running commentary of your mind.
Is the way you talk to yourself supportive or destructive?
If a friend was doing something difficult, would you encourage them or shout at them, telling them that they're a failer and they should give up? You'd probably offer them support. If you would say such a thing to a friend, why wouldn't you say it to yourself?
If you're too hard on yourself, it's like being in an emotionally abusive relationship with your own mind. Changing the way you talk to yourself can be especially challenging but exceedingly beneficial.
Instead of thinking, "I'm overweight and out of shape. I might as well not bother." try, "I am capable and strong, and I want to get healthier for me."
Now, there is something I'd like to highlight here, changing one's inner monologue can be an exceptional hurdle to some. At times the way we talk to ourselves can get so negative it might seem impossible to alter. If this is the case for you, you may want to consider professional intervention. There is absolutely no shame in talking to a GP, counsellor or therapist.
Approach things differently.
I enjoy running, but running with music is 1,000 times better.
Is there another strategy you can make that'll increase your enjoyment? If a walk is boring to you, would a walk and a podcast or audiobook be better? Don't like the gym? Would a fitness class be more enjoyable?
When it comes to fitness, find something you enjoy and do it often. If you're not having fun, you'll probably stop, and exercise is only effective if you're doing it. Don't be afraid to try different things or to approach things differently. Eventually, you'll find what you love, and you'll do it for a lifetime.