I feel like a lot of people categorise others as ‘into fitness’ or ‘not into fitness’. They expect those into their fitness to stay as ‘the fit one’, or ‘the one who works out’ throughout their life, without struggles, doubts or loss of motivation. This view isn’t helpful to anyone – people who perhaps don’t see themselves as ‘the fit one’ might start off attempting to become fitter, only to be put off as soon as they encounter a bump. The people who are into fitness have a seemingly endless pressure to keep it up – to continue seeing progress, continue working out X hours a week and continue enjoying every second. The reality is quite different. Fitness is a journey that, like any other journey in life, is filled with unexpected mishaps, speed bumps and temporary (or permanent) stalling.
I know first hand how much an unexpected setback can throw you when you’re making, or trying to maintain progress: injuries, a week’s holiday, excessive work, lack of sleep – it seems that anything out of the norm is a cause for concern.
Well let me tell you: it’s not. In my mind, health is about living your life as the best person you can be, both mentally and physically. Physical progress is great when it makes you feel good, but as soon as it becomes something that you have to do as ‘the fit one’, it stops being fun and, at least in my eyes, it stops being ‘health’.
People who train hard are often perfectionists and high achievers, determined to better themselves on a daily basis. This can lead to having a healthy diet and a great fitness programme, but what happens when you start to beat yourself up for missing a session? Fitness should be about treating yourself well, so instead of beating yourself up for the odd mishap, why not try celebrating the small wins?
When I first got into fitness, I had performance goals in mind – I improved my squash game at an exceptional rate, moving up from 3rd player for the 2nd team, to 1st player for the 1st team in just two years. I was proud and trained hard, and it paid off. However, when I started recording my fitness on social media, it became less about performance and more about fitness for fitness’ sake. Sometimes, I fall out of love with it fitness, and that’s 100% allowed. So here are a couple of pieces of advice to help you fall back in love with the journey.
- Enjoy going to the gym for its own sake. Endorphins are your friend! Working out regularly can increase our levels of endorphins, feel good hormones released by getting our hearts beating and blood pumping. They’re natural painkillers too, making exercise that little bit less painful.
- Make exercise fun. Do you remember running around the playground at school or being chased by your parents in the garden? As adults we’ve somehow decided that exercise isn’t fun, and that if it’s fun, we’re not doing it right. However, making exercise fun is the best thing you can do for your health, both physical and mental. Find a sport you enjoy or try local classes at your gym. Enjoy dancing but think zumba isn’t real exercise? Think again. If it gets your heart pumping and makes you smile, it’s probably the exercise for you. Redfine your definition of fitness.
- Find friends. So many people I’ve met and spoken to on social media say that the reason they got into fitness was because of friends or a partner. If you work, why not encourage your colleagues to come to a fitness class with you once a week? At uni? You have it easy – join a society or make workout dates with your friends. The encouragement and social support of working out with friends just multiply all the health benefits. If you have a competitive side, this can be an added bonus – turning something into a bit of friendly competition makes the time pass way faster!
- Don’t beat yourself up. There will always be people better than you (unless you’re Bolt) and always people training harder than you, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is wrong. Everyone is different and your training regime is perfect for you if you enjoy it and it gives you time to enjoy your real life too. Unless you’re a professional athlete, taking a day off because you have a deadline isn’t going to hurt you. Listen to your body – over time you’ll realise when it’s going to be beneficial to workout, and when it’s going to do you more good to take a day off. Stop beating yourself up, it won’t help.
- Focus on the small wins. If you’re chasing that before and after transformation pic, you’re probably not going to enjoy the journey as you go along. As I said before, fitness is a journey that is filled with all sorts of unexpected events. Appreciate the little nuances of working out – enjoy your ability to run for the bus, lift heavy things and the energy that comes from getting fitter.
It’s not unusual to not enjoy every workout, but if you stop enjoying any of them, then it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing. We all change with age and life circumstance, so what got you going a year ago might not do the same now. Just because you’re ‘the fit one’ that doesn’t mean you are obliged to keep doing what you’re doing. If you focus on enjoyment the rest will fall into place, and you’ll fall right back in love with the fitness journey.
All pics by James Purvis