Looking to get in shape? You are not alone. Per the National Institute of Health (NIH), more than half of adults are overweight, and 35% of adults are obese. The reasons for this are relatively simple. We as people are efficient at storing food. What is a major plus in times of scarcity, however, ends up being really bad for us when caloric food is incredibly plentiful? Add to the fact that we have precious little time to exercise, and it is no wonder so many people are struggling to live happier healthier lives.
Thankfully, there is a way that you can achieve your health and wellbeing goals. No, it does not involve fad diets or the flavor of the month ‘miracle’ weight loss supplements. Rather, it involves establishing a healthy gym routine. Throughout the course of these tips, we will cover how you can start the habit of going to the gym and keep it. We will review common pitfalls and events that can knock us off course. Note that you do not necessarily have to go to the gym to establish a healthy exercise routine, though it can help significantly depending on your personality, availability, and intended goals.
Establishing the Habit of Going
An eastern philosophy prominent in Hinduism is the emphasis of your action over your thought. Going out and doing something is argued to be worth infinitely more than simply thinking it. The first and the most fundamentally thing you can do are to establish the habit of going to the gym.
Begin by looking at gyms near you. The clear majority are online and can provide information on available workout machines, what the free weight section is like, costs, available hours, and the like. Find one and sign up. Your first task, doing this will start you off on the right track.
Once you have signed up, look at your calendar and begin defining goals. Remember that words like ‘should’ and ‘ought’ work against you by placing an unfair personal criticism on a task that you are doing for your own good. Keep personal judgment out of this and focus instead on setting the time aside to get to the gym, be there for approximately an hour, and come back. It does not need to be every day. At a minimum, try for twice a week to start out with.
You may experience issues with motivation. This doesn’t make you weak; rather it re-affirms that you are human. Many of us don’t like exercising, but we keep to it even when we don’t want to. This comes from training that you will develop when going through this process. Don’t expect to enter it with the perfect ‘can-do’ attitude. Rather, know that it is perfectly normal not to want to go now and begin working to push past that. Remember, the excuses you come up with are never more justified than simply going to the gym.
Make going to the gym your habit. Even if you absolutely hate the idea of workout out on the day you are supposed to go in, go anyway. Make yourself the following promise. If you go, sign in, change your clothes, and then walk out onto the gym floor, then you can immediately go home. Give yourself this option to help motivate you onto the gym floor. 9 times out of 10, you will find that when you are at that moment, you will want to work out. Work to establish the habit of showing up, and you will already be halfway to any health goal you ever set.
Know Why You Go
While the action is more important than the thought, understanding the WHY is also a crucial way to keep up your motivation. The most obvious reasons are health related and can sometimes backfire on us if we get into the mindset of blaming ourselves for not being healthier. Pushing blame on how you are now will not help motivate you, will not help you feel better, and will only make the entire experience worth. Know that every time you are stepping out the door, you are extending your life, improving the quality of your life when you are older, reducing the overall strain on your organs, muscles, ligaments, and bones, helping to fight back depression, anxiety, and stress, helping with arthritis now and in the future, helping to reduce death and complications from heart disease, and even helping to reduce the risk of and quicken the recovery time after cancer. The list you just read is a bare minimum of the actual benefits you get.
Knowing why you go means understanding why you don’t. Tasty food is a short-term mood lifter. It can affect our emotional state for the better. It can become a habit. We as people have a complex relationship with food. Often, it is our reward or at least a reward we can derive joy from. Exercise, on the other hand, can be painful. The truth is that exercise gives you long-term benefits. We so often become unhealthy because we are far more like to look for short-term benefits rather than long-term. We don’t exercise because without training it is hard to grasp the real reason for why it is so important or healthy. By planning, you can create short-term goals from exercise that can keep you motivated. You will also discover new ways that work for you to keep you from falling into the trap of the short-term gain food provides. So, make sure you plan, start slow, and never forget why you should go and what forces will try to stop you. We are all human, and even the best athletes among us struggle with this.
Start slow and plan for the long hall. If your goal is to run a marathon or lose weight, starting off by running 5 miles or cutting your caloric intake so much will result in you giving up before you even begin. The BIGGEST KILLER of healthy gym habits is starting fast. Going to fast and starting above your level will dramatically increase the chance of injury, of the exercise routine feeling impossible, and will play on any doubts or fears you have regarding the gym not being able to help you.
Going too long will dramatically increase the chance of you developing fatigue and not coming back. Keep your exercises short and sweet. Prioritize showing up, and take a gradual, slow start to the entire process. You will get to your end goal in time. Did you know that marathon runners plan for marathons 9+ months out? The reason for doing so is to give their bodies the time they need to be trained and healthy. The same is true for any end goal you set. Take it one day at a time, and you will be amazed at how much progress you can make. You will also be eternally grateful down the road.
Along with starting slow, you will also want to start simple. Begin by identifying what your goals are. Free weights can provide the strength and toning many people are looking for. Aerobic activities like biking or running can help as well. A mix of both is by far the best as aerobic and anaerobic activities both greatly benefit people. When it comes to activities that are not on aerobic machines, you will want, to begin with the fundamentals. The reason for taking a simple approach at first is that it will make your gains and future trips far more rewarding. You will be able to expand on what you do and learn far more about exercise. This information will keep you from injury longer, provide you with better results, and even give you the knowledge to help others. Below we have some simple start exercises you can try.
Squats: Squats are one of those power compound exercises that manage to train a lot of your body at once. Popular kinds of squats include front, back, box, and goblet.
Hip Hinges: The category that deadlifts fall into, Hip Hinges help to teach posture and provide a lot. Other kinds include trap bar deadlift, sumo deadlift, Romanian deadlift, and conventional.
Single Leg: There are some exercises you can do that use one leg, including a wide range of lunges (forward, lateral, and reverse) as well as different splits and squats.
Pushing: Another great compound exercise, the category of pushing begins with simple push-ups and extends to things like the landmine press, military press, and dumbbell press.
Pulling: The opposite direction to pushing, a basic pulling exercise includes pull-ups. Others include suitcase carries, waiter carries, and cable rows.
How many of these should you do? When beginning, it often helps to find a weight that allows you to do an entire set without stopping but is still a little taxing. The number of reps you do will depend on what outcome you want. For example, 1-5 reps at a very high weight help to build very dense muscle as well as strength. 6-12 reps of a medium weight allow for muscular strength and endurance to form. Reps that are 12+ aid in building endurance as well as the size of your muscles. To begin, go until you find a comfortable level, record it, and go from there. As always, a benefit of being at a gym is that you can flag down professional help and even set up a training time with a personal trainer.
Once you get going, keep it consistent. Consistency is the way that the challenging act of going to the gym becomes standard. It is how your lifestyle will gradually change making the gym easier to pursue. Consistency allows you to build from the fundamentals, growing stronger thus. It allows you to vary your reps in a planned way that ensures continued growth and strength training. If nothing else, it helps you make plans for future goals. Consistency depends on making plans, scheduling things down, and keeping to your schedule. While every person out there will miss 1 or 2 gym trips a month, try your absolute best not to make it a habit.
Make “I,” “We.”
You are in this to improve your health and wellbeing. The only person who will ever be able to make this possible is you. While the benefits are entirely your own, the challenges don’t have to be. Find a group or social club to join and exercise with them. Make friends with people who are also trying to be healthy. Make a living a healthier lifestyle a part of your social sphere and be amazed at how much easier it becomes to maintain. Ask for help from the people around you and be ok with them pushing you, as well as you providing the same service. From developing complex, long lasting friendships to simply attending a group class, being with others can help you succeed.
The Middle Path
The last thing you need to consider when establishing a healthy gym routine is something we have already touched on several times but explicitly touched upon. Choose the middle path. We as people tend to take an all-in or all out mentality to being healthy. It is one reason why so many of us struggle to start. We believe we must make these incredible sacrifices when in the end, we never had to. Know that going to the gym doesn’t have to be a make or break experience. Know that every workout doesn’t have to be fantastic, or even enjoyable. Try to not go less than half an hour or longer than an hour and a half.
The same is true if you are considering dieting as well. Allow yourself the occasional treat; focus on portion sizes and getting the right nutrients. One of the best ways we can destroy a diet or a gym routine for that matter is by setting a standard that we cannot realistically live up to. Beyond that, keep at it. Even if you fail the first or second time, keep trying until you establish the routine.