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Too many people think exercise has to be hard. No pain, no gain, right? That, and you need lots of equipment. Oh, and a “workout” has to be an hour long.
In the end, you get overwhelmed. You’re too busy. Nothing gets done.
This approach couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is small things done consistently over time will give you the biggest benefits. And you’ll enjoy it.
If you want to improve your health and fitness, the worst thing you can do is just go and exercise. The first thing you should do is change your mindset:
1. The first thing you need to do is ask yourself what’s your ‘why’
What are the 5 things that are most important to you in life? Did you you mention ‘your health’ in your top 5? Great. Now, close your eyes, and picture the top 5 ways you spend your time. Be honest… is Netflix and Facebook getting more of your time?
Unless you identify your ‘why’, you won’t make your health a priority. Is it to keep up with the kids? Look and feel better? Lose weight so you can have that knee operation? Or is it to have the energy to be able to do the walks on your travels? Only you can answer that. And there’s no wrong answer. Once you know your ‘why’, it’ll help you choose where you focus your time, as well as know how to…
2. Focus on habits instead of programs
A program is a great way to kickstart improvements, but… what happens when you finish? Nothing. You stop. You go back to exactly what you were doing before. Motivation and self-discipline are tough for most of us. You need to focus on developing life-long habits. What do you think will be better for you in the long run? Routinely walking 20 minutes every morning, or running 30 minutes once a week? HINT: It’s not running.
3. Start slowly and gradually build up
The #1 mistake people make with trying to get fit is going too hard, too soon. You add something that takes up a lot of time into a busy schedule. It isn’t enjoyable and you end up sore. You’re more likely to get injured. But… if you do just a little bit today, you’ll hardly notice it. Increase it a tiny little bit next time. You won’t notice the change. Wash, rinse, and repeat. A book that changed my life was Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Body, especially the concept of the ‘Minimum Effective Dose’.
4. Little and often is better than hard and… never
If every workout is an hour, you’ll find excuses like “I don’t have time.” If you go hard, you’ll be sore and won’t be able to exercise as often. A recipe for disaster. Read the article The Secret to Getting Fit? Don’t Train So Hard
5. Don’t ever go on a diet
Show me a diet, and I’ll show you a picture of a yo-yo. You’ll bottom out, and life will absolutely suck for 28 days (or whatever “their” magic number is). You will miss out on the fun things in life. If you do happen to make it back up to the top, congratulations. Time to go back to your old habits. Everything in moderation, even moderation. Develop an awareness of what you eat, and a healthy relationship with food… because red wine and chocolate.
6. Add in good things instead of taking away bad things
So you’ve been eating and drinking that ‘stuff’ for 5 years. And you’re planning on stopping it tomorrow? Good luck with that. If you do manage it, tell me how you did it. We can make a LOT of money teaching people your magic secret. What if you instead focussed on adding in the habit of drinking 1L of water a day? I’m sure you’d drink less cola. If you slowly add in good things and they become habits, they’ll become the normal. They’ll eventually crowd out the things that you don’t really want in there.
7. Treat travel as your lifestyle
I’m on holidays, so I don’t need to take my blood pressure tablets. Or brush my teeth. Sounds silly, doesn’t it. The funny thing? Your teeth fall out, you can get some dentures. If you lose your ability to play with the kids, get up and down off the ground, or go for that hike with the family… that’s a lot harder to fix.
You’re going away for a 2-week holiday once a year? Rest. Your body will benefit from it. Travelling regularly? Different story.
8. Have a good plan that you’ll follow instead of a perfect one you won’t
Unless you’re trying to shave 0.1 seconds off your 100m run time, you don’t need a fancy program. You won’t stick to it anyway. All you need is a simple plan that involves some basic strength exercises and some longer endurance activities. That’s it. And they don’t have to be hard. Just move. I can 100% guarantee that if you do a simple program that you can stick to, you will be much better off than a complex program you do half of. The goal is adherence.
9. Learn exercises using your bodyweight
If you get used to exercising using just your bodyweight, the whole world will be your gym. Learn how to do variations of push-ups, squats, lunges, dips, pull-ups, etc. You can scale these no matter what your current level of fitness. When I used to be a rehabilitation physiotherapist, these are what you’d get whether your were an athlete recovering from a knee reconstruction or someone in a nursing home recovering from a stroke.
Travelling? You won’t need to carry equipment with you, and you’ll save on gym fees. You’ll be able to move better in everyday life too.
10. Make sure you have the right things
Contrary to what commercial gyms would have you believe (their revenue depends on it), you don’t need a lot of equipment. There are some things I’d recommend though. If you have a mat for the ground, you’ll be more likely to get down. If you have a 1L water bottle, you’ll be more likely to drink 1L of water every day. Your goal is 2L a day? Get a 2L water bottle. What about exercise equipment? If you’re a traveller, check out The Only Equipment You Need to Keep Fit While Travelling.
Once you’ve changed your mindset, you’ll see that the most important thing is knowing your ‘why’. Then, it’s all about moving. Consistently. And increasing gradually.
Can you make a commitment to do one thing differently… even if it’s just going for a walk for 10 minutes every day?
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