As students continue to settle into a new academic year, how can we continue to pursue a healthy lifestyle?
Anyone who has ever run a marathon has been there. Anyone who has ever taken up weightlifting has been there. Anyone who is a Pilates pro, dancer, or martial artist has been there. Where’s ‘there,’ you ask? ‘There’ is the beginning. The painful, awkward, sweaty, slow, filled-with-mini-failures, out-of-breath beginning attempts at exercising.
Until I changed my exercise and eating habits two years ago, I used to be the poster child for anti-athleticism. After not-terribly-successful attempts at basketball, t-ball, ballet, and gymnastics in elementary school, I never liked to do things that got me out of breath and sweaty. Since my endurance was extremely low, that was basically anything and everything. Despite my lack of exercise, I still had all these dreams of being able to run miles or do that confident lope into a room that athletes have, arms swinging and legs toned. But since I hated failure (and did I mention, sweat?), I avoided it at all costs…until the moment when it hit me that I didn’t like my lifestyle and desperately wanted to change.
If you played sports in high school or have always loved working out, then good for you—you’ve probably already experienced and mastered the following ten tips. But if not, then these guidelines can double as already mapped-out steps that can help you attain your goal: a healthier, confident lifestyle and a more flexible, strong, athletic body.
1. Decide: Have you ever heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink?” That’s been circulating in our culture for generations, and it’s still as true today as it was when it was created. Unless you really commit to doing something, you’re not going to do it. If you’re not interested in becoming athletic then that’s absolutely fine—it’s your life. But if you are, one of the issues that I faced—and I suspect a lot of us face—is the fear that while others are flexible, strong, fast, etc., you and I are just not created to be athletic. Don’t psych yourself out—very few people are born prodigies, and everyone currently skilled in something started as awkwardly, embarrassingly, unskilled. You are just as capable of learning a new skill, becoming stronger, and becoming more active as every other person on the planet. Your genetics don’t dictate athleticism and your past lifestyle doesn’t dictate it either, but your resolve does. The only question is: Will you or won’t you?
2. Set a Personal Goal: Once you decide that you do want to begin working out, take some time to think about what you want to achieve. This is hugely important, as it will be what drives you to wipe the sweat off your face and keep running or to do another Pilates move even though your abs ache. For me, two huge motivators are health and future plans. I want to be in the best physical condition so I can be ready for any adventure that comes my way. So what motivates you? What do you want to accomplish? Sometimes it helps to tape your motivators on your door or writing them down on your phone —whatever keeps them in your memory.
3. Pray: I’m a Christian, so talking to God is a major part of my life. Plus I wouldn’t be truthful to my own exercise journey if I didn’t mention this extremely important step. Be honest with God—tell Him why you’re changing your lifestyle and ask Him for encouragement and strength. He gave me perseverance and showed me the joy in exercising, and He can for you too if you ask.
4. Research Exercises: This is really fun because there’s literally hundreds of different ways to exercise and you can pick and choose what you like. Try new things! Now that you’ve accepted beginner status, there’s no shame in giving anything a go. What exercise has always called to you but you’ve been too afraid to try? It could be archery (arms), Pilates (whole body), dancing (cardio and muscle building), or much more.
5. Playlist: This is yet another fun step! Pick the songs that get your adrenaline pumping, songs that motivate you to get up and move. Is it dubstep, K-pop, Florence and the Machine? Soundtracks, 80s songs, or country music? Make a playlist, put on your sneakers, and get ready for the energy rush.
6. Be Brave: This is (at long last) the step where you begin working out. You’ve reached the limit to all of your preparedness and Internet research—it all comes down to bravery and sheer stubbornness. Don’t be soft on yourself—listen to Li Shang from Mulan and “be a man!” (Or “be a woman!”). I promise you you’re going to be sore, you’re going to fail, and sometimes the first few miles of running or first fifty sit-ups might be embarrassing. Suck it up—failure and soreness are a part of life and definitely part of working out. But this isn’t what you should focus on; instead, let the imagination of certain future successes drive you on, blocking muscle soreness and thoughts of giving up.
7. Challenge Yourself: Besides your overall goal, you need mini goals as incentives to keep going. These milestones can be anything: run three minutes without stopping by the end of the week or be able to do that extremely hard abs video. Don’t stop challenging yourself, and if you’re even a little bit competitive (which I bet 99.9% of people on this planet are), you’ll be encouraged by all your mini ‘wins’. Keep track of them—in days and weeks you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.
8. Tailor it to YOU! : Just like clothes need to fit exactly right (otherwise they’ll soon be pushed to the bottom of your dresser pile), your exercise routine has to be adjusted to you in order for it to 1. Become a lifestyle 2. Become one of the highlights of your day. This means keeping things interesting—but your kind of interesting. Don’t like running in the gym? Run around your campus or neighborhood, or better yet, double your exercise as an adventure and find a local park or arboretum to explore while you run. Are you a morning person? Then get up early and work out. Do you like working out with people? Get a group together. Do you like games? Play tennis for an hour. Is dancing your thing? Learn a dance and practice for an hour. Your workout is your workout, so own it!
9. Change Your Eating Habits: For me, there’s another side to the results I want in working out. Not only do I want to get stronger and faster, I want to see it when I look in the mirror. But here’s the trick with exercising—the activities that you do build muscle, but that muscle won’t be visible unless you burn the fat. One of the best ways to do this involves finding the balance between what food you intake and what calories you burn. It’s simple—only eat what you need, not what you want (and the cleaner/less processed the food is the healthier it is for you). When you consider eating that cheesecake slice, think, “Will I burn about 400 calories in the next few hours before my next meal?” If not, then it’s not worth it.
10. Persevere Until You Have Fun: Exercising in its most basic form is moving and staying active, and this can be done whenever, wherever, and however. We were created to move and act, and finding the joy in and through this can be accomplished no matter your age or past athletic experiences. Exercising is a constantly changing process because our bodies, minds, and emotions continually alter as we get stronger, faster, and healthier. So enjoy the journey, become comfortable with sweating and the initial slip-ups, and get ready for lots of laughter, strength building, confidence, fun, and victories!
Katie Patchell is a Staff Writer for the Daily Runner. This article originally appeared on thequirkyquad.co, in an altered form.