fitness

'I have exercised 5 days a week for 5 years. Here's my non-wanky guide to staying motivated.'

I can remember the day a switch was flicked in my brain. 

It was 2015, I was in the dying months of a relationship I knew I had to end, and I had just downloaded a 12 week fitness program from the internet. This one, if you're curious.

I stuck to that guide like it was my goddamn religion, desperate to sweat out every last swirling emotion in my body. 

Sidenote: The different horoscopes working out. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

My body changed, my mental clarity changed, my confidence soared, and I finally had the guts to walk away from something that I hadn't been happy in for a very long time. 

It's been five years since I did that fitness guide, and not once have I ever dropped off the fitness 'bandwagon'. Gosh I hate that word. Actually, I hate all the 'words' we've created for the world of exercise. 

Shredded. Clean. Body Transformation. Post-Baby Bodies. Glow-Up. All designed to make us feel bad about not ticking boxes. About not being good enough.

I got caught up in the 'perfect body' for a while. But being perfect was a boring quest, and I pretty soon levelled back down into a more maintainable reality. But my five days of working out a week never wavered. 

Holidays and sickness not included, I consistently move my body five to six days a week, every single week. I don't even think about it anymore, I just do it. For me, this is comfortable, attainable, and enjoyable.

Here's how I got there, fitness 'fluff' aside:

Manufacture yourself a 'switch'.

It takes on average 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. 

A 12-week program that built me up from three workouts a week to five did it for me. After I'd completed that, exercise and I had pretty much imprinted on eachother. 

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Instead of haphazardly deciding on sporadic days to fit the gym in, start with a program that someone else sets for you, (whether that be an online program or a personal trainer). And stick to it no matter what just to get yourself building that habit. 

Once the habit is there, chill out a bit, and start to incorporate workouts that work for you, and work in and around your lifestyle. 

If you stick to a 'strict' program too long, you'll burnout and be over it. Don't stick to one long enough, and your brain won't reap the benefits. 

It's quite the tightrope to tackle but once the habit is there, you've got to be Goldilocks or your motivation will wither away. 

Get up and get out.

Sure, everyone is different. But in my experience, you leave that workout until later in the day, and your brain has time to make excuses. I ate too much for lunch. But I've been invited out to drinks. I'm too tired. I will go tomorrow instead. 

If my day allows I schedule my workouts for basically as soon as I wake up, therefore giving my consciousness no wriggle room to wriggle out of it. Get up, get it done, get on with your day. Trust me.

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You feel all smug because you've already 'achieved' something before the day has really started, and it always makes my brain feel less sluggish and more switched on. 

You wait until after work and there are too many variables that could trip you up. Right now I start work at 6am, so instead of going as soon as I wake up, I go as soon as I finish work. If I wait even an hour, I am over it. 

Basically, the more space for 'thoughts' you leave, the craftier that ol' brain of yours will get at extricating your future self from getting sweaty.

Get yourself a tier system.

This has taken me a while to refine, but basically I have a sliding scale of workouts ready to be implemented depending on my energy and motivation levels. 

High energy: I will do a 45-minute to an hour strength workout at the gym using big weights, and big moves. 

Medium energy: I will do a 15-30 HIIT session at home, or I will go for a run. 

Low energy: I will do a 45 minute Pilates session, or a half hour ab and arm workout that allows me to lie down and watch Netflix while I exercise. 

An at home lying down workout, with Netflix on in the background, is great when you can't bothered going to the gym. Image: Gemma Bath. 

Minimal bordering on no energy, but still keen to move: I will go for a walk. 

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I fit workouts in from every single one of these categories, every week. But I let myself pick the 'tier' on the day, depending on how I feel. It takes away the pressure while helping me mix up my workouts. 

READ: The 7 free YouTube workouts I reach for when I’m after something quick and sweaty.

Get. Good. Shoes. And then take them everywhere.

I have joggers in my bag most days. 

In my opinion, having a good quality shoe is so much more motivating than having 'fitspo' workout clothes. If your shoes suck, you're going to avoid exercising. Have amazing walking-on-a-cloud joggers and everything feels that little bit easier. Jumping, running, lunging... it all feels less hurty

If I am really not keen to exercise on a particular day, or if I am too busy and just can't find the time, I will walk home instead. By combining my commute with a bit of exercise I kill two birds with one stone. 

Same goes for walking to work. If I know I have a busier day I will leave a little bit earlier, or get off the bus a few stops earlier, and power walk in. Hopefully there's a shower at the other end to allow you to spruce up before you start. 

Even on weekends I will pop shoes in my bag. If the opportunity arises, or if I feel a sudden urge, I like to be able to have the option to walk.

Wear your sports bra to work.

If exercising after work is the only option, I try and sneak at least one item of my workout wardrobe into my daily attire. Usually, for me, that's my sports bra. 

I have it hidden under my normal work t-shirts and it's my little reminder of 'hey, we're going to the gym after this remember?' It's only one item, but the fact I have to change less of my clothes is a weirdly motivating silver lining.

If you've sought out motivation tips before, no doubt you've seen the advice to think of your workout like a meeting that's been scheduled in. That doesn't work for me, because my brain can just cancel that meeting with... myself. By getting half or a quarter dressed, it's almost like I am already at that meeting. You cancel now, and you're going to have to go home and look that sports bra in the eye as you take it off. 

Listen to You Beauty, where Kelly and Leigh discuss whether you actually sweat your skincare off at the gym. Post continues after podcast.

Punishment is boring AF.

Of course there are days when I am just way too tired, or I am feeling blergh from my period, or I have a sniffle.

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On those days I don't exercise - I rest. I don't overthink it, and I don't 'go super hard' the following day or week to make up for it. I just plod along with my normal routine. 

If you forget to brush your teeth one day, do you brush them extra hard the next day? I hope not... you just brush them again, yeah?

I have such a regular routine now that 'missing' a day is a small blip on my radar, because I know I have the rest of the week, or next week ahead of me. 

If I skip a Tuesday because I am too tired, I will often go for a walk or do a morning HIIT session on a Sunday instead. I will just pick up days where I might otherwise rest if I feel up to it. There's no 'project comebacks' or declaration of things I must do if I don't keep a plan in place. I know I am so consistent, that a slight variation to my routine means nothing in the grand scheme of things. I've also realised that's the most boring thing in the world to stress about. 

Working out has become such a normal uneventful part of my routine, that I just find time for it. Like you find time for washing your hair, or buying groceries. 

There's no emotion attached anymore, it's just a thing I do most days. I built my way up to that level of nonchalantness just by continuing to turn up - even when I didn't feel like it - until it became second nature.

On holidays, run.

Holidays used to be the only time I ran. And while I have slowly incorporated running into my everyday week, going for an early morning run is my go-to exercise when I am somewhere new.

I go early, like as the sun is rising early, and watch the city/town/village I am in come alive with locals and markets. It's like a little sight-seeing mission, that allows me to see the place I am in in a way most tourists don't. 

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I don't follow a strict workout routine while on holiday, but a run here or there stops me feeling sluggish and blergh from all the food and drink I am no doubt consuming. It also helps me keep the routine of moving my body ticking along so I don't get home and get Mondayitis for the gym. 

Treat it as therapy.

I have gotten to the point now where I really look forward to my workouts. They are one of my favourite parts of the day, because they are my primary stress reliever. 

If I have had a s**t or stressful week, or if I really need to chew over an idea, I find getting my heart rate up always helps. I don't really think about 'life' while I exercise, I just zone out.

It's a skill I learnt when getting into exercise all those years ago, when I needed a break from my brain.

It's now one of my biggest motivators because I associate exercise with "me time" and "zone out time" where I can just relax which sounds... bizarrely counterintuitive. But by making my body work hard, my brain now knows it's allowed to tap out for an hour. 

Podcasts. Podcasts. Podcasts.

If you're a music fan, fab. 

I am a podcast buff. And in my opinion, they're the perfect exercise buddy to keep you distracted and mindlessly motivated. 

Sometimes I will even extend said walk/workout/stretch session just to finish an episode. Or if I know I have a good podcast ready and waiting to listen too, it'll be more than enough to push me out the door.

Get your ears around some of my favourite podcasts here. Quick disclaimer; I was a fan of Mamamia podcasts long before I joined the team, so consider this an unbiased recommendation. 

And that's that. That's how I do it. Over to you.

Feature image: Gemma Bath

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