There is a guy in my neighbourhood who lives at the gym. I often see him at the shops. He is tall, strapping man with muscular shoulders, a barrelling chest and not an ounce of fat on his frame. Every woman who passes him does a double-take! I have a confession – I envy his physique. I’d love a body like that. Both men and women are capable of figure envy, especially when we see someone in the peak of health with a great body. The truth is he deserves to look like that. He works out every day. In summer I see him doing laps at the local pool, I think he swims kilometres, and in the early morning he is out pounding the pavement – jogging around the neighbourhood.
The Decline in Physical Exercise
I’ve had years when I’ve exercised consistently, years when I’ve exercised sporadically and years when I haven’t done nearly enough exercise. The statistics show that most Australians don’t exercise enough. According to the Bureau of Statistics, the overall participation rate in sport and physical recreation fell from 65% in 2011-12 to 60% in 2013-14. Not even young Australians are getting enough exercise. Only one-third of children, and one in ten young people undertook the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
The Importance of Exercise
Why is it so important that we do enough exercise? According to the Australian Department of Health, physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death after non-communicable disease such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancers. Every year more than three million Australians die from preventable deaths. Now the experts have also found a link between weight-gain and cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, weight gain is a factor in one in five cancer-related deaths. In Australia, physical inactivity is estimated to be the main cause for about 21–25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes and approximately 30% of heart disease. Overall physical inactivity is the second biggest contributor, behind smoking, to the cancer burden in this nation.
I’ve been aware of these statistics for a long time, but even this information doesn’t provide me with enough impetus to exercise regularly. Like everyone I lead a busy life. My routine varies. I’m currently on a speaking tour around Australia and staying in hotels. It is hard to find the time and motivation to get to the gym. Most people begin a new fitness regime in spring, to get their bodies ready for summer clothes. I’m going against the trend. I’ve decided to start a fitness campaign heading into the winter, but I want to stick to it and not stop exercising after just a few weeks. How can I stick to my new exercising regime?
How to Get Motivated and Stay Motivated
Secret 1: Anyone who’s joined a gym knows it’s not easy to stay with an exercise plan.
You buy the gym clothes and pay for the gym membership and then infrequently get the gym. Eventually you cancel the membership because you never use it! Fitness book author Rachel Cosgrove advice is that if you have a gym membership ‘you just have to show up’. If you’re feeling tired and unmotivated, go to the gym on the condition you can leave after your warm-up if you’re still not into it. The chances are that after warming up you will want to keep exercising. Once you get those endorphins pumping, you’ll want to do your workout.
Secret 2: Another way to get motivated is to play the numbers game.
For around $50 you can buy a set of scales that measures your body-fat level. Measure yourself when you start your fitness program, and have an end goal in target. Perhaps you just want to get your body-fat back inside the healthy range, or you want to be towards the lower end of normal. At least you’ll now have a number to aim for. Most gyms have scales that measure body fat. Alternatively you could aim to improve your cholesterol. Heart disease is still a big killer. Get your GP to test your cholesterol levels and then exercise and eat well to get them within the healthy range.
Secret 3: There is a lot to be said for the old strategy of finding a friend to exercise with.
It is mighty hard to get out of bed on a winter’s morning at 5.30am, but if you know a friend is waiting for you to take them to the gym you may feel a little more motivated. However I have two friends who arranged to be gym buddies, but instead ended up being coffee buddies. Somehow stopping for coffee became more important than making it to their fitness class. Try to find a gym buddy who is serious about getting fit.
Secret 4: The other option is paying a personal trainer.
They’re often more affordable than you may think. A trainer can mix up your exercise regime – some days weights, some days running, perhaps a bit of swimming. A professional trainer will also correct your form when exercising, meaning you are less likely to injure yourself.
Secret 5: When you start a new fitness program, try to ease yourself in.
If you go hard at the start, you are likely to burn yourself out. Start slowly but be consistent. Slowly work towards increasing your weights or running further. Don’t take the toughest aerobics class on the first day.
Secret 6: If you enjoyed playing sport at school, join a local sports team, but be realistic.
Your days of playing league or AFL might be behind you, but what about playing soccer. Self-defence classes can also be lots of fun and very social. Again, if you are enjoying the exercise you are more likely to stick with it.
Earlier this year I wrote an article on discipline. I wrote that if you start any new program aim to stick with it rigorously for the first 21-days. After that you can re-assess whether you want to continue. Why three weeks? I referred to US plastic surgeon Dr Maxwell Maltz, who noticed that it took his patients 21 days to get used to seeing their new post-surgery appearance in a mirror. Also when a patient had a limb amputated, Dr Maltz noted that it took the patient about 21 days to adjust to being without the arm or leg. Dr Maltz concluded that “it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.”
Secret 7: My advice to you is to begin your fitness program and be thoroughly committed to getting though the first three weeks.
After 21 days, re-assess whether you want to continue. Hopefully in three weeks you will be feeling the benefits of regular exercise and want to just keep on exercising!