With every turning of the season comes the feeling of change. If you are like me, summer meant vacations, kids off school, a more relaxed time schedule…and a much more relaxed approach to fitness. Surely a day sitting by the swimming pool with the kids constitutes a workout, right? It sure was exhausting. Back to work post-vacation? Hot summer days leave much less energy for that after-work exercise session. And let’s be honest, sometimes you just need a bit of a break.
Now, with September right around the corner, it’s time to get back into (gym) gear! Now if you have taken a lot of time off and are feeling quite despondent at the idea of ‘re-visiting’ your fitness goals, take a look at my previous blog, How do we get started?, and realize you are NOT alone.
Once again, you have to sit back and reflect on WHY you have decided to get moving, eat healthier, and/or just attempt to improve your overall wellness. Is it to feel better? For your children? To fit back into your jeans which have been tucked away all summer? Whatever it is, make sure you don’t lose sight of it.
Having trained as a dancer from the age of 5, there have been very few periods in my life that I can remember which didn’t include physical activity. We won’t talk about my first year of university (and first year post dance training). I mean, what freshman doesn’t consider dancing at the bar on a Saturday night sufficient physical activity for the week?!
Anyway, I thought I would share a few things that work for me when it comes to exercise and keeping motivated.
4 steps to a healthier school year
- Don’t question it, just do it. I think this one stems back to my teenage years and dance training. At the end of each school day, I had dance class. On Fridays, when all of my friends were going to a party, I would have class then rehearsal. I didn’t question going, I grabbed my dance bag and went. There were no options, I made the commitment so I did it.
The problem we have now is options! ‘Hmmmm, I am feeling tired today, maybe I will wait until tonight to exercise’. When you are in a situation where you feel you have the choice of whether or not to do it, it’s much easier to say, ‘I’ll do it later’. You need to remove this choice. Pre-book classes, put it in your diary, or make a date with a friend to exercise together. Once you have made a mental, financial, or social commitment, it’s much harder to back out. Also be aware of when your energy and motivation is at its greatest (for most people, the morning) and take advantage of this time whenever possible.
- Find some workout buddies. When I first moved to the UK from the US, my (now) husband was a bit puzzled when I had a hard time meeting friends. Having been a rugby player most of his life, he was used to visiting rugby clubs all around the world and immediately meeting a number of like-minded individuals to get to know. Children are the same; my son comes home with 5 new friends every time he joins a new activity/sport. Like anything, health and fitness is much more fun when you don’t do it alone. If you don’t already have some keen fitness friends, try to join some clubs (running, cycling), join a team sport, attend group fitness classes/bootcamps, or perhaps ask a Personal Trainer to set up some group training sessions with others of similar capabilities. I have been training with a group of 6 women for the last year and it has revolutionized my fitness. Not only have I made great friends, but we all work harder with a little competition. We also now meet up throughout the week on our own, making our workouts that much harder (and more fun!). Have someone else counting on you makes it that much harder to bail out (no matter how unmotivated you are feeling!).
- Mix it up. I consider myself a jack-of-all trades; master of NONE when it comes to fitness. As far as I am concerned, that’s fine. I don’t have to be the best at anything, I just want to have fun and not get bored. I enjoy running, biking, spinning, swimming, aerobics classes, HIIT training, weight training, Zumba, yoga, body art; pretty much anything that gets me moving. You wouldn’t eat the exact same meals everyday so why do the same exercise day after day (unless you are training for something). Constantly doing the same activity not only sets you up for overuse injuries, its plain boring! Try to establish a rota of activities you enjoy and prepare a schedule. Which leads us to the next point:
- Set a goal. Make it S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound). Some simple examples of this are taking 10,000 steps per day for a week, biking to work every day for a month, doing 30 minutes of exercise a day 5 days per week. Write it down. Commit to it. Be sure to check back to see how you are doing relative to your plans.
Our Behavior Expert, Dr Maya D’Eon does a great job explaining S.M.A.R.T. goals in her blog post, Your New Year’s Resolution Will Fail…
That’s all for now. Hopefully a few of these tips will work for you. Remember, just do your best. No one is perfect and no one expects you to commit to fitness on par with an Olympic athlete. Find what works for you. Every change you make for the better counts.
Written by Dr. Tara Coletta, PhD
Tara's research focused on obesity and metabolism. She studied exercise science (MS, UMass Amherst) before earning a PhD in nutritional biochemistry (Tufts University). Wellness remains an integral part of Tara’s life as she works to balance being a mother of three.