If you care about your physical well-being, a regular exercise routine is probably an important part of your life. But repetitive exercise can become tedious and just an energy drain, so how to keep advancing when you hit the wall? Stop following rigid exercise routines and learn a new approach to fitness that will get you going fit forever.
Several years back, I also wanted to be perfectly toned, so I caught on to the HIIT train, the popular style of workout that burns fat like none other. I started with a 12-week program and exercised about 4-5 times a week. In the beginning, it was fine. I was pumped with motivation and expectations, which allowed me to complete workouts like a rocket. I felt strong and confident. But as the program’s second half approached, this high-intensity training started to take a toll on me. I felt more drained than strong, and I had to really force myself to continue. I am not lazy and actually, like exercising but this way, I was giving out more than gaining.
So finally, one day, I thought, what’s the point of this? I still liked the idea of having abs like the program’s trainer but at what price?
So instead, I started working out according to my needs without relying on programs. I mix everything I like, such as yoga, strength training, walking and hiking, and my body naturally looks much more toned than it used to and that only came as a byproduct of me having fun, not chasing a particular body shape. I don’t beat myself up for missing a workout because I know I’m overall active and won’t lose anything.
I view exercise as a way to live and connect with my body, friends, and nature. I don’t see it as something I must do to lose weight.
My key advice is this: Participate in various activities daily and, most importantly, have fun! Even though it’ll probably take you longer to change your physique working out like this than, for example, bulking up in the gym and then cutting carbs, but this way, it will show up and last.
Below are five important principles to help you navigate your way toward active life that’s meaningful and actually brings you more than “just“ muscles.
1. Quick results are short-lived results
We live in an epidemic of instant gratification, which gradually makes us lazy to work on goals with patience; thus, we want to see results quickly. By quickly, I mean not just in a month but also six months, for example. Just look how short this period is in relativity to one’s life. It doesn’t make sense to expect quality results in a few weeks.
So yes, they are still possible, but they have two issues. A - it’s often a much more difficult journey, so fewer people can stick until the end. And B - you must start some maintenance program, or those results will snap right back. So the verdict is anything fast can be viewed probably like a starter; otherwise, you have nothing. Cultivating patience, on the other hand, is the right approach in the quest for results that truly last.
As famous Olympic volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings said:
It’s going to be a journey. It’s not a sprint to get in shape.
2. Be smart about goals and motivation
Motivation can jump-start your fitness journey, but you need enjoyable and sustainable activity to succeed in the long term. And when your motivation is built on visual and vague goals like getting abs or losing weight, you must necessarily run to problems because motivation can be very fleeting. One day it’s there, and the next, it evaporates. And without a solid process that you’ll actually enjoy, you lose the motivation, and you end up with empty hands. When the time you’re working towards your goals itself brings you pleasure, you don’t need to rely so much on motivation to move forward. It should be so fulfilling that reaching them is just a cherry on top.
Make goals you can build upon to support your fitness journey and avoid the “I don’t know what to do next“ gap. Great examples of long-term goals are something like: I want to hike one peak every month, or I want to be able to ski with my grandchildren when they grow up. That way, you’ll have to keep yourself active for years because it is not so easy to build fitness as you get older.
3. Measure by progress
I’m sure everyone knows the frustration of stepping on the scale only to see that the number didn’t change. But this is one of the least appropriate ways to measure your fitness improvement.
You want to aim for consistency and progression, so rather than focusing only on the number on the scale, measure how your abilities get better week by week. Am I running faster? Is my heart rate slower? Can I do more pushups? Can I bend and touch the ground with straight legs? You should ask questions like this regularly and adjust your activities. And if you also want to focus on your body shape, the good idea is to measure your proportions from time to time.
4. Redefine the purpose of fitness
The mental benefits of exercise are long known; it’s nothing new. That’s why I suggest exercise for your mind first and only after that put physical goals. It’s about feeling good and then looking good.
The importance of fitness is even more significant when approaching older age, as movement is essential for a healthy body and mind. Without it, both start to deteriorate much faster.
While you move to take care of yourself, it can also be an excellent opportunity to deepen your relationships with people you already know and find a new tribe of people who share similar values. In addition, solo outside activities are great for recharging and enjoying some time alone. Nature will fill you with energy, and movement will soothe the busy mind. And hiking with family or friends can almost feel effortless as the time will be filled with fun and joy from being outside with people you care about.
And if you happen to be hiking around Austria maybe you'll come across a cute flock of sheep like this.
5. Combine multiple activities you like
Boredom can creep its fingers even into an excellent fitness routine, especially when you repeat the same type of exercise. The best way to combat this is regularly rotating different activities, ideally combining endurance, strength and flexibility. Equally important is that nobody has the same mood and energy every day, so why would you do the same workout? Mix and shuffle things up according to how you feel. Tired? What about a gentle walk? Hot summer? Cooling strokes in a swimming pool could be fun and refreshing. There’s always something to try out and expand your options. Even if I have never tried a certain sport and I’m not particularly drawn to it, I still try it because you never know If it won’t become your next favorite thing.
So here you have the not-so-secret secret about getting and staying on top of your fitness. This is not rocket science, and I hope my little insight will help you choose a sustainable path toward an active lifestyle, whether you are just starting out or already well underway in your fitness journey.