Wednesday 1 February 2017

Maintaining Your Motivation in Fitness

Warning: this is a lengthy post, but if you're not feeling February's motivation, it's worth it.

   January. The month of resolutions. That time of the year when we finally decide to make those big changes. It's fun, really, isn't it? The positivity that comes from doing something good, something worthwhile, be it for you or for someone else - it's difficult to beat and that can really urge you on.
   The trouble is, while it's easy to find the motivation to start, it's even easier to run out of steam. It's far from uncommon that January 28th rolls around, we congratulate ourselves on four weeks well done, and let ourselves fall slack, slip up and say "I'll try again tomorrow". And honestly, that's fine - as long as you do try again tomorrow.
   Failure only happens when you give up - or, y'know, you miss the deadline. But if the change you resolved to make was for the benefit of you and you alone, there is no deadline, not really. You may have taken up a new craft with the goal of having a new product line in your Etsy shop by the summer, or tried to get your dream body in time for your autumn wedding, but just because you might fall short, by a little or a lot, that doesn't render your progress redundant. Not at all.

   That's the most important thing to remember when it feels like you're getting nowhere and you want to give up: every single step you take, no matter how big or small, counts.
   But of course it's only February - it's too soon to start thinking negatively for six months down the line. So instead, we'll focus on the 'now' - an act that could easily obliterate that six-month-negativity and keep it from ever coming to pass.
   First of all, my ultimate goal: I want my dream body. Because I'm entitled to it. But there's no hiding from the fact that it's going to take a lot of work, especially when, like me, your vice is sugar. It is so difficult to maintain a steady pace. And yet, when you look at my blog, it's clear that I'm managing, right?
   Right. And why? Because I've learned a few truths over the past few years that have made it easier. So I'm laying them out for you now to help you maintain your new year motivation and get February off to an eager and healthy start.

First of all: there is no steady pace.
   That's right. The world will work with you some days, against you on others, and you'll find that your body will, too, with completely natural fluctuations. There's also no escaping stress and pressure from sources out of your control - especially these days, but we won't get into politics - just as there's no escaping more positive things that will try to put a dampener on your progress either, like Valentine chocolates (even if they're from yourself), Easter eggs, birthday cake and so on. It's important to realise this, and to give yourself permission to relax when celebrations come around, and to cut yourself some slack if you're hindered by things out of your control. That said, it's also a good idea to find ways to deal with stress that doesn't involve eating. Though it may sound pretentious, I urge you to put aside those preconceptions and try meditation. Just 10 minutes of sitting quietly and focusing on your breath can truly help to eradicate stress. Yoga works really well, too, though that can be less practical as you need space and some time to limber up, first.

Keep away from the scales.
   Weight fluctuates, and if you're working out with weights - which you should be - the scales are absolutely not going to reflect your progress. When I first started out, I was doing general running and aerobics using the Wii fit my boyfriend had bought me for my first birthday with him (he wasn't dropping a hint; he was picking up on one of mine). It told me to weigh in every day, so I did, before my exercise at about 9am every morning. And yet, even though I had exercised every day, I weighed more every morning than I did the last. This was extremely disheartening. But he had spent too much money, so I couldn't give up, so I weighed in again on Monday after having Saturday and Sunday off. And what I found surprised me: I weighed less that morning than I had the Monday before. This was a pattern that happened every week, without fail, and it taught me that exercise puts a strain on your body, and your body's recovery seems to make you weigh more. But with a day or two without exercise, giving your body the chance to recover properly, your body levels out. Just as you might find your waist looks bigger, feels bigger and perhaps actually measures more after an ab workout. Because you're swollen.
   In short: keep away from the scales, rely on a tape measure instead, but don't do either more than once every two weeks. Better still, don't weigh or measure at all, just go by the fit of your clothes. Whether you know what the number is on the tape or the scales or not does not affect the results you have. Just keep going.

Broaden your options.

   Exercise and fitness goes way beyond running, swimming and cycling. You know, I've never been to a gym? I also can't swim, can't ride a bike (I kid you not), and generally don't really run. All of my fitness, and the resulting drop from a size 16 to a size 8, has been done in the comfort of my living room.
   With the help of twitter, pinterest and general workout websites and magazines, I've discovered the presence of all kinds of different fitness activities, and have tried many via DVD, youtube or other free resources. When I started, I thought the RSC - run, swim, cycle - weights and dance DVDs. And weights were out of the question because I had the dire misconception that weights would make me look like a man.
   But I started branching out, after getting bored with the same 3 dance DVDs and the Wii fit, so I started trying a few of the things I'd glimpsed, like hula hooping, or giving Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred a go. This was in 2014, and since then I've discovered drumming-inspired workout, POUND, African dance workout Kukuwa, ballet-style BarreAmped, kung fu with the Shaolin Warrior Workout. I've tried new kit like pilates rings, body bars, body bands and kettlebells. And I've tried and fallen head over heels in love with yoga, kickboxing and kettlebells.
   By working out at home, your options are still immensely broad, and by taking advantage of the fitness craze that has grasped the world and encouraged indie trainers to develop their own unique forms of exercise, you can seriously keep yourself bouyed, as well as stave off plateaus and keep your results coming.
   I generally switch up my workout every month - a brand new DVD, routine or program, and I always try to make sure that the activities are never similar on consecutive months. I'll do barre one month, kettlebells another, Pilates another and kickboxing the next.

Don't compare, but do observe.
   There is no one single body shape we can all achieve through the right exercise. The fact is, every body is different. Some people have wide hips and broad shoulders, and that makes their waist look smaller, giving them that hour glass look. Some people, like me, have tiny hips and a tiny ribcage, making it more difficult for a toned, narrow waist to actually look it. Some people also naturally store fat in their bust, meaning they will always have bigger breasts than other women, while others have naturally round bums that will respond incredibly to booty workouts.
   So it's important not to compare yourself to others, but certainly observe them. With all the workout DVDs in my collection, I have a wide range of different body types to look at and envy. But it was only when I used Jillian Michaels' Kickbox Fast Fix, which has, alongside Jillian Michaels, five other women, that I really began to appreciate that there is no one single 'fit and slender' body. All six women looked different - some were narrower than others, some were taller, others bustier, others bootier. But they were all fit, all slender, they just had, quite simply, individual bodies.
   Since I noticed this, I've been looking more technically at fit womens' bodies. Rather than looking at slender inner thighs in envy, I'm noticing when some of them have thicker thighs that look remarkably like mine. And suddenly, while I do still feel there's room to narrow them down, I don't consider my thighs 'fat' or 'ugly'. But rather, they are my own fit thighs.

   Yes, anyone who has looked at a couple of the workout posts I publish at the start of each month will have noticed that, lately, there always seems to be a new pair of capris next to the DVD. Why? Because I'm addicted, but it's a wonderful incentive. A new piece of clothing or kit to use while exercising can help to keep you motivated, as well as presenting itself as a bit of an investment. After all, you can't justify a £50 pair of sweat-wicking leggings if you're giving up 2 weeks later, right?
   Fortunately, especially if you're just starting out, there are brands you can try that are high quality but won't punish your purse strings. USA Pro have some wonderful prints, are moisture-wicking, fit wonderfully and have absolutely no restriction. And their line sits around the £10-£25 mark. In the US, you could try Adore Me's new activewear collection, or, if you're looking to splash out, my very favourite is Fabletics. Their leggings are around £50 or so, but they are so worth it. They fit perfectly, they have the kind of compression that make your legs look like someone else's, they're moisture-wicking, they have 4-way stretch, the fabric is the best quality I have ever come across, and their designs, which are limited and change every month, are honestly at the height of trends. Some are also shiny. Like, actually shiny.

   A weekly, fortnightly or monthly delivery of fitness excitement can really give you an amazing boost. Subscription boxes like Joggbox and Yogi & Bare provide wonderful snacks and performance-boosting supplements, and sometimes small pieces of kit like water bottles or resistance bands. Graze provides a lovely selection of clean snacks to keep your food interesting and stave off the risk of undoing your hard work with spontaneous crisps and sausage rolls. Health and fitness magazines like Women's Fitness provide a more intellectual and visual boost, with useful articles, no fads, and full or sample-class workouts to try at home in a range of different forms, including yoga, kickboxing, barre and HIIT. There are product reviews, and the writers are real - I believe there was a marshmallow chocolate bar featured on their hot list in the issue that came out today. Because even one of the top health and fitness magazines in the country understands that everyone needs something naughty every now and then.

The controversial: cheat meals.
   Studies have gone into the concept of a cheat meal helping with weightloss, but none of them can agree. Why? Because it depends entirely on the individual. If you're the kind of person who sees food as fuel and only eats when it's meal time or you're hungry (and you're sure it's not just thirst), then a cheat meal is completely useless to you, because you don't need the incentive of a naughty meal once a week or once a fortnight in order to keep you on track for the rest of the time. But if you're a foody, like me, you may find that, without a cheat meal to look forward to, it can get difficult to behave. You might start trying to make little compromises or sneak biscuits. When I started to allow myself a cheat meal every Friday, I found it so much easier to eat well through the rest of the week. But I did make additional conditions to allow that cheat meal: my Friday morning workout has to be HIIT, and my Saturday workout has to have extra cardio. HIIT generally provides afterburn, which means I can put that cheat meal to use, and the extra cardio the following day helps to use the energy up and avoid any lingering guilt.

And here are a few quotes and statements that have really helped to change my perspective on those days when I just can't be bothered:

The only bad workout is the one you didn't do.
   Indeed, I've actually discovered that the days I really can't be bothered to exercise always, without fail, end up being the most motivated, energetic and ultimately successful workouts I do. I'm probably trying to prove myself wrong, because I want the results more than I want to stay in bed for 30 minutes longer.
There is no such thing as perfection.
   You do your best, you grow, you improve. If you're perfect at something, what's the point in doing it but to show off? Push yourself out of your comfort zone and prove to yourself how powerful you are in body and mind.
Don't fight for your limitations.
   Jillian Michaels says this a lot, and it can really help when you're at the point where you think you're at your limit. Then you realise, while you're telling yourself "I can't do another one", that you're still moving.
Nothing worth having comes easy.
   Why do fit women look so good? Because they fought for it. They stand out because so many other people don't fight for it, because fighting for it is hard. But that fight provides another kind of strength.
I made this body.
   This is one of mine. Far from catchy, but the point is that any workout you completed, you did yourself. No one can do a bicep curl for you. You have to do it. I made my body what it currently is - toned, slim and powerful - all on my own. I've only ever been advised and instructed, but I did every single squat, burpee and Warrior 3 myself.
   The same, of course, can also be said for unfit people.
This post was written in association with
Adore Me's 'Motivate Me' campaign.


Post a Comment

I do read every single comment, and I will try to respond where I can. If you have an important question about my blog or my shop, however, then you might be better off contacting me directly by email. Thanks so much for reading my blog!