With all the hype about the newest exercise fads, regimens, and equipment, how do we know what to choose? Do we lift weights, focus on cardio, practice yoga, or swing kettle balls three times a week?
Through decades of various workout routines and exercise programs, I've found that the best solution is to do whatever works best for your body. Keep in mind that each of us has a unique body structure, metabolism, and balance of fat and muscle. What works well for me may not be the best for you.
So how do we know what's best?
If you're new to establishing a regular exercise routine, try hiring a personal trainer. According to fitness guru Bob Harper, "Any form of exercise can be unsafe if you don't have the proper coaching, education, and guidance." This doesn't mean that your trainer needs to be alongside you each and every workout, but they can help you nail down a workout routine that's best for your body and your fitness goals.
Once you have a plan that is tailored to you, then comes the hard part: sticking to it. The most difficult aspect of exercising regularly may be staying motivated. If you choose to exercise at home, just be aware of distractions. Personally, I found that going to a gym helps me stay focused--as long as I put my workouts on the calendar.
Need a nudge? Here are a few tips to help make your exercise more beneficial than boring:
If it feels good, do more of it. Many of us have been taught "No pain, no gain." That motivation may be effective when we're in our 20s, but we learn quickly as adults that pain is the body's way of alerting us that something is out of balance. Learn to listen within and honor your body and its messages. Hard work can push you to your limits, but keep it balanced to avoid injuries.
Food is fuel; water is life. Eating and drinking are not just pleasurable activities; they're essential to good health and well-being. When we focus on eating properly by making healthy choices and maintaining nutritional balance, our bodies respond accordingly. Eating clean, vitamin-rich foods will allow our bodies to burn calories more efficiently.
Music rocks and rolls. Music helps to inspire and maintain motivation. Make music your workout buddy. Use energizing music to warm up and stay motivated; calm music to cool down. My personal favorites are classic rock or pop to warm up; EDM (Electronic Dance Music) to stay motivated (especially during cardio); and classical music or ambient to cool down. Find your music and keep your momentum.
Exercise for health, not for vanity. As we age, we may realize the biggest benefit to exercise is to maintain health and well-being, not just to look better. Sure, an attractive physique can be the results of a fit healthy body--but just like a pie, appearance is only crust deep--it's the filling that counts. When you take a care of the inside, it shows on the outside.
Data rules. If your personal trainer doesn't write down your workout routine, do it yourself. Keep a schedule and track your results. Having a tracker like a Fitbit helps. When we have a list of exercises to refer to, we remain more consistent. Written accountability is like wearable accountability--plus, it's easier to remember our workout and measure our progress. Change always happens one step at a time.
When in doubt, walk it out. Having a tough day? Not feeling like hitting the full-on exercise program? Then do something different. Try taking a nice long walk. And as you're walking, think about how good it feels to move your body. Don't beat yourself up for just walking today--just tell yourself that tomorrow, you will do a bit more. Soon enough, you'll be back to your regular exercise routine.
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg helps people find better balance and happiness in their work, relationships, and life--especially during transitions. Find out more at michaelsunnarborg.com
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