How to Develop (and stick to) a Health and Fitness Routine.

How to Develop (and stick to) a Health and Fitness Routine.

Changing habits and incorporating more exercise into your life can seem daunting at first. I’ve talked about change before and how challenging it can be, but I also know that it can be a really rewarding and worthwhile pursuit!

I know this because 6 months ago, I decided to change my lifestyle for the better, and since then I have felt the happiest, healthiest and sanest that I have felt for a really long time. It is amazing to see what an impact changing my diet, fitness and lifestyle has had on me. My migraines have become less frequent and less intense, I have become more present with my clients at work, my moods are more balanced, I am less reactive and less irritable with my loved ones, I have lost weight, and I am generally a happier and healthier version of myself. It’s a no-brainer, really.

Our minds and bodies are connected, and we need to nurture both of these to create an overall sense of balance and equilibrium. Taking care of your body by eating nutritious food and exercising regularly is the ultimate act of self-love and self-respect, but it’s not easy…. Developing (and sticking to) a health and fitness routine can be extremely challenging, especially if you’re a perfectionist. So I thought I’d shine some light on how I have managed to do it, and how you can too!

Take it slow.

I guess the first step for me was to set realistic goals. I was already exercising, but just not enough. I initially set myself the goal of running for five minutes and walking for thirty. I tried to do this three times a week, and do some stretching and yoga on the days in between. When I started off, I could barely run for five minutes. I was huffing and puffing and I honestly thought there was something wrong with me! Looking back on it now, I realise that I was just extremely unfit. I remember feeling pretty defeated that first time. At that point, I could have thrown in the towel and given up completely on the whole thing, but I didn’t. I thought about all the other big achievements in my life and that to achieve them I had to be persistent and consistent. I applied those same principles to this and simply slowed things down.

I also realised that it was unrealistic to think that I would be able to run non-stop for longer periods of time without increasing my fitness slowly. So, I increased my running by 1-2 minutes every time I ran, and I can now run for 25 minutes without stopping. For me, that is a massive achievement, and I’m so proud of my efforts. If you’re perfectionistic, it can be easy to start comparing yourself to other people, to feel defeated and to give up before you’ve even started. So don’t compare yourself to other people, just aim to be better than you were yesterday. Being healthy is a personal goal, so you’re only competing with yourself. Do it for yourself and in three months time, you will thank yourself.

Keep going. In three months, you will thank yourself.

Find out your “prime time” to exercise. Using a weekly goals planner can also be helpful for this. Look at your weekly schedule and see what days and times you can realistically fit the exercise into, but also when you know your body is going to want to. For me, I knew it would be easiest to achieve Friday-Monday when I have the evenings off, and more challenging Tuesday-Thursday when I tend to work later. I’m not a morning person and even when I try my hardest, I just can’t convince myself to wake up early to workout… it just doesn’t happen. I know this now, and don’t feel guilty about it anymore. Instead, I try to listen to my body and exercise when my body tells me that it wants to. It’s much easier to stick to the routine when you are doing it because you want to, and not because you’re forcing yourself to.

Be kind to yourself if you slip up. Changing habits takes time, so be patient with yourself. The “stages of change” theory in psychology dictates that when you’re actively trying to change a behaviour, you will go between the maintenance and relapse stages multiple times before you are able to sustain the change permanently over time. This is normal and natural! Relapsing doesn’t mean you are back to stage one. You haven’t gone backwards; so don’t beat yourself up for relapsing into old habits, it’s pointless and a waste of energy. Instead, figure out what went wrong for you to relapse in the first place, so that you can be better prepared for it next time. Most importantly, keep going and don’t dwell on it. Aim to be better than yesterday.

Think about how you want to feel, not how you want to look.

Think about how you want to feel, not just how you want to look. For me, this is a really important one, because aiming to feel healthy, strong, happy and fit is more important than aiming to look a certain way. Self-love is an inside job. Changing the way you look on the outside so you can feel better on the inside never works. If you haven’t done the work on the inside, there will always be something else you want to change or improve, and you’ll be stuck in a vicious cycle of jumping through hoops to get to some unattainable place. It also means that your motivation is extrinsic. Instead, focus on how you want to feel on the inside, and structure your health and fitness routine around this. For me, when I’m running, I feel invincible, strong, empowered and capable, so I focus on that feeling and that’s what inspires me to keep going. On days when I am lacking motivation, I remind myself of how I felt the last time, and that is enough to encourage me to move my body again. If your motivation to change is intrinsic, you will be more likely to sustain it over time.

Let exercise be your stress reliever, not food.

If you’re someone who uses food to regulate your emotions, start using exercise as your stress-reliever instead. The more you do that, the more you’ll start to see what difference it makes. Endorphins can be just as addictive as chocolate, but better for you, and you also won’t feel guilty afterwards. Get out of the guilt cycle by being kind to yourself. If you’re feeling sad, stressed, angry or anxious, do something NICE for yourself. Don’t feed the anxiety/depression with food; feed it with love, your body will thank you. The first step is to use mindfulness to notice when you’re using food as a way of regulating your emotions, and to create the space and time to respond effectively to what your mind/body needs in that moment. Observe your cravings. Use a journal to document your observations if it helps.

Get addicted to endorphins!

The more you respond effectively to your emotions, the better you will be at regulating them, and the more likely you will be to sustain the change over time. Short-term gratification is never worth it. Eating food to avoid distressing or uncomfortable feelings is engaging in a pattern of avoidance, and in the long run you will feel even more stuck and reduce your distress tolerance. Don’t give up what you want most (to feel healthy and happy) for what you want right now. It might feel like that ice-cream or chocolate will make you feel better, and perhaps in that moment it will, but remind yourself of your long-term goals and think about whether it fits in with those. Try some other distress tolerance skills instead. Take a few deep breaths, drink some water, go for a walk, draw, write, read…. Use whatever works for you. If you respond to your emotions effectively in other ways, the cravings will pass because you won’t be reinforcing them. And best of all, you’ll start to actually ENJOY your food instead of using it as a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings.

Don't give up what you want most or what you want RIGHT NOW.

Change things up if you get bored. I’m someone who likes variety. If I do the same thing over and over again, I get bored easily. So to combat this, I try to do lots of different things, or the same things in different environments. For example, if I get bored of running on the treadmill, I go and run in a park or around a lake; I do yoga in the living room or in a class; I go to Zumba classes for a bit of fun and dancing; I do bike riding with my partner; I go up to the Dandenong Mountains to do the 1000 steps, to walk in beautiful gardens or try new walking tracks; I do strength exercises in the backyard; and next week I’m going to try swimming again. Basically, if you’re bored of the same exercises, change them. Changing your exercise routines also helps your body to adapt and to use different muscle groups, which is good for you!

Most importantly, have fun, believe in yourself and enjoy working toward your goals! Share your exercise tips with me on instagram!

P.S. Follow my blog and stay tuned to read about the equipment, tools and motivational tricks that I use to help and motivate me on my workouts.

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Finding the Balance in Life: Overcoming Burnout, Procrastination and Perfectionism

Life only demands from you the strength that you possess.

Something I’ve realised over the last few years is that life only demands from you the strength that you possess. It’s really important to know yourself and to be realistic about your limits. Yeah, yeah… we’ve all heard the sayings, “nothing is out of reach” and “you have unlimited potential”, and they are true… but the saying we most often forget to implement in life is that you can’t run before you can walk. Your abilities and limits grow in small increments. It’s therefore so important to pace yourself if you want to work toward a long-term goal or dream, because if you throw yourself into the deep end of life, and you don’t even know how to swim, you will soon drown.

Welcome to burnout town, where you will run on empty, feel fatigued, foggy, irritable, anxious, overwhelmed and generally shit. It’s not a good place to be. This is the place you will end up if you don’t have the resources to meet the demand you are placing on yourself.

You can’t pour into all the areas of your life if your own cup is empty

 Let me get one thing straight here: your dreams are so worth any struggle, and without struggle, you will not move forward in life. It’s great to have ambition, to push past the fear and to reach for the stars, but it’s also important to be realistic about how much you can handle. The recipe for keeping everything in balance in life has to be just right. If the scales tip out ever so slightly, other areas of your life will be neglected, and more likely than not it will be your mental health that goes first. So, if you’re planning to take on more work, be aware of how much extra self-care you have to add to the mix to find the right balance again. Remember, you can’t pour into all the areas of your life if your own cup is empty.

What’s the difference between burnout, procrastination and perfectionism?

I think the fundamental difference between burnout and procrastination/perfectionism is fear. Procrastination and perfectionism are fuelled by fear, which can be paralysing, whereas burnout is a consequence of pushing yourself way too hard. Procrastination and burnout are both forms of self-oppression, however burnout is on the extreme opposite end of the scale to procrastination. When you’re burnt out, you have literally used up all of your energy and resources and you have nothing left to give; you’ve exhausted yourself either mentally, physically or both. You feel stuck and it’s not because you’re lazy or scared, it’s because you’ve pushed yourself beyond your limits and you have nothing left in your tank.

life doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be lived

Overcoming procrastination and perfectionism.

Overcoming procrastination and perfectionism involves addressing your fears: fear of failure, fear of things not being perfect, fear of missing the mark or fear of fear. It can also involve having to convince yourself not to give up what you want most in the long term for what you want right now. Working toward long-term goals therefore involves delayed gratification. Choosing your own aims in life can help to create a sense of motivation, but so too can creating SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Write your goals down and regularly review them. The top one per cent of successful people in the world do this, and it actually works… so do it. Overcoming procrastination involves FIGHTING for yourself to FREE yourself from fear… believe me, three months from now you will thank yourself. Freedom is on the other side of fear… social freedom, emotional freedom, creative freedom, financial freedom, time freedom and spiritual freedom. Sitting and worrying about whether something is going to turn out perfectly is quite frankly a complete waste of precious time, energy and resources.

When I was writing my masters thesis I lived by this motto: first drafts don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be written. This same motto can be applied to life generally: life doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be lived. Do you want to look back on your life and remember all the years and years of “thinking” about taking action, but not feeling ready, or do you want to look back and remember a rich, meaningful life full of intention and purpose, even if there were a few mistakes along the way? I think I know which option I want to take. The only things in life that can derail our efforts are fear and oppression. So stop making excuses for yourself and just start. Clear away all the distractions and make room for taking action!

Time is the currency of life and how you spend yours is YOUR choice.

How do you find the balance?

Overcoming burnout involves listening to yourself and your body and responding effectively. Hard-working minds and bodies need rest so build a regular self-care practice into your daily routine. Use mindfulness to pay attention to your energy levels and to check in with yourself on a regular basis. It’s better to notice and intervene early than to let yourself crash. Use tools to manage your time effectively and to ensure that you have a good balance in the life domains of health, wellbeing, social, work, family, relationships and spiritual life. All of those life domains are equally important, so don’t think you’re doing yourself any favours if you cut back on one area in order to make more time for another! The scales will tip out and believe me, you will notice. Be strict about how much work you take on. Learn to prioritise effectively and to say no to things that are not going to serve your long-term goals. You have limited time/resources/energy and you can’t do everything, so be aware of that and don’t overload yourself. Time is the currency of life and how you spend yours is YOUR choice, so take your power back and use your time effectively. If you’re spending too much time on something that isn’t serving your long-term goals, then stop. For me, it was my personal social media use, so this week I decided to scale back on it. Just like that, I created an abundance of time to use toward other endeavours, such as my writing, exercise, self-care and business planning. If you are willing to be honest with yourself and evaluate how you spend your time, you will be surprised by how easy it can be to create more balance in your life and to avoid burnout.

What helps you to overcome procrastination, perfectionism and burnout? Share your ideas with me on Facebook or Instagram.

Your Body Is Your Temple: Why You Should Move Your Body

Your body is your temple. Moving your body is the ultimate form of self-love and mindfulness

Moving your body is the ultimate form of self-love and mindfulness.

I have always loved to move my body. As a child I loved to swim and a dance (ballet and jazz), but over the past 5 years I have mostly moved my body through Zumba, yoga or walking. I started running about 6 months ago, and I can honestly say that it has changed my life. I have never been more present and aware of my body than when I am running. Running makes me feel alive in a way that no other form of movement ever has. It allows me to be in tune with my body; I can feel my muscles burning; I can feel the breath moving in and out of my body at an even pace; I can feel the momentum of my stride; I can feel the rhythm of my heartbeat and the rush of endorphins. For me, running is a form of moving meditation.

Running is a form of moving meditation

Running allows you to honour the process of change and transformation.

As I commit myself to moving my body, I am amazed by the gradual, but measureable, change that is happening to my body. There’s nothing more incredible than watching your body slowly transform. Every time I move my body, I feel stronger, leaner and more perseverant than the last time. I can run faster and longer but I’ve also learned to listen to my body. I’ve learned to trust myself and to push past the fear that was previously holding me back, but I’ve also learned to be aware of what my body is capable of in that moment or on that particular day. Thanks to running, I totally “get” the mind and body connection.

Moving your body helps you to honour the process of change and transformation

Unite with your higher self.

The word “yoga” makes reference to this. The root, “yuj” means “unity” or “yoke”. Yoga is one of my favourite forms of movement. Whilst running connects my body to my mind, I feel that yoga connects my body to my spirit. Yoga is special. It’s mindfulness in motion. I love it because it’s so grounding. With openness, curiosity and willingness, yoga can take your body to a whole new realm of experience. I feel so uplifted and in tune with myself after practicing yoga. One day soon I will write a blog post all about yoga.

P.S. I’m currently completing 30 days of Yoga with Adriene, which is really amazing by the way! You should try it!

How do you like to move your body? What helps you to feel in tune with your body? Tell me.