How to kickstart your exercise

First you skip one week of your exercise plan, then a second, then a third. By the fourth week, you’ve forgotten what being motivated feels like. Sometimes life’s responsibilities – or your pure laziness – get in the way of your workouts. Regardless of how long it’s been since you’ve exercised, these five simple rules will help you jump back on the bandwagon – or treadmill.

Rule #1 – Give yourself a break
The first lesson to learn is that falling out of routine happens to everyone. Don’t judge yourself based on how often you stop exercising but on how many times you’re able to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get back into it – whether that’s walking, jogging or playing an organised sport. Getting back to exercise is usually easier than starting from the beginning, so think of your time out as a temporary break, rather than a personal failure.

Rule #2 – Treat exercise as a reward
Before you laugh and shrug this suggestion off as nonsense, consider that your workouts are an opportunity for you to focus entirely on yourself. In a way, they’re a self-indulgent pleasure or escape from your other responsibilities. Apart from curbing illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, exercise is one of the best ways to increase mood-boosting endorphins in your body. If you start to look at your workouts as breaks from other daily distractions, rather than another ‘chore’ you have to complete, you will start to look forward to exercising.

Rule #3 – Don’t pressure yourself
If you’ve been absent from the gym, your fitness group or sporting team for a number of weeks or even months, you’re unlikely to return to training at the same level of fitness you enjoyed before. The more time you’ve taken off, the more cardiovascular fitness you’re likely to have lost. This is fine. The trick is not to put pressure on yourself to be the superstar you were before because otherwise you can risk injury. Whatever activity you choose, begin slow and steady and work your way back up to your former fitness level. The good news is that regaining your former level of fitness is normally quicker than reaching a higher level.

Rule #4 – Find a friend
Finding the will to jump out of bed in the morning or come home at the end of a long day and go for a jog is always easier when someone depends on you to follow through. Buddy up with a friend or family member who will motivate you to stick to your exercise routine. If you’re looking to try out a new class, having someone else go with you will be a lot less intimidating. You might even find yourself acting as the motivating person – which is actually great because it means you’re the one who’s strong and in control.

Rule #5 – Get your diet on track
A strong exercise routine goes hand in hand with having a good diet. When one’s on track, the other inevitably follows. Maintaining a nutrient-rich diet full of wholefoods will boost your mood and your energy levels, leading to increased motivation to exercise. Eating processed foods and excess sugar is a sure-fire way to sap your energy and make you lethargic.

Related articles:
Foods to keep you fuller for longer
How much exercise is enough?
Five everyday tricks to become more active

Amelia Theodorakis
Amelia Theodorakis
A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.
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