The best way to get into shape? Do something you enjoy.
As the new Personal Trainer here at Specialized Physical Therapy in South Asheville, I thought I should introduce myself by addressing some of the most common questions I get from my clients. What is the best way to exercise? What should my clients focus on when looking to start a new exercise program? Of course, this can get pretty specific if you're looking for a more detailed answer about certain sets, reps, exercises, or progressions. In that regard, it is going to be more specific to each individual and their goals. But the short story is if you’re doing something that brings you joy you're headed in the right direction.
We look at diet culture and think losing weight has to be restrictive and draining. That mindset is not only damaging to our own self-image but exhausting to play out with little reward. Doing something that you are not fully invested in leads to poor long term retention, and most often results in falling off the program a few weeks in. This, in turn, leads to the yo-yo dieting equivalent of the fitness industry. You may start and stop a program multiple times within a year, or get so frustrated that you aren’t seeing fast results that you give up altogether. It can be soul-crushing, but I'm here to tell you there is a better way to approach exercise.
The best way to exercise is to do something that you genuinely enjoy and do it consistently. Remember that it takes 6-8 weeks for your body to physically adapt and grow stronger. It’s not going to happen overnight, so finding something that you know you can stick to is better than the off and on fitness approach many find themselves taking. Even something as simple as committing to walking a mile once a week will show great improvements. Then, working yourself up to longer distances and more frequent walks will be easier to commit to.
“The mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” - Maya Angelou
Working out doesn't have to be about forcing your body to do exercise that isn't fun. It can be full of expression, creativity, and inspiration. It may take some time, but finding a path in fitness that you get excited about makes sustaining a healthy lifestyle that much easier. Below is a list of ideas you can use to brainstorm the best way to make this change in your own life.
Get out in nature
We are lucky to live so close to nature, with Asheville nestled in between the mountains. There are so many possibilities open to us to explore the outdoors and immerse ourselves in our surroundings. From mountain biking to hiking or rock climbing, the easy access to these great outdoor activities is hard to pass up. If you’re new to any of these just head to your local outdoor outfitters for beginners classes they might hold, or ask a sales associate for a book on the topic. Not to mention, there are tons of trail guides out there to help you find the perfect hike.
Make it social
If getting started on your own is a little daunting, link up with a friend. Find a neighbor you can go walking within the morning and talk with each other to distract yourself from the “work” you're doing. Go on a bike ride to your favorite brewery this weekend and get a few extra miles in on the way there. Exercising can be doubly rewarding when bonding with others over your shared experience. It will become something that links you together, giving it a special place in your heart.
Get inspired by others
When all else fails and I've been slacking on my own personal fitness, I always like to attend a group fitness class. For me, it helps to see others digging deep and giving it their all, and even brings out a more competitive side in me. This could be at the local gym or a boutique fitness studio. Let the other participants motivate you and feed off the energy in the room. A good group fitness class will uplift you and keep you inspired.
Personalize your program
If a group class is a little overwhelming, consult with a personal trainer. Trainers see all different types of people, from those who have never exercised before to athletes looking for the extra push. No matter what your fitness level is, a trainer can cater to your needs, preferences, and goals, and even help you track your progress along the way. Here at Specialized PT, I even offer a free 30-minute consultation to get you started. I work with clients to help them personally find what sort of physical activity is best and make a plan for them to reach their goals the right way. Some people come to me because they don’t know how to exercise. However, more often than not my clients are simply looking for that extra bit of motivation to push themselves in their workout to keep them accountable.
Use tech to train
With Fitbits, Garmins, and step counters on our phones, it’s hard to escape the influence tech can have on our health. If you’re more competitively motivated and goal-oriented, using these trackers may help to make fitness fun. I remember when my mom got her first Fitbit, she couldn’t wait to walk up and down the stairs multiple times a day to “get her flights in”. She’s still using it all these years later and staying active long after retirement. You can also use technology to link up with others who share the same interests as you. Apps like Meetup provide a way to find groups of people already engaging in the same activities that you love. And if you can’t find a group, you can always make one yourself for others to join.
Find your sport
I was most motivated in my fitness when I had a concrete goal beyond anything a scale could tell me. Sports have always played a big part in my life, and when I went off to college I had no sports to be a part of and no goals to orient myself fitness-wise. I knew I needed to find something that kept my passion for staying active alive, so I joined the triathlon team. Not long after that, I started taking a course in aerial silks (think Cirque du Soleil) for my kinesiology degree as well. These two things brought back the spark to my fitness routine and lead to me being more engaged and present during my time exercising. Your classic sports like tennis or soccer are easy to get in to in community settings but don’t be afraid to think outside the box like I did with aerial silks. There are always communities to be a part of and find a home in.
Working out should inspire you. You should look at your time being active and be in awe of all that your body is capable of. Remind yourself that no exercise routine has to be perfect to be beneficial. The more you move the better you will feel, and if you have fun doing it, you’ll be surprised at what more you can accomplish.