Find Your ‘Why’
Most of us have been taught to see working out as a physical benefit. Our doctors tell us it’s good for us, and the positives highlighted are usually all related to physical health:
- Bone and joint health
- Heart health
- An increase in stamina
- Less risk of injury and disease
- Likely to live a longer life
You might expect me to focus solely on the physical benefits of exercise. However it is as much about the mental and emotional ones.
BE CAREFUL OF CERTAIN ‘WHYS’
The problem with an aesthetic ‘why’ is it takes you out of your head. It makes you focus on short-term goals and you’re more likely to give up or slow down and be inconsistent. You start to focus on what you can see as opposed to how you feel.
We all have hangups or things we’d like to change about our bodies. That’s perfectly normal. BUT try not to make it your primary ‘why’. Dig deeper and find something that drives you mentally and emotionally. Your primary ‘why’ needs to be focused on how it makes you feel, how it benefits you – not just what you see in the mirror.
Maximize Your Time
There is always time for you – you just have to adjust your mindset, believe that you’re worth it and make it happen. When you prioritize yourself and start to care for you, beautiful, seismic changes can happen.
- Take out your calendar, diary or whatever you use to organize your time and make a list of everything you have to do this week that will get in the way of training and cooking healthily.
- Find time around these things to schedule in a quick workout and some meal prep and write it into your calendar. You are more likely to do it if it is scheduled.
- Better yet, is there anything you could change on your to-do list and schedule that will make training and selfcare a bit more doable for you?
- Go through your diary again and swap out irrelevant unnecessary tasks (even if it’s only five minutes) for movement and exercise. And write it down! If it’s in your schedule, you are more likely to do it
Shift Your Perspective
Too often in life, we focus on the destination rather than the journey. We make the target a six pack or a dress size rather than incrementally increasing how many sets or reps we can do or how much we can lift. We often ignore the fact we’ve overcome so much and learned so much on the journey to fitness – leaving behind relationships or jobs that weren’t right for us and growing in confidence and mental strength as we continue to grow in physical strength.
Shift the focus from your goal or target and start celebrating everything you do along the way that makes you the very best version of yourself. The journey is much better than the destination when it comes to so many things in life – and fitness is no different. If you focus on an end target, you’ll have missed so much of the vital process along the way: the times when you didn’t think you could finish the class but you did and you loved it; the times when you weren’t sure you could get that final squat done but you smashed it and felt stronger than you ever thought possible; the times when you did your longest skipping session or run; the times when you’ll look back at what you’ve achieved so far and realize the ‘old’ you who started would never have thought this possible.
Believe You Can
Learning to be confident about who you are is tough and it won’t happen overnight. But turning up for that workout, appreciating that you can dedicate five minutes, ten minutes, thirty minutes to work on yourself is a part of that journey to being and feeling confident in yourself. This is a journey and it’s for life. Anything that promises overnight or short-term results isn’t sustainable in the long term and will work against your confidence. Anything worth doing takes time and effort and we now know fitness shouldn’t be a quick fix or an overnight success.
When it comes to fitness, no matter who you are, your achievement should be rooted in your confidence, happiness and long-term health. Those three things are the only way to build a long-term relationship with fitness and exercise. You have to view your relationship with fitness and targets almost like an actual romantic relationship. It needs to be a relationship based on honouring your plans (your routine and habits), recognizing things aren’t always easy (patience and discipline), knowing you’re in this for the long haul (changing your lifestyle) and making sure it makes you happy (finding what works for you, day after day, month after month, year after year).
Find Your Tribe
Comparison really is the thief of joy and the most frustrating thing is that we are all susceptible to it. Krissy writes, “When I started going to the gym and wanted to make training a habit, I couldn’t help but look at the men and women around me and think they were better than me. I tried so hard to just focus on me, but with mirrors everywhere, I couldn’t help but compare myself – my legs, my arms, my stomach! But, I knew I was in the best place for me, the place that did make me happy, the place that made me feel strong and energetic and just so good about myself, especially once I got into my workout.
Like with everything on your fitness journey, you must learn to overcome comparison syndrome – or at least to manage it. There’s a mistaken perception that someone else’s success diminishes yours – it doesn’t. Women can be so competitive – women are wracked with comparisons, always looking at how other women look, wanting what other women have, chasing the dreams of others. The only person you should be in competition with is you – focus on your journey and make your path the best one for you. Because that’s what we all are – authentic and original. No journey or two people are the same. Never forget that.
Be More Than Motivated
Motivation in a broader context is linked to your ‘why’ – your passion, purpose and reasons are the motivation that drives you. But looking at motivation in isolation and hoping it’ll be enough to get you to lace up your trainers and get going is a dangerous path to be on. Daily motivation comes and goes and at times even your ‘why’ can be blurred. What happens if you injure yourself? Move house? Change jobs? Have a baby?
Motivation comes and goes, resilience changes too – you can’t rely on them, it’s just not sustainable. However, if you’ve built the habit, you’ll be up and at the gym without a second thought. You’ve planned that Saturday-morning workout, you scheduled it last week, you value yourself and the commitment you made to yourself so it doesn’t even enter your head not to follow through with what you’ve planned. In short, you have discipline.
In short, not motivation but relying on the habit and having it scheduled will give you so much more headspace because it’s hardwired into you, it’s second nature and it’s almost like a reflex.
Build Your Strength
Men would stroll into the weights section far more confidently than women, who could look so self-conscious and vulnerable.
Why? Why didn’t women feel as confident in this environment as men did? Why did men treat the strength section of the gym like their second home, but women would walk past it without making eye contact like they were avoiding a longlost ex?
Now, don’t get this wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a treadmill, cross trainer or whatever piece of equipment so long as you enjoy it and want to train with it. However we have a big problem if a woman feels she can’t use a particular piece of equipment because it’s not for her. That’s simply not true.
WHY STRENGTH TRAIN?
So many women say to me they don’t want to strength train because:
- They don’t want big muscles.
- They ‘only’ want to tone.
- They worry they might hurt themselves.
- They’re not strong enough.
- And, Krissy’s personal favourite, they don’t want to look like a man!
Seriously, none of the above is accurate. Strength training may not be our default setting (because, let’s be honest, it’s always been promoted as a man thing) but strength training has so many benefits for women.
- You will lose body fat
- You will gain strength
- You will see an improvement in back pain and posture
- You reduce the risk of disease
- You reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and depression
BUT, I’LL END UP LOOKING LIKE A MAN
This one gets me. Every. Single. Time. Firstly, I’ve been training for years now and let me tell you something: you just get stronger, fitter, leaner, better. That is all! We are not built like men. We don’t have the same level of testosterone for our muscles to grow in a similar way to men. Instead, we tone, we sculpt, we get strong.
BUT IT’S NOT PRETTY
They go too red. They sweat too much. They smell. Ask yourself whether you’d ever bat an eyelid at a man sweating in the gym? Would you ever question a man for screwing up his face because he was so intensely focusing on his progress? Would you ever judge a man for trying to catch his breath because he’s just achieved his personal best in his deadlift? We need to normalize strength, power, determination and discipline for women too – it is feminine, it’s attractive and it’s everything a woman should be.
The gym isn’t a fashion show: it’s a place to get physically stronger and better. You come in, you train and you leave. You might grab a coffee or a shake on the way out, but then you leave and you get on with your day. That’s what it is, that’s all it is.
Love Your Food
Put quite simply, your meals should include a protein source, carbohydrate source, healthy fats and vegetables. Your ingredients should be easy to switch around: for example, you can make tacos with fish, vegetables or meat – the herbs, spices and salad can stay the same or be adjusted according to your palate. The taco is the vehicle and you can switch it up how you like. Similarly with curries, switch meats for veggies or vice versa; white rice for brown rice, you choose. Whatever you put on your plate, make sure it’s balanced with different textures to vary each bite and keep you interested. Whatever you do, don’t think every meal needs to be chicken, rice and broccoli – they taste good, but not for every meal – it is dull and unnecessary. Use this guide to help you make up a healthy plate:
- Protein – a portion the size of your palm
- Carbs – a portion the size of your fist
- Fat – a portion the size of your thumb (could also be a drizzle of olive oil, for example)
The rest of your plate? All the veggies – eat the rainbow!
A healthy-eating plan incorporates all nutrients and includes the foods you love. If you are eating foods you don’t like, you will never feel completely satisfied and eating will be a chore rather than a pleasure.
SUPPLEMENTS AND DEFICIENCIES
If you have a wide, varied and balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, you are unlikely to need supplements. Supplements are literally what they say on the tin – they are there to supplement your diet if you are not getting an adequate amount of a particular vitamin or nutrient from your balanced plate.
Just a small side note: if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or one that does eliminate a certain type of food, this isn’t a problem so long as you are getting the right amount of protein, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals from the foods you are consuming. If you are going to try a vegan diet, you must make sure your diet still includes all of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need. It would be worth consulting a nutritionist or dietitian to make sure you make the right choices for a healthy lifestyle.
Your Action Plan
You are now ready to start. No excuses, no sitting back and saying, ‘I’ll start next week.’ You start now. No more messing around – ultimately your health is your choice and you want it to be a good one.
EVERY FEW MONTHS
- Revisit your ‘whys’ and revaluate how you feel about them. Remind yourself that you are doing this for you, to be the best version of yourself.
- Evaluate your fitness plan and how it’s going. Do you need to change it up? Do you want to add in a different kind of training?
- Set yourself a new challenge – something to push you to new limits. It might be fitness related, or it might be something else: it could be mindfulness, learning a new skill or a new language – do something for you that challenges and improves you.
- Plan out your meals and snacks and do a food shop based on what you will be cooking. Remember to consider batch-cooking, freezing or online grocery shopping to make life easier.
- Set aside a portion of your weekend to meal prep and store meals in the fridge for the week.
- Plan your workouts and schedule them into your calendar. Use a fitness guide or ask your gym or a personal trainer to help you if you need guidance.
- Take progress pictures. Remember it’s not just about the aesthetics, the pictures mean so much more. They show you how far you’ve come and remind you of all the strength and power you’re building on your journey.
- Pack your gym gear or prepare your environment in a way that makes fitness easy and possible to fit in.
- Pack your meals and snacks for the day.
- Be grateful. Practise gratitude every day or as often as you can. Be grateful for everything you have achieved, every rep, every set, every workout. They all make a difference to you and you should be proud of everything you are achieving.
Above all, never stop learning, never stop wanting to be the best version of yourself and always remember your body and mind are capable of anything – you just need to believe in yourself and make a choice to start. Just start.