When you learn, teach. When you get, give. - Maya Angelou (US Author & Poet, 1928).
I’m no wizard in exercising or dieting. We have gym instructors and nutritionists for that. However, with consistent (read futile) attempts over decades, I've attained the inside knowledge of why common people often fail to adopt a workout routine. I feel I must share the secret in the interest of humanity.
Starting way back from 6th grade in school when my parents took up ‘family lifetime membership’ at a Health Club at home, to Kota, Pune, Bhopal and now Bangalore. I’ve made generous donations to some of the biggest players in the ‘health and fitness’ business in these cities. And they have failed to get me what I want. Actually, I’ve failed to understand what I want – or rather, what I need to do. All I’ve gained is some more weight, increased BMI and learnt some creative excuses not to exercise.
One doesn’t necessarily need to go to a gymnasium to exercise and stay fit. Agreed. There are swimming pools, treadmills at home, jogging, walks and other nicer ways. I’m trying to represent the mass, the bigger part of the population, which relates workout with going to someplace. Here’s how you can do it right:
Presumptions: You’re not the most regular person when it comes to exercising. It takes you a lot of efforts, planning and motivation to take up a workout routine, and most usually it doesn’t materialize. By ‘working out’ I mean, driving/walking down to a gymnasium and do some significant physical activities. I’m also assuming you understand the fact that spending money for health and fitness is not an expenditure – it’s investment.
1. Purpose of Workout: We do things for some reasons. Like, we eat to live (well, most of us do). Unless you’re convinced that staying fit is not optional, you’ll never be able to justify the time, money and energy you’ve been putting. Even with a perfect physic of 21-22 BMI (Body-Mass Index), it takes efforts to maintain it. If you’re in agreement, pull up the socks and read further.
Have a Target. Short term and long term targets – with deadlines. Only a feasible short-term target will allow you to achieve it. Achieving it in time will build confidence and boost your spirits to go for the bigger goal. Importantly, set a meaningful deadline, like – ‘I want to lose 9 kg and have a toned body before my best friend’s wedding in January 2012’.
Targets should be realistic. For example, a commoner and attainable aim would be about weight-loss and fitness, improving stamina. Muscle building isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The muscle-gain can optionally be a long-term target. The point is, you need to work to make exercise a part of your routine – you must not handle it as a one time project to forget once completed.
2. Selecting the Gym: In my learning, distance from your home is the most important factor in selecting a gym. If you have one in your own building/complex, I have no idea why you aren’t typing this article in my place. If you must go out, 5 minutes’ walk is the maximum you can afford. Anything more than that can eventually shape into an excuse for dropping out.
Standard equipment-set of good quality (branded) would be the second most important thing. The last thing you can afford is permanent muscle/bone damage thanks to some unreliable exercise equipment.
Amenities like Jacuzzi, Yoga, Aerobics, etc. are completely optional, I feel. They need to be accommodated outside the routine workout plan, if and when feasible. I’ve experienced in the past, these other things often distract the basic idea of a workout. You take off well, maybe achieve some initial targets, and start thinking you’re ready to include more activities. The next thing you know (quite often) your routine workout has also gone for a toss. Revisiting Point 1 – be realistic.
3. Personal Trainer and Workout Plan: Many people – including some of my closest friends – feel it’s not worth paying extra for a personal trainer. I can’t deny this fact – the professional gyms already charge high enough, spending almost the same additional amount for a trainer must have a good business justification.
One of my managers once gave an interesting analogy. While others in our team were like regular gym instructors, my role of a specialist was similar to that of a personal trainer. More qualified, experienced and groomed for the very requirement of my role and that of the client. Can't this analogy be used the other way round? If you feel the personal trainers are no better than what you or your close friends already know, you’re terribly mistaken. They’re qualified, trained and expert in ‘helping us’ exercise to get the best and possibly the fastest results - most importantly, without getting hurt.
If you can financially afford to hire one, I’d strongly recommend you to have a personal trainer. They’ll help you set some achievable targets to start with, and then assist you actually achieve them. If you can’t afford one, I’d suggest you find a way to save some more money or simply earn more – just for this. Keeping your body fit and healthy isn’t optional, just like breathing, eating or sleeping isn’t.
You can also consider involving the personal trainer right from the day one. Ask her/him to help you design a workout plan that suits you. Usually, they’re considerate enough to address the fact that you aren’t the most regular types. Still, explicitly express your limitations and make sure your workout plan covers them. My suggestion, include more cardiovascular exercises in your plan. They’re easy to get used to and that will help you adopt the whole workout regime in general.
You can optionally take up swimming in place of cardiovascular exercises. You can also consider daily swimming replacing the whole workout idea. However, my concern is the time and preparation needed before and after swimming. Most of the times, it takes same or more time than the actual swimming. I find it very redundant and there’s no way you can cut down on this additional time needed. Anyway. Your call.
Nutritionist consultation also comes free with most packages in gyms these days. Free or not, you should consult a professional nutritionist at least once to understand what you need to start eating and (more importantly) what you need to stop eating, drinking or consuming (junk food, cold beverages, etc.).
4. Timing and Duration: Most of us have long workdays taking up 9-10 hours at work, 1 or more hours for commuting and tons of other personal/social commitments to cater to. And as of now, there are only 24 hours in a day! We’re talking about taking time out of the same routine and accommodating an entirely additional task. Worse, this activity involves physical effort and may add to the already-piled fatigue (initially).
So how can one do it? Most importantly, you have to be convinced that this is something you must do – for yourself, for a better today and a healthier tomorrow. It won’t take much to figure out where you’ve spent extra time and which particular daily activity you can do differently to save an hour a day. YES. An hour a day – that’s the maximum I’d give to work out. Upper limit.
A workout of 30-45 minutes a day should be good enough to keep you fit. You may add some more time, eventually, but not to start with – no way. It’s important that you aren’t exhausted after the workout. You can save some time by not changing, bathe, etc. at the gym. Dress at home, go/walk to the gym, put your gym shoes on, exercise, change the shoes back, come home, take a shower and get back to routine. With your house less than 5 minutes away (Point 1) this should be quite doable. Trust me, this whole carrying a big gym bag and doing all these other-than-workout things simply stretches your workout window. It may also break your rhythm at some point.
At least 3 days and maximum 6 days a week is what we’re looking forward to. You be the judge. I’d suggest you work out on at least on one of the weekend days, just to make sure your body doesn’t get too stiff to go back to the gym during the weekdays. We all know it – this does happen. Every time.
You can possibly find some additional motivation apart from your very goal to keep you boosted to go the gym, that too at a fixed time. It can be anything – like some pretty girl you may find in that specific batch/timing. It helps. For me, I wanted to earn some foursquare badges. Having a friend to accompany you may help initially, but you certainly can’t count on that.
5. Family/Friends' Involvement: Last and certainly not the least, involve your family members and close friends. Tell them about your whole plan – the goal, the deadline and how/why it’s so important to you. Tell them about your limitations and how you’ve always started with great zeal and then struggled to stick to it. If you already had strong determination, you never needed to read an article like this.
You need someone to keep you going. And if you’re like me, you’d only listen to people close to you. Keep them prepared that you’ll most definitely fall off the wagon at some stage and it’s their lookout to get you back on track.
You can use technology to make things better. Track your progress. There are tons of web-based tools and mobile apps to input your daily workout activities and track the progress in a graphical manner. I have used Health Month and Runkeeper. There are at least a million others. What is important is to know where it’s going. Equally important – keep your family and friends informed. They’re an important part of the game!
(6. Bonus Point) 45-60 Minutes of Disconnection: Use these few minutes of the day as a recess – to disconnect from all the worldly attractions, obligations and liabilities. Let the workout time be all about you. Leave the mobile at home. Assuming the gym would be close to your house (Point 2), you should never be too far in case of an emergency. For gadget and social media addicts, this may not be easy. You may need to fight the withdrawal symptom initially. But we are fighting a way bigger battle here. Mobile at the gym – a big NO.
Whether you read the entire 1700 word article or only the bullet text, I hope you agree with these points. All (not just any) of these points, when put together, can add fitness to what you already have. You probably knew it already. I did.
Why can't I cross that 1-month mark then?
Image Source: healthmeup.com