1. Find a reason
A reason that isn’t just “being thin”. Not that there’s anything wrong with losing weight if you feel your health and wellbeing is negatively affected by your current weight, but a lot of people make the mistake of deciding they’ll lose some arbitary amount of weight and then find that when (if) they reach that magic number that it’s not actually all it’s cracked up to be. Being skinny isn’t a cure-all.
When I first started running and weightlifting, my reason was to be physically fit and strong when mentally I was anything but. Physical strength was my way of keeping my body alive. (Mental wellness was a surprisingly addictive side effect.) Finding a reason kept me going even on days where I struggled to get out of bed, and always gave me something to fall back on when I hit rock bottom.
Your reason doesn’t have to be quite this ‘deep’, but having that “something” will give you motivation & purpose.
2. Find a sport
A lot of people use running as the go-to sport of choice when they first start. Running is awesome – and good for you – but not everyone likes running. Forcing yourself to run even if you despise it won’t help you stick with it long term. There are literally thousands of sports and activities you can try: you don’t have to run unless you want to.
Martial arts can be a great cardio workout, and post-grading selfies are not compulsory.
With that said, I would recommend sticking out whatever you choose for at least 3-4 weeks. If you’re currently leading a sedentary lifestyle, most things are going to suck in the beginning while your body adjusts and you find your pace. Don’t write something off after a few days because you’ve got a few aches or you’re not immediately running like Mo Farah.
3. Find a buddy
Find a friend who doesn’t care when you go “gym wanker” on them.
That time my instabuddies made me go to the gym
Find someone who you can either work out with if you can, but mostly find someone who will keep you accountable. Someone who will check in on you to find out how your progress is going, and who will not tune out when you rant that you have a blister on your big toe or you’ve hit a plateau under the bar. The key is to find someone who makes you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile, so that when the initial novelty wears off and your willpower is wearing thin (because willpower alone won’t make this stick) you don’t just give up.
This doesn’t even have to be someone offline; every sport I’ve ever been involved with has a massive online community of passionate folk who will have your back when you need it. I personally track a lot of my workouts via dodgy selfies on instagram, and love the feedback I get from fellow gym-goers.
4. Find a goal
When you have your reasons for working out, for running, for dancing, for zumba, for whatever it is you decide to call “your” sport, then you can set yourself a goal.
Real, tangible goals give you something to work towards. It could be something as simple as run 5km without stopping, or as lofty as getting yourself marathon ready. Set a specific goal, and even break it down into milestones if you can, and you have something long term to aim for that not only stops you flailing about aimlessly achieving nothing, but also provides motivation and allows you to track actual measurable progress.
In addition to the benefits of actually setting the goal, meeting a goal gives you an excuse to treat yourself. For some people, meeting a goal is its own reward, but if you’re a little more materially minded you might want to consider putting your sights on something physical: new running trainers if you run a 10km, a new fitness tracker if you manage to do a half marathon, or even something completely random… whatever floats your particular boat.
5. Find inspiration
One of the ways I stay dedicated to a particular goal, particularly in months where I feel like my progress is stalling or I’m just not quite good enough (and that will happen), is to follow athletes who participate in similar sports on instagram. When I wanted to get past my 60kg squat plateau I watched videos of crossfitters and weightlifters squatting massive weights and breaking world records. I squatted 100kg this Christmas.
“Off my tits on dopamine post-100kg squat high” selfie
You don’t have to be on instagram to get inspired. Most professional and semi-professional sports persons have facebook pages, twitter profiles etc. Find someone who’s doing it like you want to and follow them for that dose of “fitspo”.
(Word of warning: don’t get sucked into the rabbit hole that is “thinspiration“. It’s dangerous.)
6. Find a routine
When the novelty of a lifestyle change is wearing thin and it’s cold and wet outside and your well of motivation has run dry, there’s only one thing that’s going to make you get out of bed and hit the tarmac or drag your butt to the gym: by making your new sport a continuous part of your routine, or more simply, by making it a habit.
There’s tons of small snippets of advice on how to build good, strong habits online so I won’t repeat it all, but for me the basics are as follows:
- Plan ahead to when your best time of day is, and fit your sport in then. For me this is directly after the school run on a Monday and Friday, before I even touch my laptop or look at what chores need doing.
- Make it easy to do by prepping anything you need in advance. I always lay out my workout clothes the night before, and I always wear them on the school run so that I can head straight out.
- Don’t make poor excuses to miss out early on. If it’s a bit cold out, put a coat on. If you’ve got a bit of a sniffle, take a tissue. If you’re tired, suck it up, you might end up with a much needed boost.
- If you have to skip a session, never skip it twice. It’s just a downward spiral from there.
There’s lots of science behind habit building and I recommend having a bit of a google to find out more.
7. Find yourself
Cheesy? Probably. However, the times in my life I have been most consistent with my exercise and most dedicated to my current goal are the times I feel the best me that I can be.
Exercise has massive positive benefits on many aspects of your wellbeing and I’m my own living proof of that. Nothing feels as good to me as physical and mental wellness and that’s a privilege I do not take for granted, so I owe it to myself to keep going.