Surely I’m not the only one who’s not all that enthused about going to the gym and exercising? Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of exercising, but not so much the reality.
Since graduating from high school, my direction and goals in life have changed significantly. Compared to school where I did up to 18 hours of dancing and cheerleading a week for 10 years, I do maybe one eighth of that these days. After multiple injuries and many consultations with my physiotherapist, I learnt that strenuous and vigorous exercise for my health was not going to help my body in the long term. So naturally I took this as a sign to ‘cut back’. Once I eventually stopped dancing in my 2nd year out of school, I was adamant about getting a gym membership and creating a weekly exercise schedule for myself to ensure I didn’t lose my muscle and stayed fit…but I found it hard to adapt to exercising by myself, when, for my entire life I’d worked in a team.
As we become older (and questionably wiser), we’re forced to make ‘adult’ decisions and make sacrifices for prospects of a better future. Taking care of our mental and physical health are often our excuses to avoid making those difficult decisions. However, when it comes to exercise, Dr Sherry Pagoto has identified, potentially, the key reason why today’s society avoids exercising.
Dr Patogo has simply narrowed it down to discomfort. Yes, that’s right, discomfort is a large reason why today’s population avoids getting active or going to the gym.
Worried about what people are thinking of you and feel awkward at the gym, because you have no idea what you’re doing? Well you’re not alone. Gymtimidation is a real thing. Part of the ‘discomfort’ we have about exercising and going to the gym can actually be intimidation and I definitely know how that feels. Picture this: a prancy, energetic dancer walking into a gym of muscle heads, pepped-up and ready to make some friends, only to make friends with the cardio equipment. I was in a brand new environment, not knowing what to do and I definitely wasn’t about to embarrass myself by using the equipment incorrectly. But hey, at least I was at the gym…right?!
So what happens when you train? You (if you’ve worked hard enough) break a sweat, sometimes develop an odour and generally feel exhausted and gross once you’ve finished your session. Your endorphins are triggered, blocking any pain signals and produce a euphoric feeling, which will leave you feeling content and satisfied with what you’ve done. However, I guarantee you will feel the pain either the next day or the following day (also known as ‘second day recovery’), so don’t forget to warm down to avoid injury.
This inevitable discomfort, however, is apparently the reason why people avoid getting fit…but why? Yet, this ‘discomfort’ ranges from a variety of excuses, from hating being sweaty, to having sore muscles, to being out of breath, to something as superficial as not wanting to mess our hair up… the list goes on. But without these things, you won’t be as healthy as you could potentially be, so is that not a good enough reason to get up and get out? It’s important to remember that everyone goes to the gym with different goals. If you’re struggling to start, just remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s ok to ask for help (which I now regret I never did).
Have you ever heard yourself saying, “I’m too tired”, “I’m too busy”, “I’m sick” or “it’s too expensive”, when thinking about doing exercise. I have certainly said all of those things. We live in a society of making excuses and avoiding the inevitable. There’s no doubt that we would all love to be fit and healthy, but without making the necessary changes that will never happen, you have to set clear and achievable goals for yourself. Now, when I say fit and healthy, I don’t mean you have to be drinking green smoothies everyday and be a size 6. Being fit and healthy is having a well balanced, proportioned diet and doing regular exercise – that could be anything from dancing, swimming, boxing, hiking, boot camp or circuit training or Zumba. Whatever you like!
We all know that health professionals and the Australian Government recommend adults aged between 18-64 should be doing a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. But who really has 30 minutes a day, to dedicate to exercise? There’s a little thing I like to call work and a social life! However, your 30 minutes can be an accumulation of minutes throughout your day, or a straight 30 minute exercise session. The strong relationship between physical exercise and a decrease in multiple serious health conditions should be obvious motivation for all people to exercise. These conditions include: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, some cancers, and musculoskeletal disorders. Treatment for these major conditions starts with an exercise regime and prioritising lifestyle changes. For cancer patients, the combination of traditional treatment and exercise is now known to be beneficial for all, going through treatment.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete, the combination of eating healthily and regularly exercising can immediately improve your physical and mental health. Proven to enhance your quality of life, exercise can simply boost your happiness and increase your energy levels, by decreasing any feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.It also, and most obviously, can kick-start your weight loss by increasing your metabolic rate and burning more calories. This you to keep the weight off. In addition, but commonly forgotten, regular exercise improves sleeping patterns as the trigger of exercise increases the body temperature and the post-exercise temperature drop allows your body to fall asleep quicker.
For a lot of people, the initial excitement of joining the gym can quickly disappear. However, there are alternatives if you feel like going to the gym is too intimidating and a waste of money. Just remember, you don’t need gym equipment to work out. The list of helpful links and videos that you can access in your lounge room or backyard is endless.
Fitness icons like Kayla Itsines and Sam Wood have created programs, like ‘BBG’ and ‘28’, for every type of person wanting to exercise at different level whether a beginner or experienced athlete. Along with these fitness routines, instructional videos and meal plans accompany the programs continually encouraging the user.
For beginners it can be tricky finding a routine that suits you. Now, I’m no expert but I’m definitely not a beginner when it comes to working out. So here is a little advice for those of you who don’t know where to start. Before getting started with your exercise routine, start with your stretches. It’s really important that you warm up your muscles before, and warm down your muscles after your workout to avoid any injuries and get your body ready to burn a few calories. Get your music pumping and start off by simply jumping on the spot, then move into some jumping jacks (star jumps). After this move into your side-to-side jumps, and finish off with your high knees (table-top knees), then repeat. These quick cardio warm ups will stimulate your muscles and promote the blood flow to your body. Have a quick sip of water and then find yourself a soft surface to sit down and start your floor stretches. This will include hamstrings stretches, with both legs then individually on each side, butterfly or frog stretch (stretching your hip flexors and helping with hip flexibility), next, move into a pike position stretch.
Once you’re feeling warm, it’s time to get started with your workout – you could be going for a long walk and light jog cardio combination, a core and upper-body workout or legs and lower body routine (don’t skip leg day…ever!), remembering that you don’t necessarily need gym equipment to do these workout sessions.
If you persevere through the discomfort of exercising and overcome your fear of the gym, your life expectancy can increase by as much as 4.5 years. Although exercise takes time out of day and often money out of pockets, mix up your routine a little and constantly try something new, I guarantee it won’t feel like a chore. If you’re getting bored, ask a friend to come along to a class or go on a long walk or hike with you, the opportunities are endless.
So, have fun and….