How much physical activity do you get in a day and how do you feel about it? I am just getting back on my exercise routine after being sidelined by eczema for two months – two whole months of eating a cold salad of steroids, antibiotics, and antihistamines every day!
I really enjoy exercising. In fact, three years ago, I trained with the force of my entire life, until I was forced out of it when I tore my MCL before my first pro muay thai fight in Phuket.
After my extended rest, now I have started to pick it up again with equal parts enthusiasm and humility. The first day back, I thought I would die. Only joking, I really died. For anyone out there who is thinking about exercising or starting again, I would like to share these tips below to finally convince yourself to get on with it. You will never regret it. Let us do this together!
1. It is more mental than physical. The hardest part of exercising is getting started. Once you are on the mat or in the gym, you will find that you can go on forever. Your body is capable of so much – it is just the mind that needs convincing. Tell yourself that you want to exercise, that you choose to do it, and commit to it every day. Challenge yourself to be true to your word.
2. Find a purpose. Why do you want to exercise? The next time you are looking at your exercise equipment, ask yourself: “Do I want to be healthier?” “Do I want to lose weight?” Do I want to clear my head?” “Do I want to look better?” If the answer is yes to any of these, you know what to do! Often, it is easy to say no to exercise, but when you remind yourself of what it represents, the motivation returns.
3. Show some curiosity. How far can your body take you? How strong can you be? Can you be faster, slimmer, lighter, healthier, more flexible? I have done so many things I thought were impossible for me. But instead of saying “I cannot do it“, I wondered if I could, and gave it a try!
4. Choose an exercise that you like. If you asked me to go running, I will never exercise. I just don’t like it. I will do HIIT, muay thai, dragon boat paddling, and yoga any day. In fact, I did it all in one day, every day, when I lived in Boracay and met Markus three years ago.
The point is not just to exercise but to connect with it. You will do the activity more if you enjoy it. It does not mean that one exercise is better than the other, just that we have different preferences and must choose what works for us.
5. Put the time in perspective. A 10-minute abs exercise takes only 10 minutes of your life. You probably spend a longer time sat on the toilet staring at your phone. Even better, just focus on the first 30 seconds of exercise in front of you and keep going until you are done. Is it worth it to only do a 10-minute routine? Get on a plank position, stay there for 60 seconds, and tell me what you think.
6. Focus on quality of movement. One pull-up done using the correct muscles is infinitely better for the body than 10 poor ones. Sure, you may feel bad because the YouTuber you are following makes 35 reps look so easy, but this person has been doing this for five years non-stop and you are a beginner. There is no comparison. Slow and controlled is the best way to go.
7. Modify the exercises. What is stopping you from doing a push-up on your knees or bending your legs in downward dog to lengthen your back? These modifications are important to allow your body to use the right muscles. It looks different but the internal action is the same. Also, modifying now will give you the foundation to do the full expression of the pose or exercise eventually.
8. Meet your body where it is at. If you have not exercised in a while, low impact exercises are your best start, as well as simple exercises. You are likely to perform the movements with integrity and still give your muscles serious work. These kinds of exercises have the added benefit of helping you stay consistent because you do not need four days of recovery. Remember that building strength, flexibility, endurance, and cardio takes time. Never underestimate simple exercises. If you force your body, you will end up with an injury or rage quit due to frustration.
9. Take as many pauses as you want. Yes, there is an optimum time in between exercises, but you need to build endurance to achieve this. At the start, go ahead and take as many pauses as you need to finish your exercise routine. Who cares if the 10-minute exercise becomes 20 minutes? What matters is you completed it. The more you exercise, the shorter the breaks that you will need.
10. Get on with it as early as possible. As the day goes, the pile of excuses grows larger. Maybe you just ate and are still digesting, maybe you need to pick up the groceries, maybe you got swallowed by social media – suddenly, there is no time. But if you exercise first thing in the morning or as early as possible, you make sure that it happens that day.
11. Get your friends on board. When I finished my yoga teacher training course, I wanted to practice yoga with everyone – it is just more fun! Depending on how you feel, you can ask your friends or siblings to exercise with you, maybe at the same time or simply to do the same routine and exchange thoughts after. Mutual support helps a lot and you are accountable for each other’s progress. Also, you will look killer together when the results of your exercising finally show up!
12. Eat better, not less. Unfortunately, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. The good news is you only need to eat better, not less. I focus on eating whole food with plenty of fiber. They lasts longer on the belly and I am fuller longer. Of course, I still eat dessert but I am mindful of my daily consumption in general. Some days I win, on others I renew my commitment to do better!
13. Dedicate time for rest. Rest days are just as important as active days. You want to give your body the space to recover and consolidate gains. I find that I am more eager to work out after a good rest. It is refreshing and the easiest cure for burnout.
14. Expect that it will be hard. You have to be ready to put in the work – that is why it is called working out! Take the ego out of it, listen to your body, challenge yourself, and stay consistent. Some days will be harder than others, but always choose to show up.
You get more out of these days because you overcame mental blocks. When I feel weak, I still show up because I am curious if my body will perform – it always does – and I am grateful that I decided to keep going. As mentioned in the beginning, it is a mental practice, but once we convince ourselves to exercise, it is always worth it.