It seemed appropriate to write about this post about how exercise is hard now for a few of reasons:
- I always struggle in December, January, and February with the dark mornings
- I’ve just started a new training plan
- I’ve been training properly now for 18 months (and did train somewhat haphazardly for a year before that)
I’ve had some lovely compliments this year on my progress; physically and achievements. But it occurred to me that people rarely see the whole picture. The effort and focus that those of us training consistently have to exercise. That it doesn’t necessarily come easily. That exercise is hard sometimes. I touched on this in my post about my coach Anna in Hamburg, with her training around running a training centre. I wanted to expand on it for those other desk jockeys like me who need to manage training and competitions around work and life, especially with the festive season coming up.
I struggle getting up in the dark. This makes December, January, and to an extent February quite hard. The cold weather doesn’t help either! This is not SAD (link), but more basic; I’m warm and settled in bed, often tired from training as well as work (an issue all year round), and getting up and moving will require me to face the cold and dark. I’m more than happy to get home on a dark evening and snuggle indoors with the husband and kitties. Even better, they like snuggling more when it’s cooler 🙂
So to counter this I need…
I think to succeed it is important to have intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic can work for short periods of time, but often people reach their initial goal and then relapse. Or don’t even get there as they really aren’t that bothered about getting there.
I know I focus better when I have a training plan. This means that I’ve even written myself some plans when I’ve had gaps in Kettlebell Sport plans. Having the plan provides me with something to work against and something to motivate me when I’m not feeling it. A diary entry if you like. You’d keep a lunch date with a friend, or make sure to attend a work meeting, even if you were feeling a bit tired. Why should training be any different? It also becomes much more of a habit. Tuesday morning I must get up earlier and head to training before work for example! And yes I do enter it in my calendar, get alerts about the sessions, etc.
Those who are completionists can also then look to tick off a session, a week, etc.
Motivation can also be enhanced by…
Because of the dark mornings, and the tiredness that does mount over time during a proper training cycle I look to add accountability into the equation. Some of this is at home; getting my husband to chivvy me on to do a session if I’ve said I need to one. Some of it is internal. “If you do this session you will feel better for it than not.” “You can treat yourself to a new workout t-shirt”. I also look to do some training at BBF. Not only does this give me a chance to catch up with my coach outside of the Kettlebell Sport class, but makes me turn up having said I would. Once I am there I might as well get on with the training! Of course, there is access to some equipment I don’t have at home such as cable exercises. But the accountability is the important thing.
One thing I do not promise myself is a food related treat. It’s a habit I’m trying to break. It’s something that seems ingrained in Western lives since childhood. Behave and you can have chocolate etc. Had a bad week? Never mind, drown your sorrows. As much as I enjoy chocolate (Cadbury’s since you ask 😉 ) and alcohol (many and varied; single malt, gin, rum, and tequila included) having those just because I’ve done a workout is ultimately counter-productive. I plan my lifestyle around having those because I want to kick back and chill with friends and family and adjust my macros accordingly. I prefer to work on other reward systems.
A simple one is even giving myself permission to do something I think I should leave for now, such as reading a novel. Something that is usually in short supply is time…
Time makes exercise hard sometimes. It can be harder for those of us who have work obligations outside of the fitness industry to fit training into slots when you are in a position to access the necessary equipment. It’s also hard at certain times of the year for everyone; Christmas festivities, family and work catch-ups, etc. impact everyone. I know this month is mad for me with training, social events, snowboard lessons, oh, and work!
One solution is being prepared to juggle training sessions, but within the context of the whole plan. Even if it is not an optimal plan, it’s better than not doing it (on the whole – please avoid injury though!). It can also be aided by the support of friends and family who appreciate you need to squeeze in a few sets here and there. Don’t ever underestimate your support network, and to help them in ways they need in return!
Time pressures can also be mitigated by focusing on what the desired outcome in any training session, and then getting on with it. Focus is important…
As an added motivation, the why is important. It provides short and long-term focus and motivation. Focus on what is important to achieve the why, and it becomes easier to do the training.
It is also important to realise that motivation does ebb and flow, depending on many factors. Tiredness, progress in training, outside stresses, post competition come down, and many more. Focusing on the longer term can help to pull you through that. Formulate your goals to help you progress beyond the next training session or competition. Being healthy and active for the rest of your life is a commitment as much as trying to lift the most or run the fastest. Working towards the longer term goals means short-term ones will take care of themselves. I want to get CMS, and I knew I had to progress through the 16kg bell, and achieve a certain number of reps to get there. So that was a shorter term goal. Build endurance and skill with the lighter weight before stepping up.
Focus can help within a training plan too. Record reps, weights, comments on how a session went, etc. This allows you to keep an eye on progress and deal with anything that isn’t going well (or is too easy) so you do actually progress by the end of it. Also be realistic. If continuing means injury, recalculate goals and/or timeframes and re-plan. I’ve certainly been there!
Focus also applies to nutrition, as exercise is only a small part of the health equation…
Nutrition is important during training, even when burning more calories. You need to provide your body with fuel to train. That isn’t to say that you can’t train in a calorific deficit when trying to lower body fat. It just makes it even more unimportant that you are conscious of what you are eating and that the food choices you make support your goals.
By all means have a night out, but expect it to hinder training and recovery for a few days afterwards, any hangover aside. That’s a choice you’ve made and that’s fine. But also don’t use this as an excuse to fall off the training and nutrition waggon. Be nice to yourself, and also be realistic. Who doesn’t want to kick back every so often? So long as you are not close to an important competition or trying to diet down to extreme body fat levels, remember to live as well as train. It makes it all much more achievable 🙂
Good nutrition is a lifelong thing. It’s not a diet you do for a few weeks (or months if you are more disciplined than many) then revert to what you ate before. At least it isn’t if you want long-term results. It needs to become automatic, and a way you can live your life. It needs to be a habit…
Habit is related, at least initially, to discipline. If you need to decide to do something it requires cognitive function. Something that is much harder first thing on a cold morning, or after a hard day at the office. You can overcome this with discipline (to decide to train regardless), but many of us cannot carry that on for very long.
This is why training and eating sensibly need to develop into habits to make it easy to carry on with them. They become the lifestyle. And also why the longer term approach is better. The more you are able to repeat things you enjoy (or at least tolerate willingly 😉 ), the more they become habit and you do them without thinking. And you miss them when you are not able to do them. Habits require a lot less cognitive effort.
Use discipline and willpower in the shorter term to achieve lifelong habits.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. It covers how I now approach things after living my journey for an appreciable amount of time. After being honest with myself about how I tick, and how to get myself to achieve the things I want to.
I’ve had lapses of focus and motivation, but these tricks help me get back on track as well as keep me on track. Don’t get down about missing a session here or there. Long term it’s just a drop in the ocean.
And whilst you are dealing with the fact that exercise is hard, you are already getting a healthier body than those who don’t even try 🙂