A Beginners Guide to Loving Fitness

Getting into fitness can be really damn hard. Especially for my fellow shy and self-conscious girls out there. It can feel like a battle of willpower you’re never going to win. I’ve been there. I feel you. I had trouble sticking to a routine for more than a couple of weeks. When it came to the gym, I was intimidated by all the ‘perfect’ fit people. I didn’t want to be seen incompetently fiddling with equipment or completely butchering the execution of an exercise, on top of sweating and puffing and looking generally out of shape. I paid for gym memberships but left them untouched. I personally found the idea of going for a run embarrassing because I didn’t want to be seen looking like I was dying by anyone I might pass. But after much trial and error, about two years ago, I stumbled onto a path that began my fitness journey. Behold: the internet. So much information, so much misinformation, but some absolute gold if you find yourself in the right place. If you relate to any of what I’ve said so far, then this should appeal to you. Working out in the comfort of your own home, courtesy of YouTube, no equipment necessary.

Looking back, I think that pairing working out with an activity I already loved was the turning point for me changing the way I felt about exercise, it no longer felt to me like a necessary evil. Being able to work out in my own home also had the benefits of being completely free, super accessible, and entirely removed self-consciousness from the equation. YouTube workouts offer what is effectively a not-so-personal Personal Trainer, the videos guide you through a workout, explain correct form, and offer motivation, and if you’re not feeling it, you can find a new one in a click. Using YouTube makes working out so simple there’s really no excuse.

If you’re a beginner, then cardio is the opposite of fun. Bedroom-dancing, on the other hand, = much fun. You can get your sweat on dropping it low if that’s what you’re into. I personally loved The Fitness Marshall. His channel features popular songs with fun hip-hop routines along with hilarious and motivating commentary. I was surprised by how effective these videos were, I’d be puffing and sweating in my living room, but for the first time, I was actually loving it.

Dancing had made working out fun, and it got to the point where getting physically active made me feel really good, and I sought something more to get that feeling. I phased my dance-cardio to a warm-up, or half my workout, and introduced some bodyweight workouts that I found. At one point I had over 30 tabs open on my computer for all the videos I used. I found that for bodyweight workouts with no equipment, pilates was my favourite. I loved that small movements that looked so simple could burn so much (in a good way).For this, my favourite channels were Fitness Blender and Blogilates. I worked my way up from beginner to advanced levels, being able to complete moves that I couldn’t a week ago gave me a rush of motivation. I started to get a kick out of seeing what my body could do.

At this point, I was loving my workouts. They became ‘me time’, and I made them a priority. I no longer needed to have my cardio disguised by fun dance routines, I craved results and the satisfaction of feeling that my physical limits had been pushed and loved how after a workout my body felt tired and my mind felt wired. I discovered High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), an effective cardio workout style I could still do at home, which boasted efficient fat-loss, boosted metabolism, muscle maintenance, and improved cardiovascular endurance. I had put on 5kgs during my first year at university, (thank you to binge drinking, pizza, and Kit-Kats) which I had been struggling to get rid of. Once I incorporated HIIT into my workouts is when the biggest changes in my body started to happen. For these workouts, I used Fitness Blender. Their channel offered a huge variety of videos for this. I also discovered The Body Coach who offered awesomely grueling do-anywhere HIIT. Both channels offer videos for all abilities that allowed me to work my way up, which while obviously being good fitness-wise, also gave me a goal to reach for.

From that point, I was seeing results in the mirror and loving feeling my strength and fitness increase. I wanted to get stronger still. I got dumbbells to use but soon discovered that to keep up with what my body needed to continue to improve, I’d need to keep buying more and more to up the intensity. Joining the gym was finally a feasible option for me that would allow me to continue to grow. I was motivated, excited, and confident in what my body could do. I still am two years on.

Everybody’s Fitness Journey is unique, and none is superior to another. Don’t let workouts you hate make you hate working out. If you are struggling to find love for fitness, try a different approach. Whether its dance-cardio in your bedroom for fun, a sport that riles up your competitive side, scenic hikes because nature invigorates you, or martial arts that make you feel bad-ass, whatever works for you. It may just take trying something new.

Green Exercise

Low mood, high stress, low self-esteem. All bad for your wellbeing, and all unfortunately very common.

Succumbing to the pressure to conform when social media faces you with swathes of what it likes to think are ‘perfect people’ is easy. It is common to get sucked into trying to attain that ideal image and seeing yourself as less-than. Although it’s a positive and healthy change that ‘strong is sexy’ is in vogue for women’s bodies over the extreme thinness that was once strived for, feeling pressure to look a certain type of way is never healthy (for women or men). Feeling negatively about the way your body looks can be detrimental to your self-esteem. Working out is supposed to be rewarding, not a punishment, and you should be loving, not hating, your body at all stages of your fitness journey.

Feeling down and stressed can stem from many unavoidable aspects of life. Whether it be school, work, or relationship dramas, life doesn’t always go smoothly. Unfortunately for many, low mood and high stress can stick around longer than it should or feel to be permanent. Whatever the case is, there are things you can do to combat these feelings.

Working out, in general, makes you feel good (thank you, endorphins), and is obviously good for your health. A lot of us also spend the majority of our time cooped up indoors, and surrounded by an urban landscape, and then go to the gym to workout indoors as well. While this is still going to help you physically and mentally, there is more you can do to keep your body and mind in top shape.

Studies into ‘Green Exercise’ are showing that moving your workout into a natural environment can do more to relieve stress, improve mood, and boost self-esteem. Even a short period of exercise in a natural environment has a substantial effect. Whats more, the improvement in self-esteem was found to be even greater for those suffering from mental illness.

For those of you who turn to the gym to lift and run away from a negative body image, who could use a pick-me-up, or just generally want to reap the benefits, consider changing it up and take your dose of exercise somewhere beautiful outdoors. A workout away from the gym won’t ruin your gains, I promise.

 

 

References:

1. Mackay, G. J., & Neill, J. T. (2010). The effect of “green exercise” on state anxiety and the role of exercise duration, intensity, and greenness: A quasi-experimental study. Psychology of sport and exercise, 11(3), 238-245.

2. Gladwell, V. F., Brown, D. K., Wood, C., Sandercock, G. R., & Barton, J. L. (2013). The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extreme physiology & medicine, 2(1), 3.

3. Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental science & technology, 44(10), 3947-3955.