Have you heard the term functional fitness? It’s a general term for training your body for everyday situations. Conventional weight training isolates muscle groups to strengthen them one at a time. In functional fitness, the movements are meant to teach the muscles to work together and mimic movements you do in regular life. For example, a deadlift is a functional exercise that can help you so when in a situation like needing to lift a heavy box you can do it without an injury. Functional exercises can increase your strength, mobility, stamina, and stability.
Most of the movements considered functional training exercises are compound movements which means you bend at multiple joints and use multiple muscle groups while performing the move. Our bodies are designed to move in multiple ways. We’re made to push forward, pull back, hinge at the hips and bend at the knees among other movement patterns. When you move throughout the day, you rarely use just one joint or one muscle to accomplish a movement. Your body functions as a single unit in this type of training, just like most normal activities. Because you are using several muscle groups at once in functional training, coordination and neuromuscular control is also improved.
Functional training, like other forms of exercise, burns calories and so with proper nutrition can also create weight loss. When performing the compound movements that are part of this type of training, your body recruits more muscle fibers which builds more lean muscle and burns more calories during the workout and after.
Functional Training is for (not a complete list!):
- Carrying groceries
- Picking up children
- Lifting Packages
- Placing your carry-on luggage in an overhead bin on a plane.
- Moving furniture
A bodybuilder, or anyone focusing on building muscle size, will most likely do traditional strength training that focuses on one muscle group at a time. For example, they may break their workout routine into a split training schedule where they target specific muscles during their workout, back and biceps on one day, then the next day glutes and hamstrings, etc. In functional training, each workout typically works your entire body. Because it is a full body workout, it is best do perform these workouts on non-consecutive days, so your muscles have time to rest and recover before working again. There is a time and place for all kinds of training. Functional training is a good choice if you are looking to develop all around fitness and to help your everyday life feel easier.
Benefits of Functional Fitness
- Daily tasks feel easier!
- Reduced risk of injury – Keeping up and improving your mobility and strength will help keep you from getting injured when performing daily tasks. Training your entire body will help alleviate any muscle imbalances which also lessens your risk for injury.
- Help maintain and preserve balance – Since most functional exercises utilize your core muscles, they will strengthen and improve your balance. Having good balance is important to prevent falls.
- Time-efficient – Since you are working multiple muscle groups at a time, your workouts can be shorter than working each muscle independently.
- Increased athletic performance – Athletes may improve their performance by completing appropriate functional exercises for their sport. For example, a basketball player might practice jumping side to side to improve their agility and mobility on the court.
Basic Functional Training Workout
Before any workout it’s a good idea to perform a dynamic warmup and stretch when you are finished. Perform ten repetitions (reps) of each of the following exercises and repeat 2 – 4 times.
Squats – Squats help many of our daily activities feel easier. For example, squats help build our strength for getting up out of a chair. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and toes pointed forward. Lower your body, bending at the knees and hips like you are sitting down into a chair. Watch that your knees don’t go too far past your toes. Keep your heels on the ground and chest lifted. Squeeze your glutes and return to standing.
Romanian Deadlift – Deadlifts help build strength for things like moving furniture, grabbing a bag of seed or dog food or lifting a box from the floor. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell or a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your back straight, hinge at your hips and sit your hips back. Keep the weight(s) close to your legs and lower until your back is parallel to the floor. Squeeze your glutes as you bring your hips forward and straighten your legs to stand up.
Overhead Press – An overhead press can help make placing a heavy pan on a tall shelf or performing the overhead press will not only increase your upper-body strength, but it will also strengthen your core, since you balance and stabilize yourself while standing and lifting. Stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and hold them above your shoulders with your palms facing forward and elbows perpendicular to the floor. Exhale and press the weights straight up above your head. Pause, then lower the weight back down to your shoulders.
Farmer’s Carry – Being able to lift and carry things is important in everyday life. A Farmer’s Carry can help you keep doing that safely. Hold dumbbells in your hands and walk with your arms straight down at your sides. This will strengthen your back, arms, shoulders, core and grip. LivRite Indy has a turf area that is the perfect length to do a Farmer’s Carry. Start at one end walk to the end, turn around and go back. That would be one rep.
One Arm Dumbbell Rows – Rows strengthen your back muscles which is important in many day-to-day activities. Stand to the right of a weight bench or sturdy chair, hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing in. Place your left knee and your left hand on top of the bench or chair for support. Let your right arm hand down and a bit forward. Ensure your back is naturally arched and your right knee is slightly bent. Pull your right arm up until your elbow is pointing to the ceiling, your upper arm is parallel to the floor, and your hand comes to the outside of the ribcage. Lower the weight slowly back down.
Step Ups – Being able to go up and down stairs is a necessity in our lives. Stepping up and down off a step or a box is a great exercise. If it is too easy, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
Ramp Walk or Run – LivRite Fishers has a great outdoor ramp that is perfect for many functional exercises. A simple (but highly effective) way to use it is to run or walk up and down the ramp. This is a great exercise to add to the workout if you are at the Fishers location.
Like with any workout routine, rest and recovery are essential in helping you see your desired results and warding off injury. Because functional training workouts are often full-body workouts, it’s a good idea to take a day off between training sessions. Strength training like this should be done at minimum two days per week. However, you can train this way up to four days a week if you have adequate rest in between sessions.
Functional training is a fantastic way to stay fit, healthy, and strong for everyday life!
But it isn’t the only way to workout. Any form of strength training can help you preserve and strengthen muscles and improve bone health. Functional exercises can be combined with other workout styles to fit a certain goal. If you feel functional fitness isn’t for you and you prefer the machines at the gym or if functional fitness won’t get you to your goals, that’s ok, find what you like to do to keep strength training in your life and stick with it.
Don’t hesitate to ask a LivRite trainer if you have any questions or would like a complimentary fitness assessment.
Exercises and Stretches to Help Alleviate and Prevent Lower Back and Hip Pain from Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome
In a survey conducted in 2019, 39% of adults in The United States stated they had experienced back pain in the past three months. There are many different types and causes of lower back pain. The National Institute of Health lists 20 potential causes of low back pain in five different categories. There are also many different risk factors for developing low back pain. Some genetic causes can’t be prevented but many risk factors, like fitness level and smoking, can be modified to decrease your risk of pain.
It isn’t always easy to determine what is causing your pain. For example, sometimes low back pain comes from the back, other times hip issues might be causing the back pain. Then in other instances your hip pain may be a result of something in your back. Numerous parts of the hip and back can be injured or wear out, and many issues in this area can display the exact same symptoms.
If your low back pain goes down into the back of your leg, it may be sciatica. According to the Mayo Clinic, “sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg”. Usually if you experience this pain, it will only affect one side of your body. The way sciatica pain feels can vary greatly. You might feel the pain all the way from your lower back to your thigh or even all the way down to your calf. The pain level varies, from mild to excruciating. Sometimes it can be an achy feeling or numbness or a tingling sensation and other times it can feel like a jolt or electric shock. Anything that causes inflammation or irritation of the sciatic nerve can cause sciatic pain. This could come from injuries or muscle spasms, a herniated disc, as well as pressure from bones in the region. Sciatic pain usually goes away on its own. Stretches, movement and strengthening the core muscles can help.
Very often, muscles in the hip that get tight or strained can cause compression on the sciatic nerve, which can lead to sciatica or a different type of low back pain. One muscle that can irritate the sciatic nerve is the piriformis muscle. The sciatic nerve runs right by the piriformis, either above it, under it or through it depending on your individual anatomy. The piriformis muscle connects the lowermost vertebrae with the upper part of the leg. Its job is to help externally rotate the hip when walking or running and to help abduct the thigh in a seated position. When the sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed by the piriformis muscle, it is called piriformis syndrome. Estimates suggest that about 5% of cases of sciatica are due to piriformis syndrome and experts think it is much more than that. Piriformis syndrome can have many symptoms that can mimic other common conditions which involve the low back, pelvis, hips, and legs. In general, piriformis syndrome symptoms may include acute tenderness in the buttocks, increased pain when sitting and sciatic-like pain down the back of the leg.
A few things to help prevent or lessen lower back or hip pain
Exercise regularly. To keep your back strong and pain free, pay special attention to your core muscles – the muscles that are essential for proper posture and alignment. Strong abdominal, gluteal, and hip muscles can keep you in proper alignment as well as take pressure off your low back and support your spine.
Have good posture and don’t sit too long. When seated, have good lower back support, keep your shoulders back and down, maintain the normal curve in your lower back and keep your knees and hips level. Try not to sit for long periods at a time. Take breaks and stand often (at least once every 30 minutes) to reduce tightness in your hip flexors and back.
Don’t smoke. Smoking reduces blood flow which can contribute to disc degeneration, and it increases the risk of osteoporosis.
Strengthening your core will help prevent many injuries, aches, and pains, including low back and hip pain. Your core consists of all the muscles that move, support, and stabilize your spine. This includes your abdominals, obliques, pelvic floor muscles, back muscles, and glutes. It also includes your hip muscles (including the piriformis muscle). The following exercises are just a few examples of ways to strengthen your core.
If you have an injury and/or pain in your back, talk to your healthcare provider or physical therapist about which exercises will best help you and how to do them correctly and safely.
Forearm Plank – Extend your body on the floor, face down with only your forearms and toes on the floor. Engage your abs, drawing your navel toward your spine. Your head is relaxed, in line with your spine and eyes should be looking at the floor. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders and forearms facing forward. Keep your torso straight and rigid, your body in a straight line from your ears to your heels with no sagging or bending. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Over time work up to 30, 45 or 60 seconds.
Side Plank – Lie on your right side with your legs straight and feet stacked on top of each other. Place your right elbow under your right shoulder with your forearm pointing away from you. Engage your abs, drawing your navel toward your spine and lift your hips off the floor so that you are supporting your weight on your elbow and the side of your foot. Your body should be in a straight line from your ankles to your head. Keep your hips stacked and facing forward. If this is too difficult, lower the knee of your bottom leg to the floor but keep your hips lifted and top leg straight. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Over time work up to 30, 45 or 60 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
Resistance Band or Cable Abduction -- Stand sideways near a door or cable tower. Secure elastic tubing or ankle cuff around the ankle. If using tubing, knot the other end of the tubing and close the knot in the door near the floor. Pull the tubing or cable out to the side, keeping your leg straight. Return to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 15 on each side. For more resistance, move farther away from the door or cable tower.
Hip Extension -- On all fours, bend your knee and lift your leg keeping your foot flexed, moving it skywards. Keep your navel pulled up toward your spine and glute squeezed. Come back to starting position with knees side by side. Do 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions on each side.
Clam Exercise -- Lie on your side with your hips and knees bent and feet together. Slowly raise your top leg toward the ceiling while keeping your hips stacked and heels touching each other. Hold for 2 seconds and lower slowly. Do 2 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
Gentle low back stretches can help reduce tension and pressure on the nerves in our back. Incorporating hamstring and glute stretches can also help ease sciatica and other types of pain. Stretching the piriformis can help alleviate pressure on the sciatic nerve as well as help to prevent pain caused by piriformis syndrome. These are just a few examples of stretches and they are best done when your muscles are warm. So, doing them after a workout or a quick walk is best. Hold each stretch for 15-45 seconds and repeat 2 -3 times.
Standing Hamstring Stretch – Stand up straight with one heel resting on a small stack of books or step. Reach your arms up and bend forward slightly from your hips until you feel a stretch in your hamstring (the back of your thigh). Switch legs and repeat with the other leg.
Seated Figure Four (Piriformis) Stretch -- Begin sitting upright in a chair. Cross one leg over the other so that your ankle is resting on top of your opposite thigh. Gently pull your bent knee across your body toward your opposite shoulder. You should feel a stretch through the back of your hip and buttocks. Try to not to arch your back or lean to one side as you stretch.
Lying Figure Four (Piriformis) Stretch -- Lie on your back, with your knees bent and feet lying flat on the floor. Place your ankle on your opposite knee. Grip your thigh and gently try to pull in towards your chest, till you feel a stretch in your buttock.
Please check with your physician with any chronic back pain issues before starting a new exercise routine. Some situations will require medical interventions and your doctor can help determine the root cause of your pain. Luckily most issues can be resolved through medications designed to relieve pain and inflammation along with lifestyle modifications including not smoking, eating healthfully, and exercising.
Topics: LivRite News
Did you make any resolutions this year? We are a few months into the new year and research shows that most people who made a New Year’s resolution have already abandoned their goal. Making lasting change is hard, so the fact that most resolutions don’t come to fruition is not a surprise. How can we make that resolution that we felt so strongly about on January first become a part of our lives? Breaking down our resolution into new habits might be the key. Motivation can be fleeting but habits are harder to break. Specifically talking about health and fitness, how do we create lasting good habits as part of a healthier lifestyle for good, not just the first two weeks of January?
There isn’t just one way to achieve your goals or create new habits. It may take some trial and error of what tactics work for you. That means it won’t be an easy road, or necessarily a straight road, to your goal or making those habits part of your lifestyle. There will be lots of detours and twists and turns, but if you keep moving ahead and trying new things to find what is best for you, you will get to your destination! Here are a few things to try to see if they will help you reach your goals, create new habits, and keep the results you want.
Reflect - Look back at why you made your resolution in the first place. Why did you want to achieve this goal? What would be the benefit? What is it that you are not happy with now that the resolution would change? If you resolved to start exercising and eating healthier, why did you want to make this change? Did you want to feel better and not lose your breath going up stairs? Did you want to reduce your blood pressure or A1C? Whatever your reason, does it still resonate with you? Dig down deep to find what you truly want out of your resolution. If it is still something you want to work on, reevaluate how you will achieve the goal.
Reevaluate - Maybe your resolution was too lofty or too vague. Now is a good time to change it or make it more specific or even dial it back if need be. For example, if the resolution was to exercise every day but you weren’t exercising at all before, that was probably too big of a goal to start. Working out two or three days a week might be a better starting place and easier to stick with.
There are many ways to exercise and there isn’t a right way for everyone since everyone is different. Maybe your exercise resolution isn’t sticking because it isn’t a good fit for you. Look at what you have tried and evaluate what didn’t work about it. For example, did you resolve to start working out each morning before work, but you aren’t a morning person, and your mornings are already hectic? Then maybe exercising in the evening would be a better time for you. Don’t be afraid to switch up your methods to get to the result you want if one way isn’t working.
Convenience – We are much more likely to do something if it is convenient. Having a hard time getting to the gym? Identify the problem. How could it be easier for you to keep up the habit of exercise? Is your gym too far away from your home or work? Maybe they have a different location. Is it too difficult to remember to take your gym bag with you when you go to work? Keep it packed with the necessities, put in clean gym clothes as soon as you take dirty clothes out of it and then immediately put it in your car, so your bag is in there for the next trip to the gym. By identifying the problem, you can determine a potential solution. Make it as easy as possible to do the thing you want to do instead of the thing you are trying not to do. It won’t always be completely convenient but making easier for you will make you more likely to stick with it.
Start with Small Habits to Build Bigger Lifestyle Changes – Small positive changes are better than no changes! Plus, they can serve as stepping-stones to safely progress to doing more. For example, if you are just starting or getting back to an exercise routine, committing to 10-minute workouts could be a great place to start. It might not sound like much at first, but research shows that every minute of exercise is beneficial, and it will probably eventually lead to more time exercising because it will help to establish your exercise habit. Overwhelmed with the thought of trying to eat healthier? Just cutting out one thing or cutting back on one thing is a great place to start. For example, if you are drinking pop (or soda), either eliminating it all together or cutting back on it can make a difference even without making any other changes to what you are consuming and will hopefully lead to more changes down the road.
Enlist Help – Accountability can be a big motivator for many to keep up good habits. As a personal trainer, I provide accountability for my training clients. They have a scheduled time to meet with me and I will keep in touch with them to ensure they are sticking to our workout plan even when they aren’t meeting with me. Just knowing that someone is counting on you to show up, and that they are there to encourage you, can be a big factor in keeping up with a desired habit. This doesn’t have to be a trainer it can be with a friend or family member that is doing the activity with you or someone who you check in with each day or weekly to report your actions that you planned to do.
Stack Your New Habit with An Existing Habit – Habit stacking or pairing the new activity you want to do with something you already have a habit of doing is a popular way to start a new habit. For example, say you want to start walking in the evening after work. If you are already in the habit of watching your favorite tv show or reading a book around that time, start doing that while you walk on the treadmill or walk outside and listen to a podcast or audio book. I’ve heard of people who love to watch reality shows but only do so if they are on the treadmill or on an exercise bike or elliptical. Or say you want to start taking vitamins every day but just can’t get into the routine. If you have a habit of drinking coffee in the morning, you might try to stack your desired vitamin habit with your existing coffee habit by placing your vitamins and a glass of water right next to your coffee pot and mug. The more you do the two things together, the more automatic it will become. The new habit is just an add on to something you already do anyway, and the existing habit will serve as a cue to do the new behavior you are trying to adopt.
Track Your Progress – The adage “you manage what you measure” rings true for many. Tracking your fitness can be a good way to stick with a healthier habit. Some might find it helpful to write in a journal after each workout about what they did and how they felt. Looking back at what you did and how it felt 6 weeks ago can help you see how far you have progressed and be a motivator to keep going. Keeping a calendar or using a don’t break the chain habit tracker can be motivating as well. Once you see your streak of keeping up your new habit, you won’t want to break it! Or if you prefer data, use a fitness tracker to track your workouts, steps, or other health related metrics. (Read more about this in my post about fitness trackers.).
Deciding on a goal or resolution is easy but achieving them is difficult. Give yourself grace when you slip up and go back to old habits. Understand that it is not all or nothing when it comes to health and fitness. Have strategies in mind to help get you back to the healthy habits you are striving to keep and reevaluate when things aren’t working. Create new habits to make lasting changes until what was once a resolution is now a habit for life!
When you tell a friend you are going to Barre, they might ask which one. Their response is usually a joke about you going to a bar…not a barre fitness class. This is barre with a -re, like a ballet barre. But this isn’t a ballet class either, no dance experience is required and there won’t be any actual dancing in most. So, what is a barre class like? It is a combination of ballet, yoga and Pilates inspired moves put together to create a total body and low impact workout that is appropriate for all fitness levels. The actual barre (a handrail fixed to a wall) is used as a tool for balance for some of the moves during class.
What Are the Classes Like?
Barre fitness uses exercises that focus on isometric strength training (holding your body still while you contract a specific set of muscles- think holding a squat position) combined with high repetitions of small movements along with full range of motion movements. There are different variations on barre classes, but most will use light handheld weights for some exercises, most will use the barre as balance for some moves, and most will also do some exercises on a mat. A traditional barre class will strengthen your arms, abs, glutes, and legs. Each barre class is designed to be a full-body, muscle endurance workout and will start with a warm-up and end with a cool down that consists of stretching. Typically, the class is broken into different sections that each focus on a particular major muscle group including the arms, legs, glutes, and core.
Let’s talk more about those high repetitions of small movements that are the cornerstones of barre workouts. It may look easy when you watch someone else doing very small movements, but when you do these exercises yourself and correctly, you will feel like your muscles are on fire and they will probably shake! If your muscles shake, it’s a good thing! It is one way to show that you are fatiguing your muscles which means they will get stronger. If you get to the point that you feel the shake is uncontrollable, take a moment and stop. Grab a sip of water and stretch out the muscles in question then jump right back in when you are ready. Even people who are barre class regulars deal with shaking. The more regularly you attend class, the less intense it will become.
No need for heavy weights to feel your muscles burn. Barre will strengthen your muscles using just your body weight and light dumbbells. This is how you build strength, muscular endurance, and long and lean muscles. The more you do it, the easier it will feel because you will get stronger!
Who Should Try a Barre Class?
Because barre classes are low impact, at a slower pace and don’t involve heavy lifting, they are a great option for many people. Barre is very beginner friendly and can be adapted to many different ability levels. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t feel like you get it after one class. Classes can move quickly and use muscles you haven’t in a while, but don’t give up. You will get the hang of it after a few more classes. As with any new workout, your body will adapt, and you will learn the basics which will make you feel more comfortable as you stick with it.
No dance experience is necessary. Some feel that traditional barre classes are more like a Pilates class.
Barre is great cross training option to pair with other exercises like running, weight lifting or cycling, because they strengthen the muscles needed for those exercises in a different way.
What Should I Wear to Barre?
Typically, it is suggested that you not wear shoes during a barre workout since you will need to flex and point your feet and come up on your toes at certain points of the workout. Socks or socks with grips on the bottom (to keep your feet from sliding) are helpful to bring and wear during class. Wearing form fitting clothes is helpful for your instructor (and you) to check your form and correct if necessary. If you feel more comfortable in a loose t-shirt and sweats though, wear that! Wear what feels best for you and that you can move in.
What Are the Benefits of Barre Fitness?
By now you’ve learned that barre classes strengthen your muscles. They also improve your balance and posture, boost endurance and increase your flexibility. Many of these things can also promote weight loss or weight management as well if partnered with good nutrition.
Not only does barre strengthen the muscles that are used to maintain good posture, focusing on your posture in class will help bring your attention more toward it in daily life as well which will make you feel and look better. Strong posture is essential for balance and improves your form in class which means you’ll be less prone to injury and be able to perform all kind of exercises more effectively.
Any workout has plenty of mental health benefits along with the physical ones. This is true for barre classes as well. Barre can be a great stress reliever and many of the moves promote lengthening and stretching the body which can feel great after a long day or prep you for the day ahead.
What Should I Expect to Hear in Barre Classes?
Barre classes can have their own lingo. Here are a few of the things you may hear in a barre class:
Tuck, Tuck your Tailbone or Heavy Tailbone - To do this, draw your abs inward and roll your hips under (forward) slightly to create a neutral spine. This position promotes core engagement.
Neutral Spine - A position held with the back perfectly in line from the tailbone to the spine to the neck and head
Pulse – Moving a part of your body up and down in a tiny, repetitive motion.
Down-an-inch-Up-an-inch - A one inch range of movement in a slow, controlled motion. Slightly larger than a pulse, smaller than a full range of motion.
Feet Parallel - This is a stance where the feet look like the number 11. Usually, the feet are placed together or hip-width apart and parallel for a barre position.
First Position – This is a stance with your heels touching and your toes apart. If you gaze down, your feet should make a ‘V’ shape.
Posture - In a standing position, proper posture is ears over shoulders over hips over heels.
What Types of Barre Classes Does LivRite Offer?
LivRite Fitness offers three types of Barre classes; Intro to Barre, Barre and Barre Beats (check your location’s schedule to see its offerings Not all classes available in all locations).
Intro to Barre is perfect for beginners. It starts with a warmup and focuses on basic strengthening and flexibility movements completed in a slow and controlled manner.
Barre Beats is comprised of a warmup, low impact cardio moves and strengthening movements mostly not using the barre but on a yoga mat and choreographed with music.
The Barre class has a warmup and series of movements designed to strengthen and tone your body. Light weights may be used as well as exercising by the barre and on the mat.
Check out the class schedules for each LivRite location.
Barre fitness is great for everyone, whether you are new to working out or are a frequent gym goer. Prepare for a total body workout and to feel your muscles shake!
Topics: LivRite News
It is well known that being active has many benefits from better sleep to preventing and managing many chronic health conditions to heart health, among many others. However, knowing it is good for us doesn’t make it easy to do. More than a fifth of all Americans belong to a gym. About 6.3% of Americans who have a gym membership don’t go at all and 50% of all new gym members quit within the first six months according to RunRepeat. If we know exercising is good for us and we get a gym membership, why are so many of us not going to the gym?
Some of the more frequently heard excuses used to not go to the gym are being too busy and being too tired. Get ready for some tough love. We are all busy, but we can find time for things that are important to us. Binged a show on Netflix lately? You have time to go to the gym. Make your health a priority and you will make time to exercise. Too tired? Did you know exercise will boost your energy and your mood? It does! Now that we know those reasons aren’t valid in most cases, here are some tips to help you get to the gym.
Find Your Why
The Merriam-Webster definition of motivated is “provided with a motive: having an incentive or a strong desire to do well or succeed in some pursuit”. Think about your motive for exercising. Why do you want to work out? Your reason why is your motive to be active. Many health conditions are improved or prevented by exercising and eating a healthy diet. Your why might be to lower your A1C number and not develop Diabetes. Someone else might have high blood pressure and is looking to lower it through lifestyle changes. Others may want to lose weight to stay healthy to live a long life with their kids and grandkids. Whatever your why, or reason for exercising, write it down where you can see it whenever you need some motivation. I have heard of many people writing their why on a post-it-note and putting it on the mirror in their bathroom, so they see it first thing every morning. Put it where you will see it when you need a reminder of why you are keeping exercise in your schedule.
Create Short Term Goals and Track Your Progress
Seeing progress in the gym isn’t instant and does take time. Setting up a long-term goal like being able to do a pull up or losing 50 pounds or running a half marathon, is great but be prepared to spend months working toward that goal. Setting short term goals along the way can be helpful to keep you motivated and moving toward your bigger goal. If you are just starting out, a goal of coming to the gym three days a week for a month can be a great short-term goal at the beginning.
It’s important to set goals, but you need to make sure that they’re achievable, measurable, and not overly ambitious. If you set a short term and achievable goal, you’ll feel a huge sense of achievement when you reach it, which will have a positive impact on your motivation.
Set yourself another goal when you reach your initial target, so you’re always working toward something. Read more about SMART goals here.
Make it Convenient
If you want to do something more, make it easier to do. Do you pass a gym on your way to and from work? That gym will probably be your best bet to join. If it is more convenient to stop there and exercise, rather than a gym across town and out of the way, that means you are more likely to do it.
Create a gym bag that is always stocked and ready to go. If you shower at the gym, have everything you need in its own bag, in your gym bag, all the time. You won’t have to remember to put in soap or shampoo every time. It’s already there! As soon as you get home and take your dirty clothes out of your bag, put clean clothes right in so you don’t have to remember to do it later.
Get An Accountability Partner or Group
According to The Global Health & Fitness Association (IHRSA), those who engage in group fitness classes at the gym are 56% less likely to cancel their gym membership and more likely to renew their memberships than those who only use free weights and machines. This is probably because group fitness classes are fun! But it also is because the participants in group classes often hold each other accountable for coming. Friendships will form between many in the class and knowing that your class friends and the instructor are expecting you to be there can be a big motivator to going.
If group classes aren’t your thing, find someone to go with you to the gym or to meet there. Knowing someone is counting on you, and that you have someone to talk with, could be what gets you to the gym.
Find a Workout You Actually Like
Take the time to experiment with different modes of exercise to find what you like to do. Each facility has different equipment, different types of classes and programs. Don’t be afraid to ask an employee or trainer for help with anything you want to try. It is more likely you will make it to the gym if you are going to do something you don’t always dread!
Consider a Trainer
Personal trainers may be an added cost to your gym membership, but they can also add a lot of tangible value. An expert can design a program based on your goals, show you how to use equipment, and provide tips on nutrition. You may find you don’t need their assistance for a long period but having them present while you start out could compel you to stick with it. Also, it adds accountability. You are more likely to show up when you have an appointment with your trainer at a specific time.
Put It on The Calendar
If you have a personal trainer at your gym, you will schedule appointments with them that you will be charged for if you don’t show without canceling with enough notice. I know I’m more likely to go if I know there is someone waiting for me and if I still must pay for it even if I don’t go. Even if you aren’t meeting a trainer, make it an appointment just like a business meeting or doctor visit that you can’t cancel. When people ask you if you can do something at that time you can honestly say you have an appointment and can’t. Isn’t your health that important?
If you are consistent, you will notice a feel-good feeling after you are done with your workout due to the endorphins released during exercise. After some time, this could be enough to keep up that exercise habit. I have said to myself “remember how you will feel when you are done” many times before a workout. You also feel better overall when you are working out regularly, your sleep improves, your mood improves plus more. It gets to a point when you feel so much better when exercise is a part of your lifestyle that if you stop for a period, you can’t wait to get back to it to feel better again. This is what rewards me and keeps my exercise habit going. However, when you are new to exercise, it may be helpful to create other rewards like putting a dollar for every workout you do and buying yourself new workout clothes with the money you accumulate. Or maybe time in the sauna at the gym after your workout is something to look forward to. The point is to treat yourself in a healthy way that you wouldn’t otherwise do and will look forward to after that workout.
If you are new to working out, don’t feel like you must spend hours at the gym to make it worth it. Doing too much too soon could cause injury or simply being too sore to want to go back.
We all want a quick fix. The gym doesn’t provide instant results, but it will get you there and help you stay healthy and fit. It’s important to continually remind ourselves of why we’re doing this. Focus on the long-term health benefits!
Take the time to figure out what motivates you to make it to the gym. Experiment with some of the suggestions above and see what works for you. Reflect on what doesn’t work and why. Understanding what works for you is the key to getting to the gym on a consistent basis and making exercise a part of your life.