Everyone knows the benefits of leading an active lifestyle. And yet knowing that you should exercise doesn’t always translate into actually going out and doing it. So where does this discrepancy lie? How do we turn “I’ll do it!” into “I’m doing it!”?
My answer: by focusing on the negatives! (No really, hear me out.)
Habits can make or break us. The point of routines is to do things subconsciously, to save effort on the decision-making process. When it comes to fitness, your routine either involves exercise or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, you can still be exercising off and on. But this is a slippery slope, because when fitness isn’t part of your routine, it’s easy to forget about it.
Taking the first step by doing that first workout is hard. The next six can be even harder, but that’s what will ensure your continuing success. Otherwise, you’re forming habits that don’t include exercise.
So we will focus on the things you are missing out on by not exercising. At the end of this school year, if you don’t exercise, you can look forward to:
Buying new clothes
Having to buy new clothes, that is. Not because you’re expanding your wardrobe to include a cute new dress, but because you no longer fit into the dress you’re loving this summer.
By December, get ready to do a little shimmy each time to put your jeans on. Suck in your tummy ‘till you can hardly breathe, and do up the top button as quickly as possible. Then enjoy the pain of your waistband digging into you all day, and the attractive way your tummy hangs out over the top of the pants. By February, you’ll be wearing only sweatpants.
Right around March, you’ll have no choice but to buy new clothes, a couple of sizes higher than you’re currently wearing.
Soon your backpack will start feeling heavier; weekly groceries will have you using a cart rather than a basket. You’ll be doing an attractive-sounding huff-and-puff routine every time you climb the stairs. And don’t forget the sweating. As walking up stairs and lifting books becomes your most strenuous exercise, you’ll have the same response to these activities as you would have while engaging in actual strenuous exercise—including sweating buckets.
The less you do, the harder exercise becomes. If your only cardiovascular exercise is running for the bus, it will eventually become too much work. Hurrying to class at a brisk walk will leave you with your heart pounding, breath caught, and that pesky perspiration we were just talking about. You’ll have to leave your comfy bed earlier in the morning to adjust for your new speed. “Go ahead – save me a seat” will become a common phrase as your entire class rushes from one end of the campus to the other for your next class.
By missing out on exercise, you’re also missing out on its injury-preventing benefits. By allowing your core to become weaker, and your muscles to become sluggish in responding to stimuli, you’re left with a much higher risk of developing both chronic issues and acute injuries. For example, lower back pain often stems from weak core and back muscles. And if your muscles aren’t trained to respond quickly to changing terrain, you’re more likely to twist an ankle when you’re staggering onto the street from the sidewalk on your way home from the bar. As the Earl of Derby said in 1873,“Those who do not find time for exercise now will have to find time for illness”.
You’re missing out on a fantastic confidence builder. Exercise releases all kinds of endorphins that could be making you not only happier and more energetic, but also smarter (or at least, more alert with better concentration).
You’re missing out on socializing in a stress-free environment. When you exercise together, you’re not hanging out to talk about your assignment. And you’re doing something productive, so you’re not hanging out and feeling guilty about said assignment.
That’s one school year. Extrapolate this to your x number of years at university.
So here’s where you have a choice. Keep exercise out of your routine, and plan shopping trips for bigger clothing. Stock up on Advil and Red Bull.
If that doesn’t sound appealing, get out your schedule. Figure out where you’re going to consciously make the time for your health, and mark down the first few fitness outings until it becomes a routine. Grab a friend. Join a class. Have fun with it!
Essa is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. She owns Sculptura Fitness, a small women’s fitness studio in the Hydrostone area.