When it comes to fitness, we’re all likely to have heard the phrase “consistency is key”.
It all sounds so simple in theory: find something you enjoy, make time for it, and eventually, it becomes a habit. But what happens once you break that consistency and all your hard work gets undone?
Losing your fitness mojo can happen for a number of reasons. From burnout and boredom, to life simply getting in the way, breaking a fitness routine is extremely easy to do — and a much harder problem to fix.
It happens to the best of us. There was a time when I used to wake up every morning and head out for a 6am run. And then the summer heat kicks in, and the treadmill gets tedious, and that 6am alarm becomes far too easy to snooze. Soon, three months have passed, and despite feeling more sluggish than ever, I just can’t find that motivation that used to power me to lace up the trainers anywhere.
The longer we let that fitness slump go on for, the harder it is to get back into the right headspace. But there are a few tips that can help ease you back in gently. Here’s what the experts recommend:
Try group classes
“It’s difficult to get back into a fitness routine when you haven’t done it for a while because you’ve broken the habit,” says Cyrus Rustom, owner of Boxica gym in Dubai’s Studio City. “Re-engaging that habit can be tough, but that’s where classes can really help.
“The best thing about a place like this is all you have to do is drive here. As soon as you walk through that door, everything else is taken care of for you. If you go to a regular gym, you have to not only motivate yourself to go to the gym, but you have to motivate yourself to figure out a workout and what you are going to do.”
Not only do classes feel less intimidating than walking into the gym to freestyle it on your own, it’s also likely that you’ll work that little bit harder when you are pushed in a group setting.
“I think a lot of people struggling to get back into fitness need to go to group classes, because for me, group classes are the most motivational way to get back into shape,” says Ryan Bishop, general manager at NRG Fitness. “For you to go to the gym to train by yourself and work out your workouts, it’s extremely difficult, so I would always advise anyone trying to get back into fitness to do group classes where you are around people, you are building on everyone’s energy. For me, that’s the best way. You don’t need to start with super intense classes.
“I think for 99 per cent of people who train by themselves, they are more likely to give up easily. But when you’ve got a coach or other people around you pushing you, you’ll do that extra rep or that extra set, or you’ll lift that little bit heavier.”
Make it non-negotiable
While routines and plans can change week by week, there are certain things that we can’t be flexible with. Meetings, for example. For most people, once a meeting is in the diary — whether it be for work, or with friends, those plans are solid and not to be changed. Rustom suggests treating fitness in the same way and building it into your schedule.
“You just have to put it in your schedule three days a week,” he says. “You don’t have to train any more than that to start with.
“Put it in your diary, just drive to the gym, walk through the door and then the rest of it is done for you. And you will always leave feeling 100 times better than when you walked in. Do that for a few weeks and then eventually, after a month, you won’t have to motivate yourself to do it any more. You’ll be so in love with that feeling and realise how important it is for you that nothing will come in the way of that ‘me time’.”
Track how you feel
The impact fitness can have on mental health is well documented, but it’s easy to forget about the mood-boosting effects when you are in an exercise slump. However, by taking note of how you feel on the days you exercise, you will be able to track just how much of an impact physical movement can have in all areas of your life.
“Especially since Covid, people really noticed the impact exercise can have on things like anxiety, and have made health a priority more than ever,” says Bishop.
Writing down how you slept, what your mood is that day, how productive you felt at work, and what you ate, will soon help you see the benefits, which can help motivate you on the days when you are struggling.
“You’ll sleep better, your mind will be calmer, your fitness and energy levels will go up, and your nutrition will get better,” says Rustom. “Once you get that feeling going, it will become a complete non-negotiable for you.”
Exercise can also be a real stress buster, especially something such as boxing or running.
“There’s something special about punching something. You get that anger out and leave feeling relaxed,” says Rustom. “Our original tagline was ‘Find your inner hero’, but when we opened after lockdown, people started coming in and they were saying ‘this is my therapy’ and it happened so much, we ended up changing the tagline. Our members were saying that they needed it more for their mental health than their physical health.”
Get your steps in
One of the easiest and most effective ways to up your daily activity is to make sure you are doing a good number of steps each day. Experts estimate that we should be walking between 7,000 and 10,000 steps per day, and with the weather cooling, it’s the perfect time to get out in the evenings.
Walking also has proven anxiety-reducing effects, and can act as a moment of “me time” in a busy day.
One of the best motivators for walking is to find a podcast series you enjoy. By saving the episodes for your walks, you’ll be more inclined to head out if you know you will be getting your podcast fix at the same time.
Mix it up
One of the biggest contributing factors to exercise burnout is boredom, and so trying something new and switching up your routine can help keep things interesting. Apps such as Privilee and ClassPass are great for discovering new studios and classes, or gyms such as NRG, which offer a varied and changing schedule, can help members switch things up.
“If you are only offering one or two classes, people do get bored, so that variety is really important, especially in a place like Dubai where there is a lot on offer,” Bishop says. “Ultimately, training needs to be fun and enjoyable otherwise you are going to lose interest quickly, so having that choice keeps you engaged and excited.”