Having the Motivation to Exercise

Many of us finds all sorts of excuses NOT to exercise. I was one of them. I mean, I don’t mind walking. I don’t mind an occasional “swim” or cycling along East Coast. I think that is the most I did for 8 years and each of these, once a year. Are you like me? I did not use to be like that. I hold a black belt in TKD and I used to do kickboxing, yoga, dance and go to the gym regularly. Ok, occasionally.

For the 8 years I spent in China, I never exercised. I was too busy with work and was working almost every waking minute. It was too cold or too hot or too wet. I had all sorts of reasons why I was not exercising. I did feel guilty and tried maybe a couple of times to exercise. But I preferred to sit in front of the computer typing away. Working or catching up with friends to maintain my sanity. Think the most exercise I did was playing badminton indoors with my colleagues after work in my last year. I wish we started earlier. We all had fun and it built a better relationship.

When I came back, Ed being the exercise fanatic he is, kept nagging at how I have to start exercising. “I never needed to exercise to stay in shape my entire life. I just have high metabolic rate but you won’t understand.” I gloated in glee. Furthermore, I lost so much weight in China anyway (I lost 10kg within my first 3 months though the last 2 years, I started putting back some), but anyway, I am entitled to eat as much as I like and not exercise. This is my birth privilege! Or so I thought….  When I finally hit the scales one day, OMG I got a shock. -_-

Anyway, my first reaction is then to agree with Ed that I am eating too much (Maybe my metabolic rate is slowing after 35….Yes, I resist exercising that much) and started to shave my diet. Ok, according to my friends, it is probably more like cutting chunks of my diet down. But I also started being more conscious and eating more healthily. Honestly, not much effect. So I started  exercising to control my weight and shape and hopefully allow me to go back to eating tons.

So I had no choice but to start exercising. I would “swim” every fortnight. “Swim” in inverted commas because I can swim but having not swam for so long, my stamina is so bad, I can only do the breadth of the pool once. And also because I have this ridiculous phobia that I am going to have muscle cramps or something in the middle of the pool and so I refuse to swim lengthwise. I know it is silly…. Especially because I have never ever had muscle cramps in my life. But my sister had it often as a kid but somehow I am the one with the phobia…. Anyway, so with Ed’s support and after moving to our new place and having a pool downstairs gives me absolutely no excuse not to swim more often and also means no excuse to not improve. Because other than the phobia and lack of stamina, I do enjoy the water. At least I don’t “sweat”.

First, I built my stamina swimming the breadth of the pool at least 2 laps straight without stopping. That gave me confidence. Then built it to 4. Now I know I can swim 2 laps of the full length without going out of breadth. But I still have “irregular breathing” as I somehow could not regulate my breathing. Ed was insisting that I have to start swimming lengthwise. So I told him ok, but only if I have a board. He shook his head but somehow I managed to get my hands on one. Whoever said that swimming with boards are for beginners only know nothing. Because it is 2x more tiring swimming with the board as your legs have to work doubly hard since you have no hands to propel you forward. So that not only built my stamina (help regulate my breathing) and confidence, it built my leg strength as well.

After few months on the board, doing 10 laps each time, I proceeded to doing 8 laps on board, 2 laps without. Then it became I will swim without board after 10 laps because I needed an easier swim.  So I started doing 12 laps, 10 with board, 2 without. Then it became 10 with, 10 without. Then it became 20 without board. But I always stayed near the sides of the pool but soon I know I will be in the middle of the pool. In fact stressed out I may be with the depth, I was surprised to find that swimming is a great way to unwind especially after a bad day in the office or when you are feeling totally drained. Sitting in front of the TV makes me even more lethargic!

 I have a phobia for deep waters so why not do something else? Swimming honestly did not really help me lose weight anyway. I definitely became fitter and my stamina is better and I am a little more toned. But no, I don’t think my tummy got smaller. Then why do I want to bother? Well, because I know this phobia is a senseless one and I would very much like to overcome it. Deep within me, I know I can. I just need to build up the confidence. And being fit does help to build up the confidence that if I do get a cramp, I am strong enough to struggle to the side of the pool with one leg and 2 arms. With a stronger body, I gain confidence and one day, I know this confidence will overcome the silly phobia.

So why do I want to overcome my fear for deep water? I went Darwin with Ed and we went swimming in waterfalls. It was FANTASTIC!!! Except, it took me some time to dare to swim to the waterfall and well, I bought a giant crocodile float to help me. Although it was fun to have that float (especially in crocodile land) it was quite embarrassing. So overcoming this fear is a motivation for me to be able to do more fun stuff like canon balling and swimming to deep ends of waterfalls.

Clinging onto the crocodile because I had no confidence to swim under the waterfall.
Clinging onto the crocodile because I had no confidence to swim under the waterfall.

Thing is, if someone with phobias like me can not only overcome the resistance of exercising, but also the phobia of deep waters, I am sure many of you out there can do better. Besides swimming, now I am also practicing yoga and running (another resistance slowly eroding because you actually really feel quite good after a run! After my first outdoor run with Ed, we were on such a high, we danced and skipped our way home.) My motivation is to be fit enough to do more hikes with Ed all over the world. After Daocheng Yading, and my cycling trip in UK, I think it would be way more enjoyable if I was fitter. And it feels good to be fit and be able to experience life more.

Trying to keep up with the rest...
Trying to keep up with the rest…

Steps to Start Exercising:

  1. Start small with baby steps to build your confidence. Start within your comfort zone and start expanding that zone slowly like how I slowly built up my swimming.

motivation to exercise 1

2. Have a motivation or a goal. Mine was to be able to do loads of fun stuff with Ed like snowboarding, hiking and cycling cross country in beautiful places. I had a taste of it and I want to be able to do it better and enjoy myself more with a fitter physique.

Motivation to Exercise
Snowboarding in Tsugaike Kogen. A fitter me will be able to take more runs and have better control.

motivation to exercise

3. Choose activities or figure out what sort of environment you don’t want to be in. If you don’t like to sweat in the outdoor heat, then go indoors. Start yoga, pilates, dance or just cycle or do a short run in the gym depending on your interest. If it is team sports, join an interest group like a basketball group or a soccer group. You can go on FB to search for interest groups.

4. Allocate a time slot once a week for a scheduled exercise session or at least anytime during that day. If you really have no time to go out that day, then at least do something at home. Climb the stairs or do a few rounds of planks, squats and star jumps before you shower or skip rope. 2 sets of 20 is a good start.

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5. Sign up for classes. Once you pay for something, it is more likely that you will try to use it and follow through. Better yet, sign up with another friend and after each class reward yourself to a little treat. Groupon or deals.com has many dance and yoga deals that can get you started. There are also many other exercise apps like Kfit and Guava Pass allows you to enjoy exercise and other wellness deals and try out classes at different places for a small fee or sometimes free depending on promotion. They also have a list of activities you can participate in near your location.

6. Share your exercise schedule with your friends and loved ones and get them to join you or help motivate you so that at least someone will also monitor for you and not let you slack. Furthermore, it is always more fun to work out together.

7. Have a couple of friends who are also exercising and motivate each other by inviting each other to exercise together.

motivation to exercise -family

8. Track your progress. Keep track of the distance covered, calories burned or time used and challenge yourself to either go longer distance or do it in a shorter time or do it without breaks, etc. A more high-tech version will be to download an app on your phone or use an exercise watch or other forms of tracker to track if you are running or doing brisk walks. Nike has a pretty good app for runners and if you feel you want to invest, you can always get gadgets with heart rate monitors or a fit bit watch or apple watch. Here are some apps recommended by HPB. I use the Nike training app recommended by Ed and I find it pretty good for my purpose.

9. Have a fun “rewarding” activity after the exercise but be careful not to binge eat. Be it having a nice dessert (not OTT), go shopping for shoes or watching a good movie after or having a massage or a nice meal. Schedule your time such that the reward comes after a good work out.

10. Don’t give yourself excuses. If it is workout day, then do it. Raining? Well, do something indoors. Do the stairs (climb up and take lift down), refer to pt. 4, turn up the music and dance real hard (I mean like no one is watching hard), etc….

11. Play your favourite tunes. It really helps me especially if I am doing running, workouts or the stairs. Takes my mind off the thought of giving up. Move to the music!

12. Get a nice workout outfit. Well, this is motivation for some, especially girls. Don’t get too many for a start. Just 1-2 sets so that you don’t burn a hole. Get another set when you unlock a new achievement like hitting the 5km mark or doing your 10th run.

The possibilities are endless. The key is to get the engine started and persevere for at least the first 2-3 months. Once the rhythm is set, it will get easier and you will see results and that will be enough to motivate you to keep on going. Have fun! They are not lying when they say exercising introduces more endorphin (the happy hormones).

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