I was 21. Young and just starting to understand the world. Fresh out of a break-up from my first long-term boyfriend. I remember being on an elliptical machine, gripping the cool metal on the handles and peddling my legs against the resistance. As my body worked, so did my mind. I’m not going to let this stop me. I will not give up on MYSELF. It was then that I promised I would not let my emotions stop me from reaching my goals, that I would not give up when things got tough.
You may or may not know this about me…but I’m kind of obsessed with working out. That moment on the elliptical represented the triumph of my dedication over the first real emotional trial of my life. And that mentality has stayed with me through the years.
Exercise is important for our overall well-being (duh). And even though people are generally aware of the benefits (like preventing disease and improving our mental health), some of us still struggle to make it a habit. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. Having exercised regularly for many years, I’ve realized that the majority of your results are based off a few basic rules.
- Consistency. This is the biggest one, regardless of what style of exercise you prefer. If you are putting in the time more days than not, you will be at least reasonably fit. That’s not to say that we should expect to exercise every day; there will be weeks where we’ll barely make it in. But if this is to be a lifestyle, we can’t regularly accept circumstance as an obstacle to working out. The people who are the most consistent with exercise find a way to get it in despite life’s hiccups, and even when things are hectic they never stay away for long. Everything in life ebbs and flows, but what’s important is the overall trend.
- Strength training. My first few years of working out were mostly spent doing cardio and light weights on machines. I lost 5 lbs at first but then gained it back despite being on the elliptical and treadmill for 40 minutes 5 times a week. It wasn’t until I started focusing on heavy free weights and compound movements that my shape started to change. I was also able to get away with eating more, which is a huge plus in my book. As you’ll see below, I barely do cardio, so weight/strength training has been crucial in helping me stay fit. It’s where you get the most bang for your buck.
- 10,000 steps a day. It’s all about the NEAT (nonexercise activity thermogenesis). Making sure I get 10,000 steps almost every day helps me stay generally active outside of formal exercise, which only accounts for a small percentage of the calories we burn. How much you move in a day can greatly influence your energy expenditure. Let’s say you work a desk job and are generally sedentary. Then on the weekend you spend hours walking around a mall shopping, or maybe you go to a fair where you’re on your feet for a long time. Afterwards you are exhausted. That’s because simply being on your feet and moving around takes energy that you’re not used to spending, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re doing much. Bottom line is our overall activity levels matter.
- Light cardio. I’m sooo not a cardio person. BUT, I do it here and there just to keep the ol’ ticker ticking and to burn a few extra calories. SOMETIMES I even kinda enjoy it. Point is, I don’t do a ton. I try to do at least one HIIT session a week and two lower intensity steady state days.
And that’s it! Told you it wasn’t too complicated. Strength training, walking and some cardio, all done regularly, make for a fit lifestyle. And now that you’ve read this post, please let me know in the comments which of these guidelines you struggle the most with. <3