An Australian Personal Trainer’s best advice for developing healthy exercise habits
Exercising is one of the best things that you can do for maintaining optimal physical and mental health.
Some of the best-known benefits of exercise include achieving optimal weight, reducing the risk of disease, stabilising mood and improving both sex and sleep. Exercise is also known to improve your ability to focus, as well as your body’s ability to maintain higher levels of energy.
When you exercise, whether it be in the park, in the gym, or at home, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with the brains pain receptors and leave a residual feeling of happiness. These endorphins also work to relieve stress, anxiety and tension so the more regularly you exercise, the better you are going to feel!
Getting into shape can be a tough road and not everyone perseveres until the end but, there are a number of things you can do to give yourself the best advantage for your fitness journey.
1: Identify your Goals. Athletic & Aesthetic.
Before starting your fitness journey, it’s important to ask yourself why. Do you want to get bigger, or smaller, or are you trying to increase your flexibility or lung capacity? Regularly ask yourself, what do I want to achieve?
Your fitness goals can be categorised as either aesthetic or athletic. Set some targets for both categories, which can be achieved in a realistic amount of time.
For example, set an athletic goal to be able to do pushups on your toes instead of your knees, or just being able to run a certain distance. If you can do 10 squats now, set a goal to be able to do 11 next week. For aesthetics, picture your ideal physique and think about it night and day. How badly do you want it? Anytime you make food choices, think about the body shape you want to achieve, then what it’s going to take to get there.
Remember that fitness is a journey and you are constantly learning and growing, so make your goals dynamic to adapt with your progress and achievements.
It’s easier than it sounds, just get started.
2: Nourish yourself. Food, Water and Sleep.
This doesn’t mean overindulge, just be sure to eat and drink enough to fulfil your body’s energy requirements. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, eggs, rice and any natural foods. Do your best to avoid refined sugars and processed carbohydrates; these are often roadblocks to your fitness journey. It’s hard to go overboard when you’re eating natural and organic so, when you get into the habit of eating well, it becomes much less important to monitor what, and how much you are eating.
Not only does dehydration decrease performance, but it can also be dangerous. Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during and after workouts, as well as in excess on hot days or when putting your body through longer periods of stress. I aim for 3L daily.
Get into a sleeping pattern that gives you 7-8 hours of rest each night and try to be consistent with your bedtime. This is something that can be super difficult sometimes but just do your best.
3: Stretch. Then stretch again.
Stretch before workouts, stretch after workouts. Stretch before going to sleep, stretch when you wake up. Stretch before going to work, stretch after coming home.
There is never a wrong time to stretch and as you get older, stretching just becomes increasingly more important. Not only does it improve your body’s mobility and performance, but it also helps protect you from injury and makes you feel good. Don’t leave stretching out of your daily routine.
4: Start small. Consistency is greater than intensity.
Shorter workouts of lower intensity are best when it comes to starting out on your fitness journey. Once your body is used to the exercises, and recovery, you can begin to extend the duration and lift the intensity of your workouts. Completing short workouts, consistently, is much more beneficial than occasionally working out for a long period of time. Set a schedule and stick to it, even if it is just 10 minutes of stretching each morning!
If you dive headfirst into an athletes training program, without first preparing your body, you can put your fitness journey at risk. Not only are you at a heightened risk of injury while your body is conditioning to the training, but you can also easily lose motivation or burn out after a short period of time. Your fitness journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Familiarise yourself with the exercises, and your body, before lifting the intensity of your workouts. Depending on your fitness levels and requirements, 20-30 minutes of exercise three times weekly
5: Master your form. Quality over Quantity.
To protect yourself from injury and reap maximum benefits from exercise, it’s important to master your form when performing each exercise, before increasing the intensity of your workouts. You only get one body, look after it!
6: Listen to your body, It’s always talking.
You can learn a lot about your body from regularly working out and just feeling how it responds. Experiment by working out at different times of the day and seeing when you feel most energetic or enthusiastic about exercising.
If you’re like me and do not enjoy early mornings, try exercising in the mornings to start your day with energy and focus. If you have difficulty getting to sleep at night, try working out in the afternoon or evening. Your body is unique and you need to experiment to find out what works best for you.
Take note of how you feel while performing certain exercises that incorporate your legs or lower back. If you ever feel sharp pains or great discomfort, something is wrong and you should not continue without seeking advice.
If your post-exercise recovery is too slow, or you often feel tired, take a look at your training, diet and sleeping patterns to see what your body needs. Often, adding certain vitamins and minerals to your diet or a little extra rest each day can make a huge difference to your physical and mental performance, as well as your overall results!
7: Find your motivation.
Your motivation comes from your why. Once you set your goals, figure out what it’s going to take to get there. When it comes to maintaining consistency and motivation, there is nothing better than doing something you enjoy. Find a sporting team, training program, youtube guide, or any exercises that you enjoy enough to practice regularly.
Even better, find a friend to do it with! Staying motivated is far easier when you have someone there to push you towards achieving your goals but, at the end of the day, it all comes down to you. If you have a dog, take responsibility for exercising it. Not only will they love you for it, but you’ll also move quickly towards your fitness goals.
I advise starting with short workouts while getting into an exercise routine and don’t forget to eat well and stretch regularly so that your body is always feeling its best. Everyone is unique. What works for your favourite influencer might not work for you. Just get out there and find out what you like, and don’t like, before making your dreams a reality. You can do it!
8: Be patient, there will be setbacks.
It can be so easy to compare yourself to someone who is much further along their fitness journey. Don’t do this, it can destroy willpower and motivation. Just focus on you and your progress.
Like all journeys, there will be setbacks. We all face challenges and it’s important to not let them deter from your journey as perseverance is what brings success when it comes to getting fit. Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint.
9: Treat your fitness journey as a form of self care.
Maintaining your physical fitness is self-care. Through exercising, not only are you looking after your physical and mental health, but you are also working towards improving your self-image; the height of self-love.
Embrace the feelings throughout your workout or training and enjoy the post-workout high. Be grateful for what your body can do now, regardless of what your goals are. Gratitude brings more of what you are grateful for and a positive attitude is so important when working towards your fitness goals.
10: HAVE FUN!
Although we touched on this in motivation, it’s so important that it needs its own point. My mother always used to say, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
While she was referring to having a job that you enjoy, the same goes for your fitness journey. When you are participating in an activity that you enjoy, it will never feel like work and you will be far more likely to maintain motivation.
If something gets boring, switch it up. Both your mind, and body, get used to routines quickly so it’s important to keep things interesting if you want to maintain motivation and achieve optimal results.
Whenever possible, expand your fitness knowledge through trying new exercises, routines, sports and activities. Fitness isn’t always about the destination, enjoy the journey.
Are you ready to take the first steps towards achieving your ideal physique?
The only thing standing in the way is you.
About the Author: Harrison has more than a decade of experience on, and off, the rugby field as a player, junior coach and part-time referee. His passion for rugby led him to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers where he studied the human body, exercise and nutrition, before being registered as a health and fitness professional with Fitness Australia and Fitness First Australia. Although the career path has changed, his passion for health, fitness, and Rugby will always remain.