Getting back in the Saddle – How to break the Exercise rut

For many of us the lockdown has seen our waistlines expand.

Despite being able to exercise outdoors for its entirety, for many the quarantine has seen the equilibrium between eating and drinking on one hand, and exercise on the other, become heavily distorted.

Indeed, figures suggest that over the past 3 months our alcohol consumption has increased materially. Data for the first week of quarantine showed the sales of beer, wine and spirits in supermarkets and off-licences was up by a fifth, while online sales rose an unprecedented 50%.

As the lockdown is easing, at an increasingly fast rate, and we’re soon to return to our normal lives, it’s time to re-establish the equilibrium. Here are some top tips to help you regain the active mentality…

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Focus and remind yourself “why”

If you haven’t exercised in a while the body can feel antiquated and rusty. Restarting can be like powering up an oil tanker; slow and arduous. It can take a great deal of self-discipline to get back the mo’.

Try to develop a pro-active and dogmatic mindset. Focus on a source of inspiration for exercising, whether it’s the health and longevity benefits, or losing weight and looking better.

The health benefits are staggering: it strengthens your cardiovascular system, improves your metabolism, lowers inflammation, reduces many signs of aging, and improves mood.

Establish a routine

All exercise takes time, whether you choose the gym, outdoors, or the home. We all have competing interests for our time, including work, friends and family, and social occasions and other hobbies.

At the start of each week decide when you plan to exercise and put it in your diary. This not only helps allocate time to exercise, but de facto it takes priority, as the rest of your to-dos will be arranged around it.

When deciding when in a day to exercise, training in a morning before work often has a high level of success as it makes your workout number 1 on your to-do list. If you exercise later in the day, there are dozens of obstacles that are likely to come up.

Track Your Progress

The success to exercising regularly is routine. Exercising spontaneously is too haphazard. A great way to improve motivation is to track your development. This applies to all forms of exercise, whether its on the treadmill, cross-trainer or bike, or weightlifting or gym classes.

If you’re using gym equipment then progress can be tracked by either monitoring a number of variables such as distance travelled and average or maximum speed and resistance.

Alternately if you train outdoors there is high-tech equipment that allows you to monitor your progress such as pedometers and heart rate monitors. Running apps from Strava and Nike can track you distance, speed and calorie count, and also have GPS so you can keep a catalogue of your runs and monitor your development over time.

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Get a training buddy

Exercise requires a high degree of motivation, and if you’re on your own, or with somebody who doesn’t share the same goals, this can be hard to muster. For example, if you plan to train solo in the early am, looking across at your partner sleeping peacefully can make you want to snooze the alarm.

Whilst working out alone can be convenient, going solo means your only one decision away from cancelling the session and getting that extra hour of sleep. Getting a gym buddy can help reinforce the discipline and mindset to go to the gym.

If you’ve both planned to do a morning session, you’re more likely to be up and out as you won’t want to cancel and disappoint. Besides, gymming with a friend can make exercise more fun and less of a chore.

Sign up for an event

Just as establishing a routine and tracking progress can instil discipline, so too can signing up for an event such as a bike ride or half marathon.

An event on the horizon provides a milestone for you to aim towards. A half marathon, which is a reasonable athletic feat, needs a decent amount training which can help establish a routine of doing exercise regularly.

When it comes to race day, you’ll want to put in a personal best and make yourself proud of your performance. You won’t want to have been spluttering around the course and traipsing over the finishing line.

Get an amazing playlist

As 2017 study notes, “music captures attention, triggers a range of emotions, alters or regulates mood, increases work output, heightens arousal, induces states of higher functioning, reduces inhibitions and encourages rhythmic movement.”

So, in summary, music works for getting you in the mood to do exercise, and for improving your performance whilst doing it. Indeed, a study at Brunel University in the UK, found that listening to music when exercising, reduced the rate of perceived effort by 12% and improved endurance by 15%.

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