Getting active and sticking at it can be hard
Finding something you love doing will make it much easier
Coach Naomi Honey offers 10 and a half easy ways to get active and start loving movement
I wasn’t always active. For years I did nothing beyond daily life. The crux came over a decade ago when was at my lowest and decided things needed to change. Today physical activity is central to my life and I’ve discovered how vital it is to my wellbeing. So, as a life and movement coach, and someone who has made the journey, here are my top 10 ½ tips to getting active and loving it.
1. Focus on the quick wins
What benefits can you access straight away? Usually we focus negative reasons ‘pushing’ us to get fit, with distant gains. The problem is, if thinking about being active is through a lens of how we’re currently ‘failing’, the idea gets wrapped in negativity and motivation gets suffocated. So instead, think about the easy wins. Having time to yourself, perhaps; seeing friends; making new ones; fresh air; a break from work; a vent for frustration or anger. Whatever feels like a win will help. The long-term benefits will come, for sure, but for now focus on immediate gratification.
2. Pick the fun stuff
Loving being active means loving the process - so pick activities you enjoy! We often think of fitness as jogging (something I’ve never enjoyed), yoga or the gym. The options are much broader. There’s dancing, hiking, swimming, zumba, parkour, climbing, cycling, crossfit, tennis, gymnastics, netball, and on and on. Indoors, outdoors, social or solo, creative or directed, high intensity or low, you can find something you’ll love.
Don’t worry about intensity - a low key activity that you enjoy and stick with is infinitely better than an intense workout you hate and quit within a month. If you’re not sure what you’ll like, just get out there and try. Many sessions offer free tasters and you might be surprised by what grabs you.
3. Be a kid - be free to be rubbish
So many of us worry about being ‘bad’ at something. You know what? It’s ok to be rubbish! Think about kids - they don’t worry about being bad, they just get on with trying. Anything you’ve mastered - walking, writing, riding a bike - you struggled with it at first, but you persevered and look where you are now. As adults we get out of the habit of trying new things. We forget that being ‘bad’ doesn’t matter and develop a fear around being less than perfect. So give yourself a break: be a kid again, be free to be rubbish and go have fun.
4. Tune out the negative
Despite the best intentions, negative thoughts will creep in. The ‘push’ reasons; insecurities; fear of looking a fool. Fears are real, but rarely accurate. So don’t worry, treat them like that moany relative who sees the gloom in everything and tune them out. We can’t prevent negative thoughts, but we can refuse them an audience.
5. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate
Recognition is a huge part of motivation, so give yourself a gift and celebrate your efforts. When children are learning something, we encourage them at every step. There’s a reason for that: it works! Positive recognition rewards effort and boosts motivation to keep going. As adults trying something new, we rarely offer ourselves the same support. Instead we criticise, point out people doing better and tell ourselves we look a fool. Changing habits is hard, overcoming blocks and fears even harder, and becoming newly active involves both. So drop the judgement and celebrate: every success, every effort, even every failure, because - you superstar - you put yourself out there.
6. Tie it in
Make it easy on yourself, combine activity with other things you enjoy. If you want to socialise, take a friend, get a group together, or join something that’s done with others. Team sports, group classes, dancing, there are lots of options where you interact. For peace and quiet, there’s yoga, running, sculling, hiking. If set targets and direction helps your motivation, any group class, bootcamp, or personal training is ideal. If you want creativity or excitement, try parkour, climbing or circus skills. The more positives you tie in, the easier it will be to motivate yourself.
7. Don’t listen to your resistant brain
Our brains do not like change, even for the better. They resist and try to discourage it. That’s why, although the goal of being active may be so attractive, we feel such inertia to starting. Just persevere! Before long your brain and body will rediscover the joy of being active and the new habit will develop its own momentum. Until then, be aware of the tricks your brain will try, and put faith in yourself and your future habit.
8. Get clothes you love
This isn’t about looking good, it’s about feeling good. It’s easier to put clothes on when you like them, easier to get yourself going, to feel positive and committed to the activity. There’s no need for heavy investment, but ditch the faded t-shirt and scraggy tracksuit bottoms and get yourself something more uplifting. For me that means bright and colourful. Go for whatever works for you.
9. Commit to some discomfort
Changing habits is hard and there’s going to be some discomfort. You can weather it though! This is your life, your goals, your dreams for how to feel and move. Have faith in yourself, take one step at a time and you’ll get there. The beginning is hard, but once past it you’ll look back and feel so grateful that you pushed through. Discomfort means change is happening. You’re amazing, you can do it.
10. Re-name as required
If the prospect of ‘going to the gym’, or whatever you choose, leaves you feeling flat, try calling it something else. “I’m off to Be Amazing”, “Ready for superhero training?”, even “Death and Honour!” It might sound ridiculous but something that feels inspiring, makes you smile or becomes a running joke with your supporters can give the prospect that vital lift.
10 ½. Positive messages
Positive messages or mantras can be hugely powerful. When I first started getting fit they helped me enormously, replacing a mental list of my failings with a far more pleasant and positive message. But - and this is a big but - they can be counterproductive. If the message is too far from your current belief, it may generate resistance and tension, making it a hindrance rather than a help. So test it out. Create a positive story, mantra or affirmation, practice saying it and be conscious of the reaction in your body. If there’s ease, it’s positive and helpful. If there’s tension and anxiety it’s not. If it doesn’t work, let it go and stick with what helps.
So there we have it, 10 ½ tips, tried and tested, and the combined spirit and encouragement of everyone who’s used them before, for your journey now. That you’re wanting to get active is a brilliant and positive thing. Even if you’ve not felt it since childhood, there was a time when you delighted in your body and its capacity to move. You can find that again.