It’s been a long day at work. Colleagues smell of caffeine and everyone is walking on a tightrope. Perhaps things did not go to plan. Sound familiar? Whatever the situation, all you really want to do is have a hot shower and kick back onto the sofa with some comfort food. Then you remember, you’ve made plans to exercise with a friend…
Various excuses pour into your mind to cancel. Then responsibility gets the better of you. You drag your feet onto the carpet and pull out a pair of trainers. Feet sliding snugly into place and laces neatly bowed, you suddenly feel empowered to face the cold. You meet your friend and pick up the pace. The cold air, the rhythm and sound of feet on the pavement relaxes you. The catch up between friends was long overdue. The run is over.
Instead of feeling lethargic, you find your mind is clearer and the troubles from before feel…lighter.
Many I’m sure can relate. We all understand the benefits of exercise, in both the long and short term, yet many of us avoid it. So what is holding us back? How can we get motivated to do something we know has immense benefits? Following some thought, I have a few principles and points that may help deal with this dilemma.
1. The activity you choose should be fun.
There are enough things in life that we feel ourselves dragging our feet to complete. Getting active should not be one of them but should constitute part of “life” in “work-life balance”. Whether it’s taking walks in nature, doing cool tricks on a pull-up bar, choose something that will put a smile on your face!
2. Make sure to plan and do your research.
This is the stage of using the mind to decide to do something good for yourself, and for God. With the exception of those possessing a massive willpower, we often need enough reasons to want to do something. Create a list of benefits that really resonate with you, the kind that makes you buzz with a “Yes, I want that!” Personally, I see benefits in exercise for cardiovascular health, aesthetics and increased energy for everything else (I often get asked how I have so much energy for everything). Socially, you might make friends with some like-minded people. After attending one group exercise class, I met my gym buddy whom I exercise with at least 3 times a week! Two nurses I work with attend the same gym and it gives us something in common to talk about. Spiritually, exercise clears the mind and gives me better discernment. It practises self discipline and time management, key aspects in a Christian’s life.
Furthermore, I see a healthy body as a living sacrifice presented to God, more able to serve Him (Romans 12:1). It can also be an opportunity to connect with God’s creation in nature and to have a conversation with Him, or to do some self-reflection.
Bearing the benefits in mind, set a vision and SMART goals. (If you’re not already familiar with “SMART”, do a quick word search online) It could look something like this:
Vision : to be a fit, active and healthy person
Goal : to be able to run 5km 1 month from today
Method : run 1 km 3x this week, 2km 3x next week etc
Tip – Break your goals into even smaller milestones for that constant carrot on a stick.
3. Choose your Exercise Method
Besides having fun, decide the kind of exercise that fits in most with your lifestyle and is most effective towards achieving your goals. Do you have limited time? HIIT (High intensity interval training) may be the one for you. Prefer game based sports? Look for a team. Maybe endurance is more your thing. Try some running, swimming, cycling. Resistance? You’ve got the options of bodyweight workouts or gym workouts. Need something low intensity? Actually, brisk walking is one of the best exercises. This is not an exhaustive list, but as much as possible doing something outside will have the most benefits:
“Exercise in the open air for those whose employment has been within doors and sedentary will be beneficial to health. All who can should feel it a duty to pursue this course. Nothing will be lost, but much gained. They can return to their occupations with new life and new courage to engage in their labor with zeal, and they are better prepared to resist disease.” (AH 502.1)
Use foresight to deal with excuses you may make for yourself. “It’s always dark and raining outside…” “It’s too expensive to get a gym membership…”
Although open air exercise would be optimal, I saw that moving to “wet and wild” Wales would put a dampener on my exercise goals if my method was primarily outdoor activities. For this reason I chose to purchase a no frills gym membership and pay just £12/month.
As well as this, realise that you don’t have to rely on your own strength to achieve anything. Make your plans and surrender them to God to help you achieve it because He has asked us to take care of our bodies and we can be assured that if He has asked us to do something, He will give us the power we need to do it. Check out this quote:
Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, “Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.” This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ. (Steps to Christ, 70.)
4. Get some accountability!
You are more likely to fulfill something if you are being held accountable for it. It is a good thing to be a responsible person who holds to their word. There are a number of things you can do in this regard.
- Speak about your goals and methods to friends and family who you know will be supportive.
- Get a buddy (or three!) with similar goals. In my own experience, I push harder to finish a run or workout if I am with someone.
- Get a personal trainer
- Join an online community. It is not always easy to find like-minded people who match your schedule in your local area. Joining an online fitness community where people can virtually support each other can be valuable.
5. Realise that exercise is a form of me time!
Yes, exercise actually lies in a similar category to taking a long hot bath and reading a book. Sure, that movie and comfort food may make you feel better in the moment… until that stimulation of the brain with flashing images and high fat/high sugar foods fades and you are left with that food coma slump, a lack of motivation to do anything else and guilt. No! After a long day of work the last thing you need is to feel worse about yourself.
I’d like to end with this quote:
“Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become.” (Margaret Thatcher)
Make your plans to exercise a habit and it will shape your character. When you achieve a routine and feel a more self-disciplined, confident, energetic and healthy version of you, remember not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think (Romans 12:3), but in love see whom you might be able to help along the way. I hope you enjoyed my top tips and I wish you all the best on this exciting journey!
Danetta qualified with Honours as a dentist from King’s College London in 2017 and is now working full time in Swansea, Wales. She enjoys spin classes, HIIT, callisthenics and weight lifting and various sports on occasion.