Choosing the right exercise plan for you!

By  |  14 Comments


Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 7.33.49 PM


Right stylistas, the New Year is officially here. The Christmas parties are behind us, most of us are back to work/reality – there are no more excuses, right? Time to put into action those resolutions and start those exercise plans that we’ve all been talking about over the holidays – whilst relaxing by the pool with a nice chilled Pinot Gris in hand of course! But what to do? And how to start? The problem – from a psych perspective at least – is that the brain is naturally tuned to minimize effort, unless there is a perceived reward on the other side. And whilst most of us recognize cognitively the benefits of getting regular exercise, the physical/tangible rewards are simply not immediate enough to motivate us up and off the couch.

The trick therefore, is to trick your own mind. Going back to the reward principle, what this means is you need to find a way to make exercise intrinsically rewarding in a way that works just for you. The fact is that getting into our skinny jeans or achieving some vague notion of ‘wellbeing’ just doesn’t cut it for most of us. What will work much better is if you can find a bigger, more meaningful reason why.

For example, if you love work (yes, some people do!) you might find it helpful to think about how exercise can help you relax and unlock your problem-solving mind, helping you to see more clearly when you are ‘stuck’ on a problem. Or perhaps you are a creative type who hates the idea of going to the gym. That’s OK – just think for a moment about how inspiration often comes in the middle of a long walk. Insomniac? There’s nothing better than physically challenging yourself during the day if you are having problems calming your mind at night. You get the picture – it’s all about figuring out what matters to you most. Ask yourself, what would make me happiest this year? What is calling me? And what kind of body/mind condition do I need to be able to realize that dream?

As you ask yourself these questions, keep in mind that there are endless options available to you – it’s not all about an expensive gym membership. Of course, if you are the social type, gyms can be great – as can sports groups. Extroverts or those who are looking to increase their social networks in 2013 could join a tennis or golf club and go along to club night, or sign up for a netball or touch team. Boot camps, cross-fit, zumba or other dance classes might also appeal to this type of personality!

But if on reflecting on the above questions you realize that what you actually want the most this year is to improve your spiritual health, or that what you are craving is quiet time, remember that it’s just as good to simply go for a walk, especially in a natural setting such as the beach, around the mangroves or through a park. Time spent in nature brings a whole other set of mind/body benefits to the table which we often overlook in our haste to sign up for the latest group fitness fad. Yoga, tai chi, swimming, cycling and hiking are other good solo activities that you can start without too much effort. Use online resources such as You Tube and health/wellbeing blogs for cost-free instruction; and consider leaving the Ipod at home, so that you can genuinely quiet your mind along the way.

This week, simply make it your task to spend some time contemplating what it is you really want, and how you’re going to go about getting it. Next week we’ll pick it up from there with some tips and techniques for staying on track with your newfound direction. See you then!




Image courtesy of adidas by Stella McCartney