Something that has always been important to me is exercise. I’ve shared before that I don’t exercise to lose weight or dramatically change my body, I do it because it makes me feel good. To be honest, I did not always have these beliefs about exercise. When I was younger, I did exercise to lose weight and to transform my body. I did not appreciate working out for other reasons until I found a workout routine that fit my lifestyle.
We all come in different shapes and sizes which is part of what makes life exciting. You can constantly meet people and relate to them on different levels. However, sometimes our uniqueness can become our biggest source of insecurity. Instead of embracing what makes us unique, we start focusing on how to make that part of us just like everyone else.
I’ve always had muscular thighs. I played soccer and danced growing up so those babies put in work! Not only were my thighs more muscular than many of my friends, they often appeared much bigger because of this. Throughout high school, instead of appreciating my muscular thighs, I constantly sought out ways to have “slimmer legs” or “reduce thigh muscles”. Thankfully, I never formed any unhealthy habits but when I worked out that was my goal. Reducing my thigh muscle was more important to me than any other exercise benefit.
I could comment on a lot of things I disagree with in old Megan’s way of thinking, but the number one thing that stands out to me is the fact that I did not exercise for me. There was no focus on my feelings, my accomplishments, or my strengths. I focused on an image I wanted to achieve, that quite frankly, is just not practical.
Find your motivation other than changing your body
Freshman year of college, this all changed. I’m sure many of you have heard of the freshman 15 that typically occurs when young adults leave for college. Going away to school can often lead to forming unhealthy habits as you’re trying to figure out your new independence. I made it a goal of mine not to gain the freshman 15 when I went away to school. A little weight from stress and a new lifestyle was inevitable, but my goal was to avoid establishing unhealthy habits.
I began exercising to stay healthy. Instead of riding the bus, I chose to walk to class every single day and incorporate 3 HIIT circuits per week. I did not focus on losing weight, reducing my thigh muscles, or changing my body. I genuinely exercised because I wanted to stay healthy and form healthy habits while being independent.
The first step in finding a workout routine that fits your lifestyle is finding a workout that motivates you for reasons other than changing your body. The workouts I was doing included 3 circuits per week. When I finished those 3 workouts I felt invincible and incredibly proud of myself. Despite how busy I was, I took time to exercise and it made me feel good knowing I was prioritizing my health.
Your motivation could be something similar, a weekly or monthly goal that will make you feel accomplished and proud. It could also be a workout class or a community that you look forward to seeing / being with. Your workout motivation could simply be the “runner’s high” that you get from exercise endorphins. The options are endless, but the most important thing is to find a motivator outside of your weight and your body image.
Find what fits your schedule
Now that you’re motivated to workout, you need to pick and/or create a routine that fits your schedule. Your workout routine should be made to fit your life, your life should not be made to fit your workout. Coincidentally enough, I learned this freshman year of college too. College is probably 100x busier than high school. The thought of spending an hour working out plus additional time to shower and freshen up was extremely stressful for me.
Could I have fit one hour workouts into my schedule? Absolutely, I could have made it work. Chances are though, I would’ve skipped a lot more workouts and potentially even given up. At this point in my life, I was just starting to understand the value of regular exercise. I found a workout program with three 30 minute circuits per week. The exercises were challenging and left me sore. At the same time, they were efficient. I could do them from my dorm room if needed and I easily squeezed them into my schedule. To be honest, I still do these workouts today. I have been using them for 4+ years now!
Over the years, I’ve changed my routine a bit. I’ll add more runs or cardio certain times of the year or even try new workout classes, but the 3 circuits are what I always come back to. They fit in my schedule and are sustainable! You may not automatically know which workouts will fit your schedule. There will be a period of trial and error but I’d recommend starting with 30-50 minute workouts and varying the time based on what you think is realistic. Even if you begin incorporating 15 minute workouts 3 times per week, you will feel good!
Find what style of workout you like
Working out can be done in SO many ways. You can run, walk, lift weights, do circuits, take a workout class, 15 min abs, the list goes on and on. Try different workouts and see what you like best! My favorite workout the past few years has been HIIT circuits. The primary focus of my workouts are HIIT circuits, however, I love to run and try new classes so I will incorporate those intermittently when I can.
You will look forward to a workout you like 10x more than a workout you don’t like. If you are not a runner, don’t run. Once you start forcing yourself to do a workout because you think you “have to” you will begin hating exercise. If you do not like any workouts then don’t workout. It’s that simple! In order to find a workout that fits your lifestyle it has to be something you enjoy.
Find what is sustainable
My fourth and final tip should hopefully come naturally after completing tips 1, 2, and 3. When finding a workout to fit your lifestyle, sustainability is the most important thing. There will likely be a period of trial and error before finding a sustainable workout. And that workout will probably change overtime as your life changes. But once you’ve established your foundation, you will always have something to come back to.
If you’re motivated for the right reasons, fitting the workout into your schedule, and doing something you actually enjoy, working out will be easy. When you lose 1 of those 3 key pillars, you run the risk of burning out. You might last 3 days or 3 months, but overtime that workout plan won’t be sustainable. If you don’t like working out then do not force yourself. Being healthy includes more than just working out. At the end of the day, life is all about balance so if working out isn’t for you, that’s okay.
I obviously recommend focusing on these 3 things when picking a workout plan for you, however, they may not always be obvious to you. You may have to try new things, take a break, or even refocus on priorities. I promise once you find a workout routine that fits your lifestyle it will be a part of your life forever.
What do you think?