How I learned to love the gym

As I’ve mentioned before in my posts I used to hate going to the gym and I don’t know exactly why, but how this hatred has changed during the past months amazes me.

Just after my university studies I started working at a gym and the job was fine. I worked as a receptionist at a gym that was open 24/7. The job was easy, handling memberships, make sure everything worked and was clean and just being nice to the people training. The gym also gave me a free gym card but I think I can count on my two hand how many times I used it during my two years there… It just wasn’t fun!

When I left Sweden three years ago I hadn’t done any exercise in maybe two years and I did not start until September 2014. That’s almost five years without moving my butt! Only when going out dancing and doing my every day duties. And in August, just by the end of the month, a friend asked me if another friend and I wanted to come to his gym and that sounded like a good idea, I mean I had been thinking about that I’d actually would have to start doing something soon or I’d be like an old lady very soon.

We went to the gym and I decided to sign up and so did my friend. We talked about going together, but we never did… A week after joining the gym a man called me to offer me a free hour of personal training. Yes, I know, going to these you always end up buying it, and that wasn’t something I had planned,I wanted to go to see how my physical status was and get some tips and help to get started. Once there and after having two workouts with my personal trainer, I was sold!

But being sold on a gym is so much more than a personal trainer, and here are some other things that I’ve done and that I think could help you to become more affectionate to go to the gym, or do any other exercise.

1. Set a goal of how many times a week you want to workout and stick to it.
My goal is three times a week; Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If I can’t go one day I rearrange it and maybe I’ll go Monday or Tuesday morning instead of Monday night. I also like having the weekends off, but if I one day wake up and feel like going, it’s just a bonus! And of course, if I can’t go on Friday, I have the whole weekend to make up for it.

2. Find a place that you like
It sounds silly, but if you don’t like the place you’re going to, you won’t go there when it’s raining and you don’t want to leave your house. I find the esthetics very important, my gym has to be spacious, light and have nice details, maybe like a lounge where you could wait for your friend if you go with someone. I also find the ambient very important; if the people aren’t nice, I won’t go. This might also depend on the time you’re going, I always avoid rush hours if I can, because as I said, I like it spacious.

3. Make friends or go with a friend
As I mentioned, my friend and I had the intention of going together, but we realized that we didn’t like doing the same thing, she likes swimming, I like weights. So what to do then? Get to know the people there! If you always go at a certain time, you’ll soon realize that more or less the same people are there every time you are there (once again, set a goal with certain days to go). Start with a nod, then a hello and in the end you might end up talking.

4. Get to know the staff
The receptionist, the instructor, the personal trainer, the cleaning lady, you name it. Once you start talking to them I think you’ll find it a lot easier to go to the gym because you’re not alone, and you have someone that recognizes you and that might poke you for not coming on your usual day.

5. Set a goal for yourself and find programs that will help you achieve your goal
Not everyone wants a personal trainer, even though in my opinion it’s one of the best things that happened to me last year, but everybody needs some kind of help. I find it quite boring going to the gym, repeating the same machines every day and never really see a difference. The program doesn’t have to be complicated or professional, but having a different workout for every day is good for your body and, at least for me, makes me enjoy my workout a lot more. It’s a cliche, but take a before picture! You will notice a difference. Maybe not the first few weeks, but give it two-three months and voilá!

6. Think about something that interests you that is related to exercise
I’m very into sports and the human body so I read a lot of articles and studies online. If you’re into math, search for articles about how physical exercise can improve your math skills, or if you like dogs try to look at different exercises you can do with your dog to stay healthy. I hope that everybody is interested in their health and by combining it with other interests it might just be the thing for you!

7. Make it official
Tell people that you go to the gym, or any other activity, because the more people that know that you’re going, the more you have to disappoint when you’re not going. My friends always ask me if I went to the gym and if I say no, I feel ashamed and my friends quite surprised.

8. Make your workout list
Music might be important to a lot of people. I usually listen to the music that they play in the gym because I like it, but on the weekends I bring my MP3 and plug it into the speakers (I’m often alone in the gym, but it’s because I do my workout in a separate room where the personal trainers are), and every other day I listen to my music while getting ready to go or while waking over there.

9. Delete all excuses
Always have a bag ready for going to the gym. Don’t let it be your excuse that you forgot to bring your shoes or membership card. Bring it to work and even if you didn’t plan to go that day, but at the end of the day you might just have the urge of going, and then it would be a shame if you left everything at home.

10. Remember why you’re going
It’s all about discipline and turning something “boring” into something fun. Remember why you want to go and make the most out of it.

A lot of people say that the distance to the gym is important. I agree that it shouldn’t be complicated getting to your gym, but I for example did not choose the closest gym, no, I chose the gym that I liked the most according to what I wrote in no. 2.

Most importantly though is that you go to the gym (or any other activity) because you want a change. Figure out what you want before paying the membership card, because if you haven’t agreed with yourself, how will you then succeed?

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How to accomplish your New Year’s resolutions

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Last day of the year, so let’s do like almost everyone else and write about New Year’s resolutions. Like I mentioned in an earlier post I’ve never really believed in having a certain date to start doing something new (or stop doing something) because I think it’s better to start when you’re ambition is high and your goal occupies your mind. But, then again, the idea is nice to start a new year with new goals, so I don’t despise doing it.

I looked up some common New Year’s resolutions and found a study from University of Scranton, USA, where they’ve listed top-10 in America for 2014 and also shows statistics of how many Americans that make resolutions, how long they last for and age success rate. You can find the link here.

So, the most common resolution is … *drumroll* … Losing weight! I think this is the most common one in the whole Western civilization because we get feeded with pictures of how the ideal body should be, all the time. The problem when saying that “this year I’ll lose weight” is that it isn’t specific enough. How will you lose weight? How much? During how long time? Make a plan and make sure you’ll stick to it, and it will be easier to not go off it and surely it’ll be more motivating!

When I studied marketing and leadership in Sport Science they taught us a technique called the SMART model. It’s used to make goals clearer and more achievable and works for every area; at work, gym, New Year etc. The SMART model stands for:
S – specific (target a specific area of improvement)
M – measurable (quantify or suggest an indicator of progress)
A – assignable (specify who will do it)
R – realistic (what results can be achieved,  given available resources)
T – time-related (when will the results be achieved)

So now we have our most common goal, lose weight, and if we use the SMART model it could look like this:
S – Lose 10kg during 2015 by going to the gym and eating less and healthier food
M – I will learn 1 new healthy dinner recipe every week, I will go to the gym twice a week, and by July I will have lost 6kg
A – I will do it by help from a personal trainer and my family
R – I will probably lose more weight before summer when the bikini season gives me more motivation and hopefully I’ll reach my goal before given time, but over Christmas I might gain some kilos again…
T – Goal will be completed after 1 year, but my sub targets will be completed by July 1st and goals with recipes and gym every week.

I could make it even more detailed depending on what my goal is. And no, this is not my goal, I used it as an example since it was the most common New Year’s resolution last year in USA.

I like this model because it gives you the chance to think about subgoals. I don’t believe in stopping doing something from one day to another without easen the way before. It might work for some people, but if you can stop in one day, you most probably can start in one day too.new-year-resolution

Here’s the complete list of New Year’s resolutions in USA 2014:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Getting organized
  3. Spend less, save more
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Staying fit and healthy
  6. Learn something exciting
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others in their dreams
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend more time with family

Number 9 made me raise my eyebrows. Fall in love – doesn’t it just happen? How could it be a resolution for a year? Maybe more like a wish? And how do you apply this goal to the SMART model?

And, if you wondered, only 46% maintain their New Year’s resolution after 6 months, but what’s more shocking is that only 75% complete the first week! I really think they need some help with creating a plan for their resolutions…

Not only meatballs…

Even tho I’m a swede, meatballs aren’t the only ball-thing I can make. I’m going to a dinner party tonight and I decided to make some dessert; chocolate balls! But there isn’t actually much chocolate in it, they’re made of cacao, almond, figs, oat flakes, coffee, a little bit of sunflower oil and coconut flakes. Yummy and healthy!

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No te preocupes coach, son sanos 😉

Burn tomorrow what you ate today

I read an article yesterday about food and exercise. It was from El País, a national newspaper in Spain, but it was quite entertaining. I usually don’t like referring to newspapers as a source, but I think it’s good for people to get an overview of what they actually have to do if they want to burn what they’ve eaten.

We are approaching Christmas, the holiday of food and sweets! I’m not a big fan of Christmas food, but since I moved to Spain I must say that it has gotten better (maybe because we have a mixed Christmas table with Swedish and Spanish food so I have a lot more to choose from now). My biggest concern before was all the chocolate and the desserts and according to the article you’d have to either walk 30 minutes, run 17 minutes or ride a bike for 14 minutes to lose 3 pieces of chocolate. Marzipan or turrón (Spanish nougat) that are both very common at Christmas takes even more to lose… 45 min walking, 25 min running or 20 min on the bike.

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They also looked up how much you would have to do to get rid of a hamburger menu including french fried and a soda. Walking 236 min, running 131 min or cycling 107 min. I don’t think I’ll have a hamburger menu ever again…

But, as I said earlier, I don’t like using newspapers as a source since they aren’t very reliable in their statements. How big was the menu? How big piece of turrón or marzipan were they talking about? And even if you’re not doing exercise the body still burns the energy we’ve taken in by being awake but it doesn’t say anything about that. Another important thing to remember is that everyone is different and it might take you 236 min to walk off a hamburger, but it might only take me 200 min because our digestion works differently.

You can read the article here.

The first time is a temptation, the second a habit

Have you ever tried to get rid of a habit? Or start a new one? It’s difficult, although starting a new bad habit is a bit easier… You have something sweet instead of lunch. The first time it’s okay, it’s a temptation and one time is no time, right? But then you do it again, a second time, and it’s already developing into a habit. You have a beer with your dinner because you worked so hard that day, next day you worked hard again and deserved a beer again, and the following day you know you’ve already had beer with your dinner and you kind of liked it, so why not today again? It’s a bad habit that we should try to resist.

And getting into a good habit is more difficult… I’ve been thinking a lot about habits lately, so I sat down and looked into it.

I heard for many many years ago that making a new habit takes 18 days. I liked that number, even but uneven, and it seemed fair. Now when I searched it on the Internet I found more numbers and they all differed from 18-245 days. The old myth is that it takes 21 days and this was stated by Dr Maxwell Maltz, who during the 1960s made a study on amputated limbs and how long it would take for the amputee to adjust to the loss of the limb. And yes, that might be true for those cases and for those people, but I think creating a habit is a bit more complex than this and that it varies between people.

I found another study by Lallet et al. (2009) where they had recruited 96 people to run 15 minutes a day and eat a fruit with their lunch every day. They focused on when the action was made automatically every day without thinking about “having to do it”. The average of the participants did the daily routines automatically after 66 days, but in this study the numbers differed from 18 to 245 days.

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But of course it’s possible to develop a new good habit earlier. I’ve been going to the gym for two months now and it is a part of my lifestyle now. It has been it for a while, maybe even after only a few weeks, but it might have been my mental knowledge of a habit being created in 18 days that affected me. I have another friend who started go running with her brother not long ago. Last week they went every day, but on Friday she got a swollen achilles and couldn’t do anything over the weekend, not even on Monday morning. She told on Monday that she felt weird not doing any exercise and that she missed doing it. And that was only one (1) week!

What are your habits? Do you have any bad habits that you want to get rid of? Do you have any habits that you would want to get?

Drink instead of working out?

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I just read an article about Nestle investigating and producing a new drink that will contain enzymes that helps the body to burn fat and that stimulates the metabolism. It’s also supposed to be a good complement for people with diabetes.

They do however point out that this drink is not meant to replace all physical exercise but that it might be helpful for people who have difficulties to remain active, for example of old age, diseases or disability. The drink should be taken while doing some exercise, a fast walk for example.

I started doing a lot of exercise just a few months ago and I cannot imagine a life without movement. I am afraid that people might see this drink as a way to “escape” physical activity, but it is important to remember that movement isn’t just about burning fat, it does so much more to you, like making you happier, improving concentration, loses energy and gives you energy, make you sweat, stimulates the muscles etc.

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More info on: http://www.nestle.com/media/newsandfeatures/ampk-metabolic-master-switch