We all know that exercise is an essential part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle, however sometimes we feel that exercise is a lot like being tortured than something that we can do enjoyably. I remember when I was a teenager my mom always tried to push me into some type of sports. I always preferred sitting at home and studying or working on my art projects instead of working out. However because of my mom I tried tennis, track and field, folk dancing (I hated that the most), swimming, exercise therapy (I developed scoliosis as a child), badminton and finally aerobics (I hated it too for the first year and used every excuse I could to skip it). Today when I look back at my childhood I am very grateful to my mom that she tried so hard to make me a fit person. I also realize that all her attempts were in vain because she missed the most important principle of exercise: she didn’t let me do what I wanted to do. My dream as a child was to be a ballroom dancer or a gymnast.
As adults we treat exercise as something that we MUST do and not something that we enjoy. When we choose a workout we base our opinion on what everybody else is doing or what is considered healthy, good for you and popular. We do not give much thought as to what exercise will actually make us happy, make us look forward to every workout and become an essential part of our life. Some people give up on exercise before even trying it because they think that they are not made for sports or because they do not have time for it.
I think that exercise can be an enjoyable part of your lifestyle if you can find your “miracle” workout, something that will work for you. You might have to try a few different things and feel disappointed once or twice before you finally find what you like. There is no one-fit-all workout that anybody can stick to but there are hundreds of workouts to choose from that you can fall in love with.
So what are the secrets of choosing the best workout? The secrets are these 9 questions that will help you realize what workouts can work for you.
Why do you want to exercise? - To lose weight – you need to concentrate on cardio workouts - To get stronger and shape up – you need mostly resistance training - For health purposes – you need a combination of cardio, strength and flexibility training Keep in mind that no matter what your goal is you will still have to incorporate all three types of exercise into your routine on some scale: cardio, strength and flexibility training. It is essential if you want to develop a balanced body and if you want to see constant improvement in the way you look and feel.
What is your level of fitness? - Beginner (you’ve never exercised before or it has been too long since you last exercised) – do not try advanced workouts from the very beginning because you will face nothing but disappointment and pain. It will be better to start with low impact activities (walking, swimming, cycling, strength training) and later progress to higher intensities. - Intermediate (you exercise occasionally or it has been a few months since you have last exercised). You can try anything you want but keep it within reason. - Recovering after an injury or you have serious health considerations – you need to talk to your doctor and ask what type of activity can suit you best. - Advanced (you are probably not reading this article) – choose any activity that appeals to you.
How old are you? Our bodies need different types of workouts at different ages. When we are young we mostly exercise because we want to have great looking bodies. When we get older we exercise to stay younger and to protect our health in the future. In general the intensity of our workouts decreases every decade after we turn forty, so be wise when you choose a proper workout. I would also recommend talking to your doctor first if you are 50 and older.
How much time can you devote to exercise every week? - I am too busy, I do not have any time at all – it is time for you to rethink your schedule and find some time for exercise. Do you socialize with your friends or colleagues every week? Do you watch a TV show every night? Do you spend hours surfing the web and keeping track of all your friends on Facebook and Twitter? You can sacrifice a few of these activities for the sake of exercise and better health. You can also squeeze in a short workout before work or during your lunchtime (30-minute circuit training at a nearby gym or a fast walk around the block). Be creative and honest with yourself: you lack desire not time. - I can exercise only on the weekend – plan 60- or 90-minute workouts on Saturday and Sunday and add 10-15 minute workouts during your weekdays (morning exercises, a brisk walk, going up and down the stairs) - I can exercise at any time – choose time when you have the most energy and get moving!
Are you a social person? - No, I am not – If you are tired of working with people all day long then you will probably enjoy some silence while working out. You might also enjoy these workouts if you are very shy or embarrassed about your fitness level. The best options for you will be running, walking, cycling, exercising at home (exercise DVDs, home exercise equipment), working one-on-one with a personal trainer in a small studio or swimming. - Yes, I am – People around you might be a good motivation if you are a social person or if you like competition. Your options are really endless. You can choose anything from team sports (volleyball, football, soccer, basketball, racquet sports), martial arts to the most popular classes at your gym.
How emotional are you? - Emotional people will enjoy fun and spontaneous activities like dancing, team sports, mountain biking, and group fitness programs. - At the same time reserved and unemotional people will appreciate Mind & Body programs like Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi, running, weight training, working out on cardio machines, swimming, and walking.
How aggressive are you? - I can’t see a pacifist working out on a punching bag at the gym or sweating during a kick boxing class. This person will most likely prefer a relaxed Yoga class or some folk dancing. - If you are an ambitious person with a forceful character then choose aggressive sports like racquet sports, kick boxing, body pump, and weight training. It will help you let off some steam.
How competitive are you? - For some people competition is the main and only motivation to exercise. These are the people who choose exercise to compete in different sporting events (5Ks, marathons, triathlons, weight lifting contests), who like martial arts and team sports. - Others prefer to work out on their own pace without trying to keep up with anybody else. If you are a loner then choose sports that give you opportunities for reflection (Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, swimming, walking, and long distance running ).
How much support do you need? - Some people need lots of support and encouragement to stick with an exercise routine. If you are one of these people then choose group fitness classes at your gym, join a running or cycling club in your community, hire a personal trainer to work out at the gym and never try to exercise at home or alone. You need examples to follow in order to stay on track. - Other types of people have high levels of self discipline and they are self sufficient in exercise. Feel free to exercise at home (DVDs, YouTube, and home exercise equipment) or choose any other program that appeals to you.
I hope that once you have answered all these questions you will be able to find an exercise routine that you can stick to and that you will enjoy. The best part about exercise is that once you get used to it and once you see some results you can try any other fitness program. The stronger you become the easier it will be for you to enjoy different types of exercise. You can even use exercise to reinforce traits of character that you want to develop or maintain but that’s a topic for another article. Have a good workout and