The Fit Squad Diaries
The WH team set out to answer a question that has plagued fit girls for years: HOW DO YOU FIND THE MOTIVATION TO STICK TO YOUR GYM PROGRAMME WHEN LIFE GETS IN THE WAY? TURNS OUT, IT ALL COMES DOWN TO YOUR FRIENDS
We found the secret to sticking to a workout programme and it’s totally doable!
Starting a workout programme is easy. But sticking to it once the initial hype is over? All kinds of hard. Research suggests that around 50 percent of people who start a long-term exercise plan drop out within six months. And among those who complete a fixed-term exercise programme (say, a 12-week challenge), the vast majority relapse to little or no exercise as soon as it’s done. Here at WH HQ, things are no different. We’ve tried some weird and wonderful workouts in our quest to stay on the winter fitness wagon. But as fun as it was to try something totally different, once the 12 weeks were up, most of us ended up back in our old, familiar gyms. So this year we decided to go back to basics. We partnered with Virgin Active to see how far we could push ourselves in a regular health club – and find out if something as simple as a gym buddy could be the key to success.
You know that feeling when your alarm goes off for yoga/CrossFit/your morning run and you desperately want to be that girl who hops out of bed and heeds the call, but Club Duvet is just so hot and happening? That’s when you need a posse. A US survey of 1 000 Les Mills group fitness participants found they averaged 2.9 gym visits per week compared to the average gym member’s 1.75 visits a week. Why? Because when you’re doing a group fitness class, it’s not just you vs 45 minutes of hell – there’s the camaraderie of being in it together. When you and your fit friend survive an ordeal – say, a gruelling 60-minute spinning class with all the climbing – your brain releases the bonding hormone, oxytocin. At the same time, your body is flooded with post-exercise endorphins and a hit of rewardbased dopamine (Yes, I smashed those Discovery Vitality Active Rewards points!). The result: your memory of those brutal last five minutes on level-nine resistance transforms from torture (I’m hating this. Why did I come? I’m never doing this again) to fun (We did it! This feels amazing! We are gods among men!). And when you start to associate exercise with fun, you’re way more likely to come back for more. “During this challenge I learnt that gym buddies are everything,” says editorial assistant Zinhlezonke Zikalala. “Having someone to go to gym with is motivation on its own because it’s no longer just about you. It’s teamwork.”
FIND YOUR FUN
But while fit friends will get you far, if you really detest doing something, eventually you’re going to drop out. So, the other key, we discovered, was choosing an activity that’s fun for you. Not everyone was born a sporty girl. But even if you routinely bunked PT class at school and wouldn’t run to catch a bus, that doesn’t mean you won’t find some form of exercise that you enjoy. A small study published in 2016 followed a group of adults (half male, half female) of varying ages over five years. During that time participants were involved in either team or individual sports. Researchers found four overwhelming factors that promote enjoyment of exercise: feeling that you’re good at what you’re doing, being part of
a group, novelty and feeling like you exerted yourself. So, when shopping around for exercise, look for something that’s going to do one or more of those things for you. Pound® ticked all the boxes for digital intern, Megan Flemmit, who’s always hated exercise. “I thought it would be an easy option, but I quickly learnt that that was not the case,” she says. “I struggled so much in the first class that I began wondering what I’d signed up for. But I don’t easily back out of commitments that I make, so I dragged myself to every class and started incorporating a few more. And I started enjoying it. Going to gym went from something that I had to do to something I wanted to do.”
PAVE A PATH FOR SUCCESS
If you’re going to succeed, it’s important to match your fitness habit to your own individual requirements – that includes the goals you want to achieve, your lifestyle and what you do and don’t enjoy. If you regularly have to work late, don’t plan workouts for after work. If you want to build arm strength, don’t cycle. As you try different things, you’ll find what works for you and once you do, stick with it. “Looking back, it made no sense for me to take up swimming because it didn’t complement my fitness goals,” says deputy editor Wanita Nicol. “So there were too many factors that could get in the way of me hitting the pool – I didn’t have a waterproof heart- rate monitor so if I needed Vitality Active Rewards points, I would choose to run rather than swim. If work was hectic, I too easily skipped my lunchtime swim, knowing I’d already done callisthenics or Krav Maga that morning. And some days, honestly, I just didn’t feel like wetting my hair.” Junior writer Michelle October stuck out her triathlon training, but realised that changing how she trained had set her back. “Before the challenge I was really happy with how I looked and felt,” she says. “By the end of the challenge, I started noticing my tummy was flabbier; I’d lost the little upper-body strength I’d been building and I weighed a kilo and a half more. I’ve learnt that I already have my niche.”