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.”


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.”


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.”

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