Especially after the festive season, many people find it hard to get their act together to resume their exercises. How can you best overcome your “weaker self“?
Lars Löwe: The first step is the most difficult step. You feel weak and lethargic, and your ‘weaker self’ will easily win before you get back on track. You should accept your ‘weaker self’, not as an enemy but as part of yourself! Ask yourself why your inner couch potato is so strong at this point. What is it trying to tell you? Once you have sorted out these questions and feel an inner urge to get some exercise, you should start straight away rather than wait for day X. Some of our BLUEf!tTV videos on YouTube and Facebook, for instance, may help you get going (see Part 2 of our series “Simply get started”), as they show you how to easily carry out light sports sessions at home any time. Set yourself some realistic goals, with a number of smaller goals and milestones you can achieve step by step. To that end, you should set up a training plan, possibly with the support of an expert or at least an experienced training partner. When you achieve a milestone, you should celebrate and reward yourself. This will increase your motivation.
What matters most at the beginning of an exercise programme?
Löwe: Setting up a schedule. Sports and exercise should not be an event in between two appointments. Exercise needs time, and you should take that time. Initially, you should mainly focus on endurance training. You should go for light-intensity exercises and short training units. If your own expectations are too high and your body is unable to meet these standards, you may easily be demotivated. Instead, you should focus on the smaller goals, your intermediate milestones. If you cannot run for 30 minutes, you should start by doing two 15-minute runs or three 10-minute runs or six five-minute runs. You can use the breaks for stretching exercises or brisk walking.
What matters in muscle building?
Löwe: Your muscle building routine should always start with the major muscle groups, including the muscles in your back, legs and chest. If you train these major groups instead of small muscle groups, you will get in shape faster and increase your metabolism more quickly. During the workout, your muscles will get exhausted so that your body will have to recover. Most recovery processes take place while you sleep. You should therefore take care to ensure you take sufficient time to sleep and recover.
How can you manage to make exercise a sustainable part of your routine?
Löwe: Here, too, your success will often depend on the interim milestones you set yourself. The more interim goals you define and the more goals you achieve, the more successful and motivated you will feel. You should slowly and gradually but continually increase the intensity and scope of your exercise programme. Shift from individual exercises to combinations of exercises. You may, for instance, train push-ups, squats and jumps individually, and then combine them into burpees as your level advances. Burpees are activities that train your entire body, combining several fitness exercises into one single fluid movement. They enhance the effectiveness of the training, and because of the greater challenge the workout will be increasingly fun.
For many athletes, it may also be useful to keep a training diary. If you systematically note down frequencies, repetitions, weights, exercises etc., you can follow your progress. This visible success can be very stimulating and motivating.