If your idea of exercise is the walk from the couch to the fridge and back, then 2016 just might be your year to become more active. Luckily, it’s not impossible to stick to exercise goals while attending university, and here are some tried-and-true tips for how to achieve getting in better shape this year.
According to the Toronto Star, in 2011, 50 per cent of Canadians who made resolutions had dropped them by the end of January of that year, while 15 per cent of Canadians had dropped their resolutions after one week.
This is hardly surprising. For the first two weeks of January, the Physical Activity Complex and every other gym on the block will be packed with exercise hopefuls. By the end of January, the flow of people will be back to its regular pace and only a handful of those who made exercise goals will have managed to stick with them.
So what’s the secret? For me, sticking to a regular exercise routine involves much more than motivation and willpower; it’s about setting yourself up for success with the right mindset. That’s why my first tip is recognizing that you’re only human — and being realistic.
Being realistic means acknowledging that it’s highly unlikely you will look like a Victoria’s Secret model or bodybuilder by 2017 — and that’s okay. The number one reason people give up on exercise goals is that they had unrealistic expectations to begin with. Strenuous gym workouts every day of the week is simply unsustainable for your body, mind and schedule.
Think about how much time you can actually devote to exercise and start slowly to avoid over-exerting your body. If you commit to exercising two or three times a week at first, you are more likely to stick with it than a more intense plan, which will only leave you exhausted and drained.
Along the same lines as being realistic is making sure you avoid approaching your goals with an all-or-nothing attitude. Having to skip exercise one day does not mean you failed at your goal and should just quit while you’re ahead. It just means you skipped one day — that’s all.
If you miss an exercise session, you can find simple ways to be active throughout the day instead. Take the stairs over the elevator in the Murray Library or consider walking to school. Even 10 minutes of a solo dance party in your kitchen between studying is better than nothing and will boost your mood considerably.
Equally important is making sure you listen to your body. If you’re sore from squats, take a rest day. If you wake up tired, swap the run you had planned for a lighter walk. Sometimes the best gift we can give ourselves is listening to what our body needs, even if that goes against your new exercise plan.
Try tracking how you feel after exercising in a journal or with an exercise app, to see what is best for your body. Recording your goals can also help you reflect and track your progress, which may be useful for sticking to your plan.
It’s also important to make exercise enjoyable for yourself. There are very few people who actually find pleasure in pushing their bodies through gruelling workouts. Choose activity and movement that you like, and you will be far more likely to look forward to your exercise times.
Exercise can include everything from taking an adult dance class, martial arts, skating, yoga or signing up for a Zumba or kickboxing class. Try switching a coffee date with a friend to a walking date — you will both save some cash and enjoy the fresh air — or do a workout DVD if you prefer to exercise from the comfort of your home.
How you view the goals you make will determine whether or not you keep them. If exercise is a chore to you, you will be unlikely to continue with it. Make sure to stay positive — it’s far better to focus on the one workout you did, rather than the three you missed. You will feel more motivated in the long-run if you’re not beating yourself up over small setbacks.
If you begin to view exercise as something that can be enjoyable, and plan realistically while listening to your body, then keeping your goals will be that much easier for 2016.
Naomi Zurevinski / Editor-in-Chief
Photo: Caitlin Taylor / Photo Editor