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What motivates you to exercise?

- posted by Joan Palmer.

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We all hear and read about why we should exercise regularly, what keeps you motivated to continue with an exercise regimen?

I haven’t always been an exercise fan.  I used to love netball at junior school but as I had badly controlled asthma I rarely made it to the end of a game without having an attack!  Problems continued with Asthma in to Senior School so I took it on board to take myself swimming on a very regular basis to get my breathing under control whilst exercising.  My health was my motivation at this point when exercising.  Swimming helped a lot and with better medical management also improving I was able to become more active.

Over the next few years I would say there were many factors that have motivated me to exercise.  My weight was a big one for a while and I am sure many of you will relate to this factor.  When I started my training to be a physiotherapist I was a lot bigger than I am now, size 16-18.  As a student physio you spend quite a lot of time in your underwear so that was a huge incentive to get active and lose the weight.  I became a lot more focussed on what I ate and walked to college, 3 miles each way instead of taking the bus.  I joined several different exercise classes and became a bit of a gym addict!

During pregnancy I wanted to make sure that I was fit for labour and for the post-natal period so I kept myself as active as possible, I bought myself an exercise bike.  Following birth I was then motivated to exercise by the initial mum tum and I had major pelvic floor issues following a 3rd degree tear-this happened twice over! I needed to get myself fit and get my body working properly again. Swimming was my main activity at this point as I found a pool where I could easily leave the baby in the car seat by the pool and I could fit this in 3-4 times a week.  I was lucky – only once did I have to get out to attend a crying baby!

Over the next few years, swimming was harder to fit in to my day.  I liked how I felt when I was keeping myself fit and active, weight wasn’t an issue any more as my level of exercise was enough to keep things under control and exercise became more of a help to keep my sanity with a growing family and an increasingly busy schedule. 

Running is very easy to fit in to a schedule but running was something I was never good at due to the ongoing asthma and resulting bronchiectasis that resulted from bad scarring of the lungs during childhood.  I didn’t let it stop me though as I needed something to fit in to a busy schedule so I followed a couch to 5k programme and succeeded.  During this time I found myself a running buddy and rather than starting out with a 5k or 10k event we went straight for the half marathon! I never thought I would ever be doing that. 

Having a friend to meet to get you out and run on the coldest and darkest mornings at 6am is a big factor in motivation and I actually felt a sense of achievement in something that I had done, I felt great after a run and from then I was hooked! (I have to admit though a medal or two was quite a big motivator too!!)

I have been running over the last 7 years and during this time I have encountered hormonal changes with the onset of perimenopause and this has meant at times running has been adapted to make distances slightly shorter to allow the activity to still be manageable.  Motivation took a slight detour but if you adapt your exercise level to suit the situation it is much easier to keep going. 

With my background as a physio and having seen many patients who were runners, I also knew that I needed to be keeping myself strong and this was quite easy to fulfil as I was running a kettlebell class at the time and this was perfect to ensure I was doing adequate strength training to support my running.  This is an area where many runners fail to look after themselves and I would always recommend at least one session of strengthening a week.

It has only been in the last 4 years that I discovered the lido.  I went along one day as my running buddy, which had turned into buddies by then, suggested we should enter the sprint triathlon that is held annually from there.  I fell in love with the Lido and loved the elements of peace and tranquillity that it added to an exercise session along with time out for me (except of course on those really hot days when it’s packed!)

I didn’t maintain the swimming out of season as the indoor pool just didn’t give me the same feeling so I just stuck to the running.  The last 18 months have probably been the most stressful and running has helped to keep me focussed and has played a huge part in maintaining my mental health.  There was no need to think about weight issues as it just fell off me for a while but I needed to get out and run to have a short period of time out, time to think and regroup in order to carry on with the next list of tasks.

I am still running, but circumstances have meant that I am not getting in the mileage I would like but small amounts are still good.  The running and a session of kettlebells help to keep me feeling fit and give me a sense of achievement.   I feel strong from just doing short sessions of kettlebells and this motivates me to continue.

I have already mentioned the perimenopause and its effect on my exercise programme.  It is important to be considering your exercise choice during this period in your life as it is a good idea to make sure you are looking after your bone and heart health to keep things ticking over in the best way due to our inevitable falling oestrogen levels.  Oestrogen has big parts to play in keeping out bones and heart healthy.  With falling oestrogen, we should be doing as much as we can to make up for this.  Weight bearing exercise in short bursts that makes us hot and sweaty is ideal.

There have been many changing motivations to exercise during my life so far.  For now they are mental wellbeing along with bone health and keeping a healthy heart so that I remain as fit and active as possible.  We don’t have to be putting our name down to do amazing exercise events, we just need to keep moving in the most efficient way to give our bodies the best outcome.

The reasons of maintaining bone and heart health as we get older, should feature on many of our lists for factors to get out and exercise, but are you motivated to do so?

We are coming up to that time of year again when New Year’s resolutions will be talked about and this can be a turn off for some people as it can be a real pressure to feel you need to do something new and amazing.  Exercise is one area always talked about at New Year but you can start exercise at any time of the year, you just need to feel comfortable about what you are about to attempt and make it manageable. 

If you are looking for a class that will help to keep you motivated and take in to full consideration your bone and heart health factors, I do have a couple of classes that will fit the bill. 

Women’s Outdoor Fitness runs on Tuesday and Friday mornings 9.15am meeting opposite the Central Cross Café starting back on Tues 8th and/or Friday 11th Jan, come to 1 or 2 classes a week.  There is an early bird offer for this class until Wed 19th Dec and it can be found here

The other option is the class called ‘Strong’ running on a Monday evening from 7th Jan at Stoke Orchard Community Centre, GL52 7SB 7-8pm.  This class is not only designed for those thinking about their figure and weight as this will be addressed from doing exercises that include weights and body weight, but it is specifically designed to incorporate looking after your bone and heart health too.  There is an early bird offer for this class up until 31st Dec (it will run in half termly blocks) and the first block of 6 weeks can be signed up for here

I hope this has made you think about what motivates you and if you have lost that motivation then let me help you get back on track.  I think that one of the best motivators is how you feel after a session of exercise as you will want that feeling again.  Come and get that feeling with one of my classes!  Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to have a chat about attending.

Have a great festive season and I hope to see you at a class in the New Year.

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