How Loving Exercise Became A Habit

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Without proper motivation, efforts to get fit are sure to fail. In fact, without motivation we’ll fail at virtually everything. Sometimes, we don’t know how to get started and often our daily life routines feel so crammed with a host of other priorities that the very thought of introducing some sort of fitness regime into our already busy daily schedule is often we tend to procrastinate about.

Yet, with all we hear in the media and from health professionals about the health risks posed by lack of regular exercise, we feel guilty about our lack of regular exercise. We continue to procrastinate;promising ourselves to do something about it but never quite finding the time to do so and never getting to the point where we can honestly say that we exercise regularly. From time to time we might engage in the odd or sporadic bouts of exercise activity as our waist lines continue to thicken (well mine at least), paunches grow bigger, arms lose muscle and get flabby, single chins double, double chins triple and alas even triple chins quadruple and so on! Eventually, we resign ourselves to a gradually altered and rather unflattering body shape that bears little resemblance to the once svelte, toned and fine muscled people we once were and at that point we convince ourselves that this is all part of growing older! Now, I know this might be a bit of an exaggeration but you catch my drift. Exercise is vital to our health, our hearts, our vanity and even our longevity.

My Dilemma

Much as I give the impression that I am a health and exercise freak, I am not really. Those who know me well will tell you this. I never really liked or enjoyed exercising regularly. I found it an unnecessary imposition. There was too much hard work and exertion involved in trying to keep trim and look good. All that grunting and straining of muscles in the gym never appealed to me and did not seem to me to be a feminine way to spend my precious time. But I had to overcome my aversion to the physical exertion involved with exercise by learning to reprogram my mind and my perceptions of exercise in order to condition my thinking more positively.

It has always been my nature to shun anything that I couldn’t embrace with conviction or belief. The same applied to exercise in the sense that even if in my head I knew exercise was beneficial to me, I still had difficulty forming the habit of doing regular exercise ifif I didn’t induce my heart to embrace it. In other words, I had to convince my heart to follow my head. Perhaps, you can identify with this dilemma of forcing yourself to do something you don’t feel naturally inclined to do. Exercise for instance or if you are like me, waking up early which is my daily torment as I have a bad habit of staying up very late only to dread waking up early with just three or four hours sleep most times. So, I’d like to share how I transitioned from being exercise-averse to becoming an advocate of its obvious benefits.

So, one day I decided to analyses and then ‘fix’ this aversion towards regular exercise. First, I established in my head that exercise was good for me so I listed all the benefits I knew that exercise would offer me, like:

  • Weight loss/weight management
  • Better muscle tone
  • Healthier heart /body
  • Better self image
  • Peace of mind (well, some peace of mind at least)

All of the above were important to me and I knew that regular exercise of some sort could help me attain these fitness goals. So I set out to consciously develop a loose exercise routine that would enable me tick off some of the boxes in in the list of benefits I had jotted down. I was making an effort to match my head knowledge with corresponding action in the hope that at some point while doing this in a more conscious and deliberate manner, my heart would take over in the process and help me formulate some good exercise habits going forward.

For a while, I tried different exercise activities to see whether I would find my preference. I joined a tennis club in my local area but found that my knees would constantly flare up (one of the after effects I suffered from being on certain medication when I suffered chronic ill-health years back). The same thing happened when I tried regular jogging. My knees would flare up and my joints would become painfully inflamed. I sought medical attention and engaged the services of a chiropractor and was eventually advised to avoid forms of exercise that put pressure on my knee joints.

So, jogging and tennis were definitely out for me. I had always been registered at my local gym but at the time, I rarely patronised it because of my punishing work schedule and the fact that when I did have free time, I preferred catching up on other important things like reading, researching, hanging out with friends or simply catching up on much needed sleep. I must admit I do love my sleep! Besides, I found going to the gym to be too much of a forced activity. I also decided to try out the variety of aerobic classes offered at my gym, but after a few sessions, I couldn’t continue with the pretence that I enjoyed jumping around to all that exaggerated choreography. Occasionally, I did enjoy it but not enough to commit it to it long term.

During the course of all this, I had developed severe and chronic back pain for which I was seeing a therapist and subsequently a neuro-surgeon who had suggested that I would probably need back surgery to remove a small cyst in my spinal discs that had been identified from my MRI scans. I was open to surgery but only as a last resort. I did seek a second opinion and the view was still that surgery was the best option. While in the process of contemplating this, a very close friend of mine, Alice Mbadiwe (pronounced mbaa-dee-way), herself an excellent personal trainer recommended that I try a form of yoga called Bikram.

Bikram or Hot Yoga

Many of you might be familiar with Bikram yoga and its benefits. I was at the time a complete novice and had never ever contemplated embarking on yoga prior to this time. I had certain misgivings about what I thought I knew or didn’t know about yoga practise and I didn’t want to get involved with all the ‘woo-woo’ stuff (in my opinion) that tended to be associated with all these ancient mystical practices. Perhaps my wisdom, perhaps my ignorance! Anyway, that was how I felt about it at the time but given the severity of my back problems and the imminent possibility of surgery, I was willing to try just about anything if it would offer me relief or save me the need for delicate surgery.

Alice then arranged for us to attend a class together. Well, I can tell you, the Bikram yoga experience was quite interesting. It was tortuous,practicing a variety of gravity-challenged poses in a room heated like we were doomed for hell (God forbid). It felt like hell and I fell in love with it! No, not hell, but the torture of Bikram itself. It felt like a punishment for sins yet un-confessed and I sweated profusely as if my redemption depended on it and it did; well the redemption of my back at least! I fell absolutely in love with bikram yoga and I had no reservations about signing up shortly after my initial taster session for more torture classes.

I had found something to love and it happened to be a form of torture! Me!Who prior to this time hadn’t been able to commit to regular exercise because I found it much too boring and too much of an exertion. I was now willingly surrendering my body to regular sessions of torture in a hell chamber.

My reasons for yoga were never for meditation. Some people do it more for that reason, in which case they normally take up other forms of yoga that concentrate more on the meditative aspects. I practised and continue to practise bikram or hot yoga (as some variations of it are called), purely for the overall health benefits it provides and for the wonders it did for my back! Yoga practise is of course rooted in some sort of ancient belief system and has its own follower ship by those adherent to that form of belief etc. I have never cared to explore that side of things. I just attend a class and avail myself of the benefits that the postures and the breathing techniques which are taught do provide me. Since taking up yoga, I have managed to avoid back surgery though I did have a rather serious relapse l for some months after I suspended yoga practise for a while because my consultancy work commitments meant that I had to be based outside of London and there were no yoga centers around the location I was based at.

I initially took regular yoga classes at a studio near my home that tended to be patronized by rather high-profile clientele.On many occasions I would be in the same sessions as some of these celebrities with us all sweating it out. Didn’t know their names but I would recognize their faces. I do remember though that for about a year, I regularly took some of the same yoga classes as the famous British actress, Helena Bonham Carter who happens to be one of my favorite British actresses. But within the heated confines of the studio, everyone was equal and there was no time to revel in star-struck awe as we were all focused on just surviving the 90 minute torture experience. It got me thinking that in ‘hell’, all are equal.

The particular yoga studio was set up by Michelle Pernetti who in her own right had gained celebrity status as the yoga practitioner who first brought Bikram yoga to the UK and enabled it to gain its level of popularity in the UK. I often took session that Michelle Pernetti herself instructed. She is an excellent instructor and has since gone on to introduce a variation of Bikram yoga in the UK.Her brand has been renamed and is now practiced as Fierce Grace yoga.

That was a couple of years ago. I moved studios when I returned back to working in London and found a more specialist yoga and multi-disciplinary therapy center even closer to my home. This center offers all forms and variations of yoga and their brand of hot yoga involves the use of far infra-red heating which has even more superior benefits to the ordinary form of heat used in regular hot yoga.

So,I had now discovered a love for hot yoga and I looked forward to each session with a weird combination of anticipation and dread. I take hot yoga sessions between three to four times weekly depending on how busy my schedule gets. But the important thing is, I genuinely strive to make time to do something I love and because I love it, I make time for it even when I am incredibly busy. I find the classes therapeutic and extremely detoxifying. I am better toned and my spinal alignment continues to improve as I increase stamina, improve posture and build core strength and stability. Most importantly, it has removed the need for me to have back surgery. My balance still leaves a lot to be desired though and I constantly struggle to maintain the poses without falling out of them prematurely! It’s a constant challenge but I have no desire to become a yoga guru or to perfect myself in the art of jaw-dropping contortion-ism. I simply want to give my body a chance to be healthy and to sweat out the guilt of living an exercise free life.

Each class lasts for a punishing hour, an hour and a quarter, or even an hour and half. Whatever the duration, rest assured it will be a duration of torture but you will be well rewarded for it. Also, be prepared to sweat river loadsso it is essential to be well hydrated with water or healthy liquids before, during and after a class. It is also advised not to eat heavily three hours before a class and you will know why if you make the mistake of being heavy with food when doing this class! A couple of times I made the horrendous mistake of having a meal too close to a class and felt awfully nauseous and lacking the energy to sustain the posture sin the heat. I almost passed out.

Brisk Walking

In addition to discovering a love for hot yoga, I had also discovered a love for walking which was more ofa cathartic experience than a real desire for physical exercise. Brisk walking however did help with my weight loss goals and I loved it, so this also became part of my routine. Walking provided me mental and creative inspiration in a way nothing else did. I found it conducive for airing out my thoughts, unwinding and reflecting on things that I might not have had the opportunity to do in depth, had I not embarked on these walks. Walking for me became a form of spiritual and not just physical exercise.

Spiritual because I was able to meditate and to reflect and also because some of the sharpest solutions and answers to issues literally would flash through my mind while walking, and with a conviction that was so rock solid that every doubt was eliminated. I‘d return home totally certain and at peace about things in a way I hadn’t been prior to my walk. Often while in the middle of walking and thoroughly engrossed, I would experience sudden bursts of inspiration in which lines and lines of sentences and thoughts would flash before me with almost photographic precision which I had to quickly write down as they came through.

Often these would be things I had struggled with for days or even weeks and was at a blank, yet while going on a walk I would get these bursts of ideas or words that just came through effortlessly and all I needed to do was scramble to jot these ideas, sentences or answers down. I would find somewhere to sit down like at a park or at a bus stop or I would even literally stand on the spot and write down stuff using my phone’s notepad in order not to lose what was coming through to my head. This happens almost every time I go on long walks and I think this has further heightened my love for walking because it made difficult things appear so much easier for me when I went on my now familiar long walks. I also have observed that if I was walking in rush mode, I’d never experience these episodes. It required me to be in a certain state of mind i.e meditative, reflective and having a state of calm. So, long airy walk were definitely my thing for so many reasons and not just exercise.

Dancing!

Another activity, I rather unwittingly included as part of my weekly exercise repertoire was dancing. Yes, dancing. I have always loved dancing and I love dancing away to all my favorite catchy dance tunes, through the R & B dance and soul hits of the 80’s, 90’s and contemporary tunes. I realized that I didn’t have to wait for a night out or a celebration to indulge in a good spot of dancing in the confines of my home.I decided that dancing to my own favorite choice tunes in my own style was more enjoyable and just as energetic as an aerobic session in the gym.

Thanks to my childhood friend, Joyce Halli day Aboderin who remains one of the most stylish dancers on the dance floor that I have ever come across,I developed my love for dancing from Joyce’s sense of style and rhythm way back in our secondary school days when she created a contemporary style dance group called the Spinners that used to entertain the school at special school events. With her innate sense of rhythm, Joyce taught all her close friends some pretty cool dance moves which I think has continued to stand us in good stead. So thanks to her my dancing prowess is still on display in my living room at least a couple of times a week where I dance for at least an hour and until I work up a proper sweat.This burns me about 450 calories or more depending on how energetic or carried away I get when dancing away to my favorite old school tunes!

So, without duress, over a period of time I found that by taking up walking, yoga and dancing.I managed to get my quota of exercise on a near enough daily basis and I didn’t feel imposed upon. I burn off reasonable amount of calories and together with other other calorie burning tips which I will share with you in later on, I am able to keep the weight off without the need to diet. Dieting is aging and I don’t care how much I want to lose weight I will never diet. You age in the process and besides I love the freedom of being able to eat as I please albeit with sense and discretion. So, with my regular exercise activities I maintain an active metabolism which stops it from getting sluggish as does tend to happen with age or and if we become more sedentary.

The bottom line is: Aim to enjoy

So, the moral to this narrative is that anyone can grow to love exercise if you have in the past struggled with developing an exercise fitness routine you can stick with. Based on my experience my suggestion is to try out a number of exercise activities that you can engage in within your local area or even at home. Exercise DVDs might do it for you or it might be dancing, if like me you happen to love it. You don’t need to worry about your coordination or rhythm. No one’s watching so just dance for long enough to work up a good sweat!Your body naturally moves to the music. As the Law of Inertia states, once in motion, objects continue in motion until exterior forces are present. Start dancing and you will not be able to stop! Dancing is a wonderful way to work out and it’s fun too which is the whole idea. So, get going. Invest in some trendy or casual sport wear and start dancing your way to a fitter body, a healthier heart and watch those pounds melt away. This will keep you motivated to stick with it and you’ll be amazed at how enjoyable you find these exercise sessions.

For faster weight loss and improved metabolism, you may wish to try a form of exercise called HIIT which stands for High intensity interval training. This is intense cardiovascular exercise done for short but exaggerated bursts at brief two minute intervals for about twenty minutes.This accelerates your metabolism far better than conventional exercise methods and is also anti-aging. Yes, some forms of exercise actually may keep you fit body wise, but cause an increase in the production of free radicals in the body which accelerate the aging process but that’s a topic for another day.

Spend time discovering which forms of exercise you enjoy. Anything you indulge in should succeed in getting the heart rate up for at least 30 minutes daily or between three to five times a week.Start gently if at first you struggle but without putting pressure on yourself. Just keep trying to form a routine around the exercises that you do enjoy. These will provide you the benefit of keeping fitter than if you did nothing. Changing and rotating your workouts to include new activities is a great way to keep motivated

If you don’t want to abandon your workout program, think of ways to stay motivated. You will not lose interest in your routine if you keep it interesting. Never allow yourself to stop because you grow bored. It’s just too hard to get started again.

Learn to reward yourself

Rewarding yourself is an excellent way to look forward to exercising. You are not required to wait until you have reached your final goal to celebrate your accomplishments. Mine is my favorite chocolate pack Minstrels which is not very disciplined or responsible I know but what the heck! One simple bag of chocolate is a worthwhile price to pay for the torture I put myself through each week. The pleasure of me savoring its velvety smoothness with my taste buds is a most delicious feeling! Never mind the fact that I pile on about 500 calories each time I indulge but because I exercise regularly, my metabolism can take it without making much of a difference – or so I hope!

And finally:

Don’t just concentrate on the work in working out. There are many different ways to make your workout routine more fun. With the tips already outlined above, you should be able to make exercising a fun experience. Drop me a line to let me know how you get on or to share your tips to encourage others.

Always passionate about your health & mine,

Kobi Emmanuella-King

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