The Secret Ingredient

Published Wednesday, 23 October 2013
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I'm often asked 'what is the secret to maintaining exercise?'. How do I stop myself from giving up after a while?

How do I make it a permanent part of my lifestyle? How do I ensure it's not just another fad?

Of course I could give you many different explanations for this, including physiological and psychological reasoning, involving motivational cues such as body composition results and health outcomes, while quoting oodles of health and fitness research ... but I won't. Because I firmly believe that the secret ingredient is much simpler than that.

I believe it is happiness.

Over the years I have been involved with many different aspects of health and fitness. I have encouraged people to take up exercise, coached adults to excel in their sporting abilities, and motivated children to learn new skills. I've devised lifestyle packages and multi-faceted obesity programmes for those who simply hate exercise! I've undergone strict (and sometimes gruelling) training programmes myself for sporting performances at National level, and worked towards my own personal fitness goals.

In my experience, the one thing that I see as the only true driving factor that influences any individual to maintain their exercise regime, is if they ENJOY it.

It is often said (much too freely without thought in my opinion) that we should do what makes us happy. How often do we say this? But how often do we actually do it? Really think about it. Are we actually doing what makes us happy? Or are we doing what we think we should be doing, or doing the things that we think should make us happy? This can obviously cross over in to every aspect of our lives and existence, but let's just stick with exercise for now! I don't want to go too far beyond my remit!

So for example, how many people will promise themselves to do an exercise dvd every morning for a month, because they have a party frock to get in to? Or how many people will religiously drag themselves to the gym, kicking and screaming as their friend Flo drags them by the hair into their weekly aerobics class, because they 'have to keep healthy'? It happens. It happens every day. But more often than not, this will be short lived, and these people will find themselves giving up. Why?

You've guessed it. They will give up because they don't want to do it. Simple. Yes, they may want the results that it will bring, and that is certainly their motivating factor to keep trying to force themselves to do it. Having a goal isn't a bad thing. Everyone has a motivating factor, whether it be fat reduction, muscle growth, increased fitness, lowering blood pressure, reducing mental stresses (the list goes on) but maybe we shouldn't be focussing on our motivating factors. Maybe we shouldn't ONLY be focussing on our goals and our end result. Because happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Don't get me wrong, the end results can be very enjoyable, but they are often coupled with the terms 'achievement' or 'rewarding', which to me implies the process of getting there could have been a challenging and somewhat negative process. Then of course, after all of that, the end result may be short lived. That dress may fit for a few weeks. That holiday in Spain will come and go.

And then what? Does the cycle start again? Do we wait until another motivating factor comes in to our lives that kick starts us to exercise again in a panic to achieve as much as possible in a short space of time to reach that happiness once more? This translates to the yo-yo affect. To a fad. To a 'I promise I'll start on Monday' attitude. All of which have less chance of really impacting our lives to ensure exercise is a lifestyle.

That's life however. And of course we will continue to have the peaks and troughs of being focused or aiming for particular goals. But when we're talking about a long term lifestyle shift, I much prefer to embrace that happiness from the start of the process, rather than just chasing it for a brief end result.

Therefore I believe the secret ingredient, and the KEY, to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, is to ensure that we ENJOY the activities that lead to it. If we really enjoy what we're doing, we will keep doing it. It's that simple. That's human nature. We will then find it a lot easier to weave activities and exercise in to our lives so much so that they become new habits, instead of negative chores that we feel we have to do to get to that end result.

If we really enjoy what we're doing, achieving the end result may seem so much easier and more 'rewarding', because the process to get there was enjoyable and full of happiness rather than negativity. Check out the Tribal girls in our fun lipdub video - they certainly enjoy their time exercising with the Tribe and working towards their goals! The secret is: make your fitness FUN because there is a lot to be said for laughter!

So, if you aren't enjoying the journey to your destination called 'Happiness', then perhaps it's time to change your journey to 'Happiness' and see what destination it takes you to.

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Nichola Jarvis
Nichola Jarvis

Nichola is a sports studies graduate who has lived and breathed fitness for over 12 years.

She started her own fit club called Tribal Fitness to combine her two passions - nature's gym (i.e. the great outdoors) and having FUN when exercising!

Be it her Babes or Pramtastic Bootcamp to help mums with their tums, Nichola knows how to make keeping fit feel fun!

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