Autumn is all about setting fresh goals and getting back into the routines that make us feel good. If you’ve lost your flow, these are the tips to follow this September, writes Sarah Haselwood.
Fitness routines can be challenging during the summer months. Whether you’re a parent whose life is shaken up because the kids are off or a social butterfly who has no time for fitness, it can be tricky to maintain healthy lifestyles and regular workouts. And however good it might be to rest or do something different when it’s hot and humid outside, September often brings a cool sense of normality and routine back to proceedings.
But how should we adapt our fitness goals and training as we move from summer to autumn? How can we embrace the ‘back to school’ vibe – and apply it to getting stronger?
September is the best time of the year to set fitness goals
In many ways, this period is a time to reset, prepare for a change of seasons and tap into a renewed energy and fitness focus. “September has become my busiest month for starting with new clients,” says Mandy Wong Oultram, a PT and nutrition coach. Her existing clients are also more motivated to set new goals or ramp up the effort to meet pre-existing ones.
“September feels like a new beginning: the kids are back at school, there are fewer plans or distractions, the indulgence of the summer is over and a window of opportunity is open for focusing on fitness goals before Christmas.”
How to motivate yourself to move during September
Whether you’re incredibly motivated to get back into your fitness routine after a summer break or you need a bit more coercing, there are different ways you can summon motivation and keep it.
Be clear about why you want to get fitter/stronger/faster
This goes for every goal set at any time of the year, but now’s a great opportunity to assess your motivations for starting or restarting a fitness plan. “Dig deep into your mind to work out why you want to exercise. Write it down and refer back when you feel unmotivated,” suggests Wong Oultram.
Sports psychologist Matthew Cunliffe agrees that it’s essential to understand your purpose for fitness as you head into a new part of the year: “I ask people to write down five reasons why they want to do the activity and have it pinned somewhere in their home.”
He also suggests setting those reasons as a reminder on your phone to go off at various points during the day, especially at the beginning of your journey. “I’d suggest three reminders a day: in the morning, midday and early evening,” he says.
Choose something you enjoy
The likelihood of a sustainable exercise routine is slim if you don’t actually like what you’ve chosen to do. Even if you do want to do a particular activity, the chances are that it’ll be tough to begin with – so knowing that you’ll get enjoyment from some element of it is important. Maybe that’s a sense of community, the expectation of endorphins or the knowledge that, eventually, you’ll have an overwhelming sense of achievement when you reach the finish line/nail that new routine/reach the summit.
“If you like team sports, find a team you can join,” says Cunliffe. “Some people enjoy CrossFit, which adds competition and the social element to exercise. We know that humans are motivated by social interaction, and people often go to the gym or sports clubs because their friends are there, and it’s highly motivating.”
Wong Oultram agrees: “Enjoyment and progression play a huge role in staying motivated. I always explain why each exercise is in a client’s programme to get buy-in from them.” She and her clients track the weights, sets and reps performed for each exercise, so they can see – in black and white – that they are becoming stronger and fitter.
At this point, Wong Oultram explains: “Clients will often start to set exercise-related goals, such as ‘I want to be able to do 10 full press-ups by December.’ And once they reach that goal, they set a new one.”
Plan how much time you can realistically dedicate to fitness
The saying “fail to plan, plan to fail” is never truer than with regards to making exercise into a habit. It’s all too easy to run out of time or delay your plans for another week.
Your best bet is to pick the days you want to work out, schedule them in your diary and make sure that your sessions fit around your other commitments.
“Don’t just go to the gym and do whatever you feel like doing,” says Wong Oultram. “Know what you will be doing once you get there (exercises, sets and reps). Plan your workouts for when you are least likely to abandon the idea, such as first thing in the morning.”
Acknowledge that any movement, no matter how short, is worthwhile
The start of a fresh season is the perfect time to update or change your fitness routine. This may partly be down to the change of weather, but it’s also down to finding and recognising new pockets of time.
“Don’t dismiss small windows of opportunity to exercise because you think it’s not enough,” says Wong Oultram. “You don’t need an hour a day to train. Just 20 minutes of exercise, three or four days a week, is still significant and worthwhile. To see change, you just need to do more than you are doing now.”
She adds: “Fitness routines don’t necessarily need to change across seasons unless you prefer to do more outdoor activities during warmer and lighter months and retreat indoors for the winter. The key to making fitness fit into your lifestyle is consistency.”
Don’t dismiss small windows of opportunity to exercise because you think it’s not enough
Quit the procrastination and get going
If we’ve given our bodies a break from regular fitness routines over the summer, it can be challenging to get back into a more focused lifestyle. The key to getting started again is to avoid overthinking it; the initial step is always the hardest part.
Cunliffe says: “It sounds ridiculous, but I say to people, ‘Just go; just do it!’ You’d be surprised how easy it is to find motivation when you put your trainers or gym gear on and start for a few minutes. The motivation and ability will come. Even if you only do half your workout, you’ve still done more than you would if you hadn’t gone.”
And if having someone as a workout buddy helps you move forward in your exercise plan, go for it. “Find someone you want to exercise with or find a team or class where there are people you can build relationships with because you’ll be much more motivated,” says Cunliffe.
So, what are you waiting for?