It was April 6th 2018 when I’d finally had enough of talking about how I wanted a beach body, and finally started taking steps towards getting one. By June/July- a few months later, I’d dropped 2 stones in weight, went from a ten in dress size to a size six, and had abs for the very first time. I started to wonder why it took me so many years to finally get into working out, when the whole thing was so easy, and the results came quicker than I expected. The whole experience was super rewarding, and made me realise that getting into shape didn’t have to be boring or daunting.
Today I’m going to share with you how I did it, what steps I took from beginning to end, and what I learned along the way. I’m in no way claiming to be a professional at this, however after figuring out what worked for me, I discovered the importance of knowing your body and finding what’s right for you.
Set Realistic Expectations
Unfortunately, deciding that you want to drop two dress sizes by your next social function isn’t realistic- nor is aiming to have a supermodel body with limited time to workout. Look at your calendar and decide how often you can work out in a week, without disrupting the commitments you already have. I started working out when I had a month or so off of classes, so it was easy for me to get into a routine before my schedule became hectic again. I allocated an hour a day, around midday to exercise, 5 days a week; I knew I wouldn’t be motivated first thing in the morning, nor would I want to once the sun had set and my evening hunger kicked in.
Stop Looking At Other People
Don’t follow beginners workouts that you can easily find online, or thirty day challenges, because the truth is, not all ‘beginners’ are at the same level. Whilst I was completely new to working out, I’d been a dancer for nearly fourteen years- meaning things would be easier for me to get into than it would be for someone who isn’t so familiar with exercising. I also had some form of muscle memory, so I began to see results much quicker than the average person (though I didn’t reach my target until the third month).
The mistake I made for very long, was trying to follow the workout guides made by other people. Not only could I not keep up, considering I was going from several years of not doing very much exercise at all, to suddenly wanting a toned stomach- but it killed my confidence and motivation when I couldn’t keep up, and quickly made me want to give up. My advice? Create your own workout that feels right for you. Trust me, it’s not as difficult as you may think.
Firstly, sit down and identify the areas in which you want to change or tone; For me, this was my stomach and my legs. You can of course research which individual exercises would be useful to you, but try to avoid copying a whole pre-written work out from start to finish
The Basic Workout Structure
Start with warm up exercises- stretching and anything to get your heart race increasing. Move onto some form of cardio- start off slowly and gradually increase intensity. This next point is the most important one you’ll read here- move on from cardio! I promise you, you won’t get anywhere by doing endless cardio for months on end, and you certainly won’t build muscle- trust me, I’ve tried.
Pick up some weights (the best decision I ever made), they’re not as scary as they look, I promise. Weight training can tackle a number of different areas of your body, according to which exercises you apply them to. Start off with dumbbells to get yourself into a routine. I spent the larger portion of my workouts using dumbbells, and by googling dumbbell exercises for a toned stomach/thighs and putting together a few different exercises that looked alright for me. Of course I swapped, changed and altered them until I found the exercises I was most comfortable with.
After working with weights, I turn to good ole fashion sit-ups or crunches which I absolutely dread (hence the reason why I put them at the end so I only have to do so many before my hour was up). I started off by doing twenty-five a day, that’s all! Soon after, I was able to do one hundred a day, in sets of twenty-five with a short break in between.
And last but not least, the cool down. In the same way that you warmed up to gradually get your heart racing, a cool down will allow your heart rate to settle gradually, rather than instantly. Feel free to throw in more stretches around this time also- it’ll help work on your flexibility.
Consistency Is Key… But So Is Resting
When I first got into the groove of exercising, I was so motivated that I simply couldn’t stop. Whilst I had allocated Saturdays and Sundays as my rest days, my body quickly told me that it wasn’t able to exercise for five days in a row without a break; so I listened. I judged which days to have my break day according to how my body was feeling on the day. Was I still sore from yesterday’s workout? Was I just too tired? I’d never work out for longer than two days in a row, because that’s when I’d notice my body became strained. And if I really needed it, I’d add in another rest day for the week. It’s important to do things in ways that feel right for you by knowing your body, your strengths, and your weaknesses, and taking things day by day.
Getting into the routine of exercising is the hardest part of working out. When you’re actually doing it, it’s not so bad and when you’ve finished a workout, you feel great about yourself.
Exercising Doesn’t Work Alone
I hate to be the one to tell you this, particularly as I’m sure you’ve already heard the same thing a million times, but exercise on it’s own is only going to do so much. Now, exercise paired with a good diet, and great sleeping pattern- now that’s that perfect combo. They all work hand in hand- when you’re sleeping well, working out won’t feel like such a drag. When your diet is good, you’ll feel rejuvenated and energised.
“If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it”
The secret is, you can go off and listen to a trained professional about what they believe is the best way for you to do things, or you can research, experiment and find out what your body best responds to; both are great options, but only one was perfect for me. Not everyone’s body works in the same ways, so don’t push yourself to be at anyone else’s standards.