Simplify your exercise routine [simple is better, after all]

Simplify your exercise regime

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My desire to live a simpler, more natural life has been intensified in the last few weeks. After being diagnosed with mild depression and burnout I realised that now, more than ever before, I had to cut back. I had to remove everything from my life that doesn’t give me direct joy, purpose or satisfaction. That is a very myopic view, but exactly what I need to get back on track. And I think for most people it will ring true – if we do what we love, we get joy and satisfaction, and in the end purpose. That way even work can be pleasurable. Anyway, back to the point. The first thing I had to do was cut back on work. I do more than what is needed, and more than what is expected. Firm rules in place, I could focus on the next aspect of my life where I tend to push myself too hard – fitness.

I love being active, have always and most probably always will. I get up early in the mornings to give myself enough time to exercise, and then I still work in about 3-afternoon runs during the week. Moving feels natural to me, but not so much when your head tells you to get up and move while your body, and mind, clearly need the rest more. After realising that I was totally exhausted, I took 2 weeks off and now I need to create a new “normal” for myself. One where I can get the results I need without overdoing it. I need to simplify my exercise routine and work out a new regime that is gentle on my body, and on my mind.

If you look at the fitness industry as a whole you will notice a constant barrage of information. New techniques, new gear, new supplements, new moves, new clothes, new everything. And we are constantly told that if we do not keep up with all of these new things, we will never reach the results we crave. We change getting fit into a race. One that we, unfortunately, will never be able to win.

The moment you realise this you can ask yourself – what is this constant drive to have the newest, do the newest and wear the newest doing to your wallet, your mind, and your body? Your overall health? We are suffering and we are not even fully aware.

Let me tell you a little secret. You do not need all the bells and whistles. You don’t need specialised clothes (except a training bra and proper shoes. I will give them that) or fancy equipment. Heck, you don’t even need a membership. You don’t need hours in the gym. You don’t have to give up your sleep. You don’t need the expensive water bottle and drinks, or the pre- and post-workout smoothies. You don’t need the protein powders and supplements. There are a few that are nice to have, but you should not be killing yourself in order to afford it, use it, or force yourself to like it.

Your journey to fitness can be a simple stroll, it doesn’t have to be a sprint unless you want it to be. That is the whole point – to not lose sight of yourself. To not get caught up in this process to such an extent that it takes over your life. The point of exercising, other than working on your idea of the perfect physique, is to clear your head and enjoy the rush of dopamine and endorphins. Anti-depressants at their best. If you focus and fixate on the bells and whistles you forget that you are doing this for your own best will. Not to make the brands piles of cash.

Exercising should be simple. It can even be fun. Here are my five top tips for simplifying your exercise routine.

1. Only get what you really need, ditch the rest

You need pants and a top, shoes that can lace up, a vessel for drinking water and something to mop up the sweat. The clothes you exercise in doesn’t have to be branded, nor do you need all the latest “breathing technology”. A simple t-shirt and shorts work just as well. You don’t need specialised gadgets or gear. A fitness watch will not make you run further or faster, so if you find no motivation in using one don’t buy one. Basically, if you cannot see the value in something then don’t buy it.

2. Focus on a few exercises, or a large muscle group, per session

Our muscles were designed to work together, so breaking them up and focusing on a single muscle doesn’t make much sense. Rather focus on doing exercises that use multiple muscles, and only a few of these exercises in a session. Functional training makes a lot of sense to me. You will get fitter faster, you will be stronger, and you will increase your range of motion. The 4 key moves? Pushups, planks, squats and pull-ups.

3. Remember that it should be fun!

Exercise is not a punishment. If it is, you are doing it wrong. Seldom will it feel nice while you are doing it, but the moment it feels like torture – STOP! If you cannot find joy in your exercise regime then it is time to change it up. If you love dancing, then why would you do weights to get fit? Rather join a dance class to get your heart rate up. Find something that you love doing. This way time will fly by, and you will have the extra motivation to stick with the program.

4. Quality over quantity

Do as many reps as you can properly do. Don’t trade in bad form for a longer session or more reps. Focus on doing what you can to the best of your ability. This way you can celebrate every time you improve – when you go faster, longer, further or deeper. It is a journey after all, and the destination seems to be forever moving.

5. Be realistic

Tearing out a page from a fitness magazine and sticking that to your wall as your ideal look is de-motivating, unrealistic, and can even be dangerous. Be honest with yourself over what you are realistically capable off and set your goals accordingly. Set smaller goals that are easier achievable and celebrate your small accomplishments. If you celebrate every step you will be at your big end goal in no time, without even realising that you are putting in the work.

The takeaway? Our bodies instinctively know how to move, and how to be healthy and strong. We just need to stop complicating everything and allow our bodies to do what they were made to do. Remember, the best kind of workout is one that helps you get the most out of the other areas of your life—not the other way around.