You burst into the new year with renewed vigor and lofty intentions for your health and fitness regimen, but as January comes to a close, your willpower finds itself under serious assault. Work has got busy, the social invites are flooding in and frankly, those HIT sessions are getting a little dull.
So how do you pull yourself back from the brink and avoid plummeting back into a life of inertia and fast food? Well that depends on who you are because different things motivate different people.
We may all have the key desire to be fitter, healthier and leaner of course, but the ‘X-factor’ that will keep us on track with our goals can vary greatly. The key is to discover what will spur you on when the going gets tough, so that you can offer that willpower some much needed support.
A whole new life
Fitness isn’t the end goal for everyone. For some, it is only part of the picture. Healthy body, healthy mind is key for anyone who wants to excel in all areas of life. Marcus Smith is founder of InnerFight, a health and performance company founded in Dubai with a core ethos to ‘make people better at life’.
Through a team of coaches and mentors, clients can turn over a new leaf and focus. Marcus explains: “I used to work in the corporate world, and I regularly saw people going through the motions, working the same job and thought ‘are these people getting any better?’ I thought, ‘why can’t I help people to get better at life’?”
Marcus, who represented the Arabian Gulf in international rugby, has brought some of his sporting know how into the world of performance. “In professional sport I was always been a massive believer in creating a high-performance environment because that allows people to excel. That’s what we do. It is not a gym, it is an uber place for people to come and become better here.”
It’s easy to see why go-getters might find Marcus and his team major motivators. He says: “When you want people to perform (at work), you need to be healthy and well. That’s the most important thing if you want to be at your best.” A mentor doesn’t always say what you want to hear however.
Marcus admits his clients are not wrapped in cotton wool. “We are pretty straight from the moment you walk in,” he explains. “If you are overweight you will be told and if you are not good at something you will be told, but we also say what we will do to make you better and with this attitude our retention rate is super high.”
Well being doesn’t just feed into work, it is important in terms of our relationships and downtime too. So what’s the advice from a man who has bettered his own life through the advancement of others? Marcus says: “Take an inventory of what is going on in your life. Do a little bit of soul searching about what you are doing and whether you are in denial, saying things are cool when they are not. Try and find something you are passionate about, set some goals and be really, really relentless in doing it. Wake up in the morning with purpose.”
A search for balance
In our hectic modern world, where information and interaction bombard us from every angle, many of us find it hard to ever switch off. So for some, the key motivation to exercise is the time out it provides.
Precious minutes where the normal demands of work and family cannot touch you and your stressed brain can just ‘be’ in the moment – however hot, sweaty and hamstring straining that moment might be. This can explain the rise in popularity of regimes like yoga, Pilates and Thai Chi – which all have mindfulness and breath work at their core, so while keeping you fit, they help you shed tension.
“I would never miss my yoga, however tired I am,” claims Dubai businesswoman and yoga devotee Lina Redman. “Unlike other exercise classes that I do, it will actually make me feel less tired. So I get a workout and heal my mind after a busy day.”
And before you let anyone tell you that yoga, Pilates and those kind of workouts are just stretching and not enough to keep you fit, consider this study from the US. Researchers at the University of California examined the relationship between yoga and fitness, testing muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and lung function in college students before and after eight weeks of yoga.
Unsurprisingly, the results showed an 188 percent rise in flexibility, but they also found muscular strength up by as much as 31 percent and lung capacity by seven percent.
A mouthy motivator
The sight of Sergeant Hartmall bawling out the troops in 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic Full Metal Jacket should leave few in doubt: stay out of the army. The drill sergeant may be terrifying, his methods obnoxious and downright rude, but that doesn’t seem to have frightened away the civilian world.
In recent times, military-style boot camps have become a hugely popular way to get fit and stay fit. In the UAE there are plenty of these sessions to choose from. The big question is why would you? Guillaume Mariole is managing director of Ignite Fitness and Wellness, which runs a number of outdoor military boot camp programs.
The reason behind the success of this method is simple, he says. And no, we’re not all masochists. “Ultimately it is a course that everyone will love to hate and hate to love, because it is a no-nonsense style of fitness,” Guillaume says.
“Put simply, it is 60 minutes of non-stop exercise. It is serious hard work, and then you are finished and that is what brings results. You can high five each other at the end of the class, but when you are there it is game on. So everyone is involved in the set, then it’s 60 seconds to catch a breath and then it is on to the next thing.”
If anyone is worried about tangling with a drill sergeant first thing in the morning, or after a hard day in the office, relax. Guillaume laughs: “Look, I don’t want people to be scared of boot camp! The group exercise class is a great place for people to come – especially if they are new to Dubai because they can meet people.”
There is a science behind the sessions and programs. Individuals are regularly tested on different disciplines so the metrics can be used to monitor improvement. The programs are also arranged with cardio and key body areas in mind.
We all work hard for our cash so handing over a chunk of it is a real inspiration for many people to stick to their fitness regime. None of us like to throw away money right? Buying a package of exercise classes is one effective way to ensure you drag yourself to that Monday night Body Pump when you would really rather head home to the sofa.
Or how about pre-paying your gym membership for the year? For some this can be what keeps them focused on sticking to a regime. But the handing over of hard-earned cash is about more than the money, says Edward Elliot, General Manager at Fitness First’s Vision Tower Club. It works alongside a strong fitness goal.
“Everyone has their hotpots,” he explains, “whether it be preparation for a race, preparation for a wedding, wanting to lose weight to feel better about themselves – that feeling is the major motivator but of course sometimes money is a factor too.
“If you do pay up front for example, you have made a long-term commitment. You have a plan in your head that you’re going to work towards and that’s what we always ask of clients – what’s your goal in that time?”
So money motivation works alongside a clear fitness goal, whatever that may be, because it is that goal which originally inspired the long-term financial commitment.