Life&Style’s Estelle Dragon considers ways to lead a healthier lifestyle while still being able to enjoy yourself
Leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy. For many, eating healthily and exercising regularly has become yet another dreaded chore to add to the bottom of the to-do list. My two-year-ago self can definitely relate to this. I constantly found myself planning to change my awful eating habits and lazy lifestyle but never got further than ‘I’ll start tomorrow.’ ‘I’ll start tomorrow’ turned into ‘I’ll start next week.’ Inevitably, that next week became next month.
The tables turned for me when I realised that being healthy and fit isn’t merely something physical, but is more so about upholding a healthy mind. For this reason, in order for health and fitness to benefit you, you need to have a good relationship with it. I thought I would share some essential stepping stones that helped me transform health and fitness from being my arch nemesis to becoming my best friend.
Attend group exercise classes
The only way I was able to start enjoying exercising was by attending group exercise classes. This was far more motivating and exciting than running on the treadmill for 20 minutes straight. Not only does attending these classes open up opportunities to meeting new people, it also means that you’re learning whilst exercising. In the past, going to the gym and doing my own ‘exercises’ often resulted in laying on the exercise mat on my phone for a good half hour, mainly because I had no idea what exercises to do not understood what parts of the body they even worked. This became very uninteresting and demotivating. With an instructor leading the class, not only are you discovering new exercises, but also learning how these exercises are actually working different parts of the body. This gives going to the gym so much more substance and is far more fulfilling than trying to beat a machine. It’s also a great way to push yourself harder as you’re more determined to keep up with the rest of the class’ pace. Your body can be pushed to limits you didn’t even know you had if you put your mind to it. Seeing as it would probably be quite embarrassing to lie on your exercise mat doing nothing for half an hour whilst everyone is sweating away, I definitely vote group exercise classes over basic gym use!
Make exercising become an escapism rather than a chore
In order to keep motivation levels up, it’s important to look forward to doing exercise. Believe it or not, going to the gym has now become my ‘me time’ rather than my ‘I cannot be bothered for this’ time. As students, during exam times or intense deadline periods, it’s essential to find something that you can filter your stress into. For me, this is body pumping, cycling, or body attacking (my three favourite group exercise classes). I now look forward to attending gym classes because it’s my time to clear my mind and sweat out the stress. Your endorphin-packed self will feel refreshed and therefore will become more productive after having exercised. Exercising is meant to be a stress relief rather than a stress trigger after all!
Cook up a lean storm
Who’s to say you can’t enjoy a healthy meal? People often assume that healthy food doesn’t go much further than rabbit food (bland salads, raw veg and quinoa tends to ring a few bells). This really isn’t the case. There are so many healthy ingredients out there that can make the most amazing dishes. A huge part of living a healthy lifestyle comes down to finding and creating new exciting recipes with foods you never even considered touching. There are tonnes of healthy cook books out there that can transform your diet without eliminating all your favourite foods: I personally have a huge weak spot for pasta and rice, and thanks to Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 (my personal cooking bible), I’m able to eat as much as I want to by cooking with the wholegrain versions of these carbs. You can also find some pretty fancy substitutes that are just as tasty. For example, making curries with broccoli or cauliflower rice is absolutely delicious.
Create a routine
Becoming and remaining committed to being healthy and fit hugely comes down to routine. This is another reason why going to group exercise classes is great – once you’ve booked them in, you know exactly what time you have to be there and then can work your daily schedule around those times. This sense of routine and structure will then convert into habit, and after a few weeks you’ll start to actually crave exercising. Another way to create and fulfil this sense of routine is by making weekly meal plans. This will help you avoid having regular cheat days when you can’t find anything in the fridge to make a decent meal. People often tend to dislike health and fitness when they fail to commit, and therefore it’s important to put things in place that will aid your motivation!