By FLORENCE BETT
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From Daily Nation

We have heard a lot about how to go about adopting a fitness regime, but not enough why.

We know the basics – that portion control and an exercise regimen that burns off more than you consume are key to weight maintenance. What no one harps about is how a fitness programme is immensely beneficial to your mental, emotional and spiritual states.

A fitness programme strengthens not just your body, but your mind, through perseverance, and your emotional state, through a surge in your self-esteem and confidence. You are an overall better performer when you exercise.

Fitness isn’t really about trimming and toning your body. It’s about a lifestyle that feeds off the positivity that comes as a consequence.

Personal trainer and fitness expert Nyaguthii Ndungu has worked with several women, to guide them in getting the body they want. In the years she has been in the business, Nyaguthii says that the ones who stick it out are the ones who understand that reaching their goal weight isn’t the end game, it’s merely the start of something greater. “The women who continue to work out long after they have reached their ideal weight go on to reap the wholesome benefits of exercising.”

Media personality and radio presenter Kalekye Mumo lost 40 kilos in eight months. “I surprised myself!” she says, “I didn’t think it was possible to lose that much, in fact I was afraid I wouldn’t make it. I learnt a very important lesson – when I put my mind to it, I can do anything.”

Kalekye’s programme required her to change the way she approached nutrition, then exercise. “I had to understand which foods had too much sugar or were too high in fat and carbs. Portion control was also key.”

RENEWED ABILITIES

Kalekye was fiercely driven to reach the goals she had set because she didn’t like the way she felt when she was heavier. “At the beginning,” she says, “it took remembering the pain in my legs and the difficulty in sleeping with the weight. I knew I didn’t want to feel that way anymore.” When her body got used to her new nutrition regimen, it took over policing efforts. “After a while my stomach (would immediately reject) anything oily or sugary I tried to eat.” She adds with a chuckle, “My body demanded I be on the straight and narrow.

“I now have a desire to stay healthy because we only get one life,” Kalekye says of her new lifestyle. “After such a programme it becomes second nature to eat right and practice portion control. I exercise for 45 minutes every day to keep fit. I power walk and do floor exercises using body weights. I am as confident as I was before but for sure, my self-esteem is elevated.”

Wairimu Kiragu is a life coach who found the drive to start a business partly as a result of adopting a fitness regimen. “I started working out in July last year,” she says. “I had been working out before that but I kept stopping then starting again. You know how it goes? I wasn’t working out to lose weight, though,” she says. “I wanted a more ‘compelling why’ than that. I wanted to conquer my inner critic and to prove to myself that I can do it. I knew that if I could work  out, then I could achieve other things I perceived to be difficult.” As a result of her renewed abilities in mental focus, Wairimu went on to start her business last January. That business is the Boundless Possibilities and Goals programme, and she says that it helps its clients – mostly women – focus on achieving their goals, find the courage to face their fears and pursue what they want.  “Fitness takes a lot of mental energy, consistency and self-discipline, as does life,” she says. “One has to put in the work. Life goals also demand the same of us. If you can endure a gruelling workout and make it a habit to push through, maintain focus and accept discomfort as part of the deal then you can apply the same principles to your life goals.”

Smart goals, self-discipline, dropping your bad habits, a desire to compete with yourself, blinding drive, a steady pace, time… these are some of the qualities you will adapt as you turn fitness into a habit. You already have them in you. All you have to do is tap into them.

 

ROADMAP TO CHANGE

Phase 1: Starting out

You have two goals here: to work on your self-defeatist attitude and to lay down the structures for a sustainable exercise regimen by putting in the work. One directly feeds into the other. Start by fixing your attitude. Remind yourself that you are not exercising to ‘punish yourself’. Being hard on yourself will only take you so far. You can only achieve success if you doing this from a place of self-love. “You will love and respect your body more when you are positive about your goals,” says Sheila Otieno, a yoga instructor from Acacia Studios in Westlands. “When it’s in a positive state, your mind awakens and your body becomes more responsive.”

Feed yourself a constant stream of positive mantras: ‘Today, I only need to walk for 15 minutes’, ‘I can put in two more laps of breaststroke’, ‘I know I can wake up early to walk’.

“This phase usually takes one to three months,” says Nyaguthii. “You won’t get past here if you don’t have the willpower to persevere.”

Phase 2: Building the momentum

You have gotten over yourself and you have reached (or are very close to reaching) your desired weight. Good on you. But you now realise that your weight is secondary to what you have discovered from your experience of exercising: You love your body for what it becoming. You love what you now know about managing your weight. You love how simple it is to tweak only certain aspects of your lifestyle to accommodate exercising. You love the sense of accomplishment, that feel-good high after a workout. You love how it makes you believe that you can conquer any challenge that comes your way.

You are not only eating better and healthier, you are also sleeping better. On the days you skip a session, it reflects in your mood – you become snappy, agitated and restless.

“Women who get here are progressively shifting their goal posts,” says Nyaguthii. “You will find them being more adventurous, and trying out more demanding workouts. They keep pushing themselves. Essentially, they are getting out of their comfort zones. Such an attitude motivates me as a trainer.” Wairimu adds, “You have conquered your mind.”

Phase 3: Positive plateau

You no longer exercise because you want to score better on the weighing scale or feel good about your body image; you already achieved and surpassed those milestones. You exercise because you understand how crucial it is to maintain this machine you call your body. By getting here, you have established a lifestyle that is sustainable for a lifetime.  The positive energy you draw from exercising feeds into other areas of your life. “You can conquer anything you set your mind to,” says Wairimu.

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