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Free spirit: How to make working out come naturally

June 19th 2016 / Anna Hunter / 1 comment


The most efficient exercises, comfiest gear and best habits to adopt to make fitness sessions fly by

Getting out of your comfort zone is essential in order to get results from any given workout, but pushing the boundaries needn’t be punishing across the board. From booking into classes that give you a buzz to ensuring that you’re wearing the most flattering, functional and well fitting fitness wear possible, there’s a lot that you can do to lighten the load and actually actively enjoy training. Here are just a few ideas to make breaking a sweat practically breezy…

Just turn up

Laying down logistics is half of the battle when it comes to establishing yourself as a regular exerciser. Setting aside a dedicated workout window is key to making fitness come easy; if you pen in a non-negotiable timeframe in which to get active, you’ll relieve yourself not only of stressful day-by-day scheduling (and resultant guilt when fitness drills go down the drain), but also the headspace taken up by contemplating the challenge ahead. The more you do it, the less mentally and physically daunting your chosen class or circuit will become, and the quicker you’ll advance, both from a muscle tone and mindset point of view. Nike Master Trainer and global yoga ambassador Leah Kim assures us that this is the case:

“We are creatures of habit, so any way that you can support that natural human tendency, the easier it will be to stick with your workouts. It doesn’t have to be the same time and same place every time, but maybe you take your yoga classes at the same studio on certain days, find one spin teacher you love whose class you feel motivated to take, or make Saturday mornings about going for a run with a friend. If you do prefer the consistency of same time and same place, go for that! I think it’s helpful to have some kind of plan for the week, and do your best to stick to that plan (but also know that life happens and don’t worry if you end up having to miss or reschedule things here and there!).”

You’ll soon become a ‘regular’ at your chosen gym, studio or local park, and bunking off will feel a bit wrong. Plus, people will ask you where you’ve been, which could be awkward if the answer is ‘not prioritising my wellbeing’. Harsh but true. Strict cancellation policies help if you’re prone to shirking a workout at the last minute. If you can’t make a session every now and again that’s not a problem, but check your excuses first.

Remix your routine

Having said to schedule in habitual sweat sessions, what you do during said time slots needn’t be limited. Restrictive routines are likely to not only get boring, thus melting away your motivation, but repetitive activity could stall your physical progress and even lead to injury. If there’s an activity you adore by all means stick with it, but varying your approach will stimulate both your mind and body, accelerating your enthusiasm as well as your pace and proficiency. Whether it’s more yoga to stretch out your hamstrings, interval training at the gym because it’s raining or swinging a kettlebell just to see how it feels, putting yourself out there will increase your drive, self-esteem and strength. Feel the fear, do it anyway and feel free- just take it from Leah:

“I know that it can feel intimidating sometimes to go to the gym or to a class, and to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. Step up to these kinds of moments, because they’re the ones that offer you the most opportunity for growth and learning. I just spent a week with some of the best trainers in the world, and there was not one single person who didn’t admit to struggling sometimes.”

“One of the things we did together was daily workouts (and none of it was yoga). I was constantly intimidated by how strong and fast and all around badass they all are. Being a yogi, I don’t have the kind of training background they do. Sure, I do non-yoga workouts regularly and love trying different things, but compared to these guys in the context of training, I am the turtle, or the runt of the litter!”

“Heading into all the workouts we had together, I could not have felt more out of place, but I showed up and did my best. I kept a positive, lighthearted attitude, and leaned into the discomfort and unfamiliarity.”

“I didn’t worry too much about being the last one to finish a drill or about looking like I didn’t know what I was doing, and the support I got from everyone else was amazing. Because I was out there earnestly doing my thing, they in turn rooted me on, which then gave me a bit more confidence and energy to keep going. Aa a result I felt pretty damn good and free after completing each workout! None of which I would have experienced had I not shown up. So make sure to step out of your comfort zone every now and again - it might be more freeing than you expect.”

Want to get fit at home? Download the ‘Fresh HIT’ and ‘Goal Getter’ NTC workouts on the Nike+ Training Club app

Free yourself from comparisons

It’s said that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’, and while a little bit of healthy rivalry can be motivating, making yourself feel rubbish for the things you haven’t achieved, rather than celebrating the things that you have, is a sure fire way to making fitness grueling rather than liberating. If you’re not finding a workout to be a walk in the park, you won’t be the only one.

Even the pros struggle at times, but checking in with ourselves rather than where others are at is essential to making fitness positive and galvanizing, as Leah confirms:

“Sure, working out can LOOK easy. It’s not actually easy for any of us, at least not all the time. We all have our days of low energy, low mood, or low motivation. Sometimes we choose to take it easy on ourselves and take rest - it’s probably something our body is really craving and needs. Sometimes we choose to force ourselves to get up and go. We lean on each other for support, and we just keep trying to do our best and stay authentic to what’s true and right for us. I think it’s also important to remember that someone else’s journey is their own, not ours, so we shouldn’t compare ourselves to anyone else. It’s great to see others as inspirations, but it’s infinitely more important to stay connected to what’s true for ourselves.”


Loosen your limbs

If you feel tight, stiff and tired, getting going can be all the more tough. Having some invigorating moves up your sleeve to dissolve stress and strain and prepare you for what lies ahead will make you feel miles better and enthused to take on all manner of challenges. Follow Leah’s tips for getting loose:

“Think mobility. Mobilizing your entire body, building core temperature, loosening tension, and basically just getting things moving. Stretching or yoga is a great way to start a workout, or even just your day.”

“Any amount of time you can set aside for this will be beneficial, but it’s ideal if you can get in at least 20 minutes. Start with a couple minutes of deep breathing and setting your focus. Then do a few stretches on your back, sitting up, and then standing up. You can do any stretches that you already know and enjoy. Perhaps try Reclined Pigeon (sometimes called ‘4-sign stretch’) and Reclined Twist on your back, and then Butterfly Pose and Cat Cow, and finish off with Standing Forward Fold and Side Bends. Anything to get your blood and energy flowing.”

Revise your lifestyle

Results aren’t supposed to come easy, but if they’re not coming at all, frustration and reticence can set in. Instead of bailing, reconsider your concept of accomplishment. Rather than focussing on fitting into a particular dress for now, call to mind alternative positive changes that exercise has triggered, whether it’s improved sleep patterns, increased alertness at work, a greater feeling of relaxation at home or better health in general. Boosting even one element of your life for the better is an impressive indicator of how far you’ve come, and if you haven’t started working out yet, how far you could go. Start a diary of positive changes, note them as you go along and the exercise angst should become significantly lighter, even if the weights are getting heavier.

Shaping your day around your wellbeing is also important as far as making fitness feel natural goes. Firstly, if you really detest a particular activity, sport or class, don’t do it. Seek out alternatives that fire you up, and progress from there. Leah reveals that she didn’t follow the herd when devising her initial fitness strategy, and breaking away from situations that didn’t serve her has not only made her happier and more free to pursue her personal goals, but has also been of huge benefit to her career and health as a whole:

“When I first became really obsessed with yoga, I revolved my life around it. At the beginning of each week, I decided which classes I would be taking on each day, and planned the rest accordingly. I went to bed early if I was going to take an early class the next morning and I changed my eating habits so I would feel good in my body to practice. I even changed my social circles and stopped spending as much time with people who weren’t supportive of these new lifestyle choices.”

“Instead, it just made more sense to spend time with people who also wanted to take yoga classes and eat healthy foods. I realise all this is pretty extreme, and I certainly don’t think it’s necessary to approach a new routine with such intensity, but I do think that everything is connected, and the healthier your choices are outside of your workouts, the more feasible and enjoyable those workouts will be. Then they just become part of your way of life.”

Fashion a change

Another hook to incorporate fitness seamlessly into your lifestyle is to dress like you mean business. Getting into the right gear in the first place will make you well equipped for whatever trainer, app or gym floor throws at you, and make movement all the more intuitive. Don’t underestimate the power of a comfy, easygoing fitness wardrobe when it comes to reaching your potential. This is a lesson that Leah has learned the hard way:

“I definitely think that kit and clothing is an important part of it all. You have to feel good in what you’re wearing. You don’t want your clothes to be a source of distraction or discomfort.”

“I made a rookie error yesterday. I wore a new top to a hot yoga class. It was an extremely humid day in NYC, so the hot class was even hotter than normal. The top was too thick, too baggy, and too long. It looked super cute, but was functionally all wrong for what I was doing. I kept trying to tie it, tuck it in, and get it out of my face. Your clothing should support what you’re doing, not get in the way of it. So definitely take time to find clothes that you love wearing and that you don’t have to think about when you’re working out.”

“Gear and equipment depend on what workouts you’re doing. For me, an amazing yoga mat is absolutely essential. I love having my own mat, even if it means I have to lug it around the city. If it’s really not an option on a given day, I at least have a skidless mat towel with me. I feel better knowing I’m putting my face and body on something that is clean and just mine. It also makes me feel legit to have proper kit and equipment.”

Try out a pair Nike Free Transform Flyknits for 30 days here and put them to the test with Nike’s 30-day challenge

Finding kit that’s both stylish and feels like a second-skin can make all the difference, but it’s often an elusive search. If you’re in need of fresh ideas in the fitness wear department, see our edit of the ultimate free-moving apparel below.

Nike Free Trainers, from £90

Classes, gym drills and lifting weights will feel all the more natural and fluid if you’re wearing the right shoes for the job. A purpose designed training shoe is essential for staying on your toes, and the Nike Free Transform Flyknit offers stability and support that’s as dynamic and adaptive as your own movement. Whether it’s quick side to side motion or lockdown as you do barbell reps, this flexible yet durable training shoe will not only see you through a diverse scope of activities, but the sock-like fit will mean that you barely notice it’s there. Your feet have quite literally never been so free.

If shaky ankles prevent you from getting to 100% during training sessions, opt for the equally liberating Nike Free TR6 Training Shoe. Moulded ankle foam will keep you steady, but the feel is still light as a feather.

Nike Mesh Tank Top, £25

Being naked is obviously as free and easy as it gets, but your local leisure centre staff are unlikely to approve. For unfettered movement and consistent ventilation, go for the next best thing and get yourself a mesh top. Big in the 80s, these airy fabrics keep you cool while keeping you covered, allowing you to flash a modish sports bra while still preserving your modesty. Nike’s racerback model slips on like a dream and will stay light and dry as you work up a sweat.

Nike Pro Hypercool Frequency Training Capris, £40

The clue’s in the name; these streamlined gym leggings will help you to keep your cool as you step up the intensity. Mesh panels, light fabric and a form fitting cut all contribute to their cooling capacities, while sweat-wicking dri-FIT technology helps sweat to evaporate from your skin in double quick time. The next best thing to air conditioning in our book, and a wise summer workout investment (slip them under other sportswear during the winter months).

Nike Pro Classic Padded Frequency Sports Bra, £33

The sister bra to the Frequency Capris, this sweat zapping supporter offers the most comfortable compression ‘staying power’ we’ve come across. Whether you’re jumping, squatting or skipping, you’re good. Flat seams prevent rubbing, and removable padding adds soft enhancement should you desire it.

Nike Pro Indy Sports Bra, £28

If you’re after light, unrestricted support for weightlifting, yoga and other low impact activities, the Indy’s here for you. Compression cups, dri-FIT fabric and sleek, adjustable straps work hard to support you as you workout, but we promise you’ll barely notice. You know that ‘ahhh’ feeling of taking your bra off at the end of the day? This snug, mesh backed bra is almost there.

Nike Elite No-Show Socks, £10

When it comes to fitness wear that make you feel free, it doesn’t get better than breathable, practically invisible kit. Step in the No-Show Sock; officially Nike’s lightest sock ever. Sweat wicking, blister resistant and with a flat toe to resist bagging and irritation, this high spec sock is the perfect partner for your Nike Free Trainers.

Nike Gym Vintage Full-Zip, £50

For post training chills, cover-ups don’t come comfier than this warm yet light zip-up. An adjustable hood and loose arms allow you to tailor the fit to your liking and move freely as you warm down.

The new Nike Free Transform Flyknit trainers are £125 and are available to buy online here and the new Nike Free TR 6 training shoes are £90 and are available to buy online here.

This feature was written in partnership with Nike.

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