ALVIN HO is COO of VitaCare Medical Group and co-founder of FITivate Pte Ltd. He is a certified fitness professional and was named Singapore’s 10 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness aged 40 and under, by SBR. Alvin strongly believes in the adage, “Prevention is better than cure”, and strives to help individuals attain optimal fitness through living an active and healthy lifestyle.
If there’s one thing that I have learned from more than a decade of working out, it is that keeping fit is more mental than physical. Everyone has the potential to achieve that toned figure – if they put in enough effort to do so. It is, in fact, the mind that needs to be hardwired to consistently put in this effort. In order to attain and maintain this mental tenacity, it is crucial to banish a sedentary lifestyle and work towards adopting an active one instead. Here is an eight-step strategy that I use to shape my mind in order to attain and retain physical wellness.
1. Feel-good effect
I would consider this the main impetus in my pursuit for fitness. While the prospect of having to undergo a gruelling session of physical activity might deter many, I’d urge you to look forward to the post effects of training instead of dwelling on the process. The sense of achievement after completing what I have set out to do, coupled with the feeling of gaining a tougher body after every training session, are the key factors that drive me through my weekly regimes. Research also shows that exercise makes the body release Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that creates the feelings of pleasure and happiness in the brain. The bottomline is, it always feels good after exercise. Keep that in mind and that should give you that extra push to grind through your training sessions and come out stronger.
2. Work out for your future
3. No shortcuts to success
It’s important to manage expectations when attempting to lead a healthy lifestyle. I have come across many people who would ask how long it would take to build that perfect bod: “Will three months be enough?” or, “Will half a year be adequate?” My answer would be: fitness is a lifelong commitment. Even if you successfully build a great body within a short period, it would take a lifetime to maintain the result. However, I would never discourage anyone by telling them not to bother if they are not up for it. Instead, I would use this mindset to push myself and not slacken from any training session, because for me, going back to being unfit will never be an option.
4. Fitness is never a burden
I have had countless encounters with people who lament that they never have time to work out. Work and family commitments have taken up so much of their 24 hours that they probably need another two or three more in order to slot physical activities into the mix. However, keeping fit does not require that many hours. A good 30 to 45 minutes for a quality workout would suffice. Moreover, fitness and gyms are two independent entities. You can gain an active lifestyle outside of the gym. Either furnish your home with simple equipment such as dumb bells and resistance bands or you can spend the time at a nearby workout station. My advice will be to shorten the time spent in front of the TV or computer and strap on your workout gear, and before long, I am sure that it will turn into a habit – and a way of life.
5. Start small, gain big
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Even though the ambition to excel is key in achieving optimum fitness, patience is an even more essential virtue. Progressive training bolsters confidence and ensures that the body is properly primed before proceeding to the next level of training. Do not force yourself to run a marathon when you have not gone through the necessary training needed to even complete a fraction of it. Not only will the body be exposed to unnecessary injuries, you may end up giving up because of frustration and disappointment. Picture physical well being as a huge majestic Lego castle. In order to achieve the final product, it requires one to carefully piece up those building blocks one after another.
6. You are what you eat
Yes, you have just completed 30 laps in the pool or run a good 15 km and now you are famished. What would you reach out for to satisfy that appetite? A wholesome healthy meal or comfort food which you tell yourself you have earned the right to eat? I believe all fitness trainers would agree that exercising is only the tip of the iceberg. The key to attaining fitness goals still very much relies on what we put on our plate. If you are not satisfied with your progress after some time, I would suggest that you reevaluate your diet to see if more adjustments can be made. Dietary discipline is as important as, if not more, than the determination to pursue an active lifestyle.
None of us will absent ourselves from an important meeting, especially if we are chairing it. This is exactly the mentality that should be translated towards every training session. If you have already planned for gym in the evening, then don’t miss it for the world (unless urgent crops up). Even if there are occasions where you would have to skip one session or two, always ensure that makeup sessions are arranged. It might not be easy to adopt such a mentality at the start, but as you press on, I am sure it will eventually become a priority rather than a hassle.
8. Breaking the cycle
Adding variety into your exercise regimes not only adds momentum to your stride, it can even help break through your plateaus. The key is not to stick to one training plan for too long, as this will cause the body and mind to grow used to the repetitiveness, which in turn, can potentially impinge growth, making your efforts counterproductive. With this in mind, the next time you hit the gym, think of new exercises that you can incorporate for each body part. You can also try taking a different jogging route for a change in scenery, for who knows, you might like the new one better. The crux is to vary your workout plan every now and then so that the process remains fresh, thereby preventing interest from waning.
There might be more ways to encourage one to stay healthy, but the bottom line is that, in order to achieve and sustain a strong body, the key lies in priming the mind to pursue fitness as a major priority in life. I do hope these tips will prove useful in helping you achieve your goals.