One of the best ways to motivate yourself to get in shape is to focus your efforts on becoming fit enough to participate in a sport or activity that interests you. Combat sports, dance, and intramural team sports all require strength, flexibility, and endurance, so if you’ve been out of shape for a while, jumping right into those activities might be too much to ask of your body. Fortunately, shaping up doesn’t have to be a long and complicated commitment. Read on for a three-step game plan to get yourself ready for demanding activities.
Start Your Fitness Journey in the Kitchen
If you’ve ever heard someone say, “You can’t outrun a bad diet!” you’ll understand why improving your diet is the first step to getting in top shape. Many convenience-focused diets are full of simple carbs and unhealthy fats that slow you down and make you sick. Start your shape-up efforts by emptying your refrigerator and pantry of fatty foods with added sugar and artificial ingredients, and replace them with lean proteins, whole grains, and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables so you can be sure you’re supplying your body with all the nutrients it needs.
You may have been relying on prepared foods for a long time, so don’t expect cooking wholesome meals from scratch to be an easy transition. Ease into your new diet with simple cooking methods like baking and steaming, and lean on spices and seasonings to make sure you want to eat what you make. Many people find that they’re too rushed or tired to prepare a healthy breakfast in the morning, so plan ahead by swapping sugary baked goods or greasy burritos for a smoothie or shake blended with a greens powder—that way, you have one less meal to cook.
Know What Abilities Your Sport Demands
All athletic activities are strenuous, but the way in which they’re intense can vary greatly. Some sports never require you to lift more than your bodyweight, like marathon running or gymnastics; others, like Crossfit or wrestling, demand more strength, but still demand a certain amount of cardiovascular fitness. Think about how the pros train: Do successful athletes in your sport of choice build explosive strength that they can deploy in short bursts, or do they need to carefully monitor their exertion to make sure they can cultivate extreme endurance?
As you get a better understanding of what high performance looks like in the sports you want to try, start researching sport-specific activities that mimic the patterns of motion and exertion you’ll be working towards. Especially for sports that can only happen in a certain environment, like surfing or climbing, it’s important to understand how you can build your athletic skills on your own and in different contexts.
Consider Your Natural Strengths and Weaknesses
To find an activity where you’ll excel, consider your existing interests and your body type. No body type should prevent you from trying out a certain sport, but it’s possible that you’ll need to train harder to compensate for your build. For instance, if you’re long-limbed and lean, you may have to put in much more work to be a competitive weightlifter than someone who’s shorter and builds muscle easily. The best sport for you will also incorporate experiences that you already enjoy. Snow-loving adrenaline seekers will thrive on the ski slopes, but if you don’t enjoy the cold or the speed, you’ll struggle to see how skiing is fun for anyone. Don’t choose an activity just because a friend, partner, or family member loves it; take the time to find an activity that truly brings you joy, and you’ll be rewarded with a steady supply of workout motivation and a new source of happiness in your life.
Training for sports performance can be one of the most rewarding ways to get fit. You may have to do some extra planning and preparation to be sure you’re getting the most benefit possible from your training, but the feeling of excelling in an intense or competitive environment will ensure that you’re always in the mood to work out.