Work out smarter, not harder – 4 tips from fitness enthusiasts on pacing yourself

Work out smarter, not harder – 4 tips from fitness enthusiasts on pacing yourself
Fitness content creator Muriel Itholeng shares easy fitness tips.
Fitness content creator Muriel Itholeng shares easy fitness tips.
Photo: Supplied

It can be difficult to find a fitness routine that works for you and stick with it, especially if you wouldn’t necessarily call yourself a fitness fanatic.

With expensive gym costs, it’s easy to slip into old patterns that may are not always healthy. Trying to get back into the full swing of things with hard-hitting physical activity can leave you feeling sore and unmotivated to get back into regular exercise.

But don’t let the potential costs and the busy day-to-day life steer you away from maintaining a healthy lifestyle that’s easy on your body.

According to a 2020 study on optimising activity pacing, researchers have noticed that pacing yourself and slowly building up your physical activity can be a powerful tool to help against increasing idleness and inactivity.

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We spoke to fitness content creator and business owner Muriel Itholeng as well as motivational author and Comrades Marathon runner Sipho Marima on the best ways to pace yourself during physical activity to find the right exercise patterns best suited for you.

1. Focus on your breathing

While breathing is first nature to us, making sure you’re able to control your breathing while doing physical activity like jogging can help you work out at a steady pace and gradually exercise for longer.

During exercise your body uses up more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide since oxygen feeds the muscles.

“For those first time runners, I would suggest doing some breathing exercises. Take the time to focus solely on your breath and form,” Muriel says.

Sipho provides some tips to improving your breathing techniques while exercising:

- Breathe rhythmically. This can help reduce stress and relieve pain.

- Do some diaphragmatic breathing. Deep abdominal breathing will strengthen the muscles that support breathing and allow you to take in more air.

- Always focus on your form to create a proper breathing rhythm. This can help with increasing energy, lowering blood pressure and improving digestion.

“The golden rule on breathing is to exhale on exertion. For example, if you’re doing a squat, you’re going to inhale slowly on your way down, then exhale on your way up,” Sipho adds.

2. Maintain proper form

Doing physical activity or running are most effective when they’re done using the proper form, not to mention it helps with improving your posture.

Muriel uses her experience of starting out with her running group to stress the importance of using proper form.

“I used to run leaning forward, especially when it came to up hills. With my team’s observations I was told to run up straight and to never slow down when it comes to hills. Remember your breathing techniques and push through or else you slow down and get more tired,” she explains.

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3. Find your rhythm

No one person is the same when it comes to what works for them when working out or maintaining a healthy lifestyle for their standards. It’s important to play on your strengths and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.

The Under Armour athletes go on to explain that the best thing to do is to find a routine that works for you and keep at it consistently, while slowly building up your workout routine.

“Don’t procrastinate on when you’re going to start, just wake up and go. Find yourself a good training buddy who’s got the same determination to achieve their goals like you. Then just begin. Consistency is key. [It’s] very important,” emphasises Muriel.

Sipho also adds, “Always remember that if you continue to exercise at your baseline level, you [are] unlikely to make progress. You need to gradually increase the amount of effort.”

4. Set realistic goals

Listen to your body and don’t overexert yourself when you feel like you’ve done too much.

Remember it’s not a competition, you have control of setting the goals you know you can reach and pacing yourself to achieve them.

Sipho says “pacing requires the discipline to avoid getting excited and overdoing it in the beginning of your workout and also to maintain the same effort even when you are getting tired at the end of your workout”.

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