Kira Stokes is a go-to fitness guru and the mind behind The KiraStokesFit app and The Stoked Method, a science-backed, form focused, functional flow of movement formula. While the training technique is meant to provide a challenge, burnout is never the goal. In fact, mobility and recovery are part of every circuit to prevent injury and keep progress from crashing and burning. Each component of the workout has to make sense with each progressive move to protect the body and the mind. The best, and perhaps the most effective, part of Stokes workouts? They always begin with gratitude. Stokes’ workouts are a refreshing reminder that mental health goes hand in hand with physical health.
Stokes reveals several ways we can exercise our mind and our body and in turn, get more meaningful results.
I always begin workouts with a simple reminder, but one we often neglect and take for granted. You need to be thankful for your ability to move. This is a game-changing thought for those who are just getting started or trying to psych themselves back into a routine. We all need this reminder. Movement is a gift and to be frank, there are those who don’t have this gift or no longer have it. There are also those who still move despite life-altering injury or insurmountable odds. Get inspired by that and start moving your body. A simple yet impactful mantra I begin my personal workouts, client sessions and classes with, following taking a deep cleansing breath with eyes closed, “take a moment to be grateful for the ability to move and challenge your body, as it is truly a gift. Smile, open your eyes and let positive, energetic vibes fuel your workout with an open mind, fully STOKED”. You don’t HAVE to challenge yourself…you GET to.
Set realistic goals.
Schedule specific checkpoints (dates on the calendar where you try on a goal outfit, or want to hit being able to run that 8, 9, or 10-minute mile to gauge progress). Remember that small goals lead to big results. It all stacks up, but think about keeping things realistic by taking one step and hitting one small improvement, adjustment, or small victory at a time. If you set expectations too high that can lead to frustration and giving up prematurely.
Find Some Friends.
That is, find some sweaty friends! Think of your friends as an analog version of your Apple watch, Garmin, FitBit, or built-in health tracker on your phone (checking those stats on technology can also be a big help too of course!). Tech is brilliant. But before we all became so synced with going digital, it was always other humans helping to hold us accountable… and nothing can beat that. Having a someone or a group of people to show up and sweat with you and help measure goals is a proven way to increase accountability. It’s something I refer to as “sweat unity.” Make a pact or commitment with a friend, family member, partner, or a group of friends to try one new class or fitness modality a week or every other week. Or make a plan to commit to a specific training program to support one another and help track goals together. This might be a little over the top, but think of your body like a Spice Girl (c’mon we all loved them). If you love your body, think about getting with our friends.
If you can think of dressing for the job you want, you should also think about dressing for the workout you want. Investing in workout gear that makes you feel good about yourself and even helps to support movement (or leave it less encumbered), can definitely motivate you to keep moving. This is a real psychological factor when it comes to exercise and other accomplishments, if you like what you see and how you feel when you look in the mirror, the odds of pushing yourself a bit harder increase. Feeling good is also a MAJOR confidence upgrade. Fitness is my vocation and exercise gear happen to be my “work clothes”. I know how I’m dressed definitely impacts my mood when it comes to my own performance for the better on days I feel really great about everything I’ve selected from sneakers to sports bra. I always like to emphasize, functional, fashionable fitness apparel can be an immediate mood, and therefore workout booster.
Sweat The Small Stuff.
When setting your workout goals, remember that every little bit counts. On days when other priorities are getting the best of you and you might feel too overwhelmed to spend a dedicated amount of time to work out; WORK IT IN – look at your environment and get creative – push-ups using your desk or park bench during lunch, air squats as you get in and out of your chair, take the stairs (or try lunging up them like an everyday superhero simply multitasking and maximizing your time). One of my reminders: every little bit you do is like money in your health bank. Movement snacks matter. If you don’t have time to work out for an hour or 30 minutes, try spending 5 minutes jumping rope (jumping rope for 10 minutes is equivalent to running that 8-minute mile), drop to the floor and plank while waiting for food to cook, and rock some glute bridges while watching your favorite show. PThink of every little bit building toward endurance and strength. You don’t have to be overwhelmed by timing, but by scheduling the time and squeezing in small bursts of workouts on days when it seems like the clock is working against you… you’ll still always be working toward a goal rather than letting it languish and letting the clock win.
Half Full, Not Half Empty.
Sometimes it’s not just about starting a workout, but completing it! A simple way to keep exercising when you’ve hit a wall halfway through is to remind yourself you’ve made it halfway through! Don’t squander your sweat equity. The mental factor can be key to your workout success. As an exercise scientist, I’ve always valued my added background in psychology (I graduated from Boston College with a BA in Psychology). That mental fix can sometimes be the most challenging part of your workout, but you have to keep reminding yourself of why you started and where you want to go. This is also another reason why finding trainers, instructors, or coaches who can motivate you actually really can play a strong role in contributing to your workout success.
Put Reps On The Calendar.
Just like brushing your teeth, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, booking work meetings, and other daily commitments — prioritize scheduling workouts the same way. We build habits through repetition but also by writing things down, locking them into our smartphones, or setting alarms for reminders. Make space in your calendar to take care of your body.
There’s a reason service men and women around the globe line up before drills and action. It’s a form check to mentally prepare for peak performance and execution of tasks. And while I’m not trying to say we’re at war with our bodies (maybe in some cases we are), making form the foundation of every move incorporated in your workout is essential for success. During workouts sometimes we might tend to drift or lose focus. A way to keep your body in line and in check is to recite “form, form, form” as almost a mantra in your head. Without proper form, you are far more prone to injury or completely defeating the purpose of training goals. Whether you are new to training, making a comeback, or an everyday athlete — form always needs to be the guidepost of any exercise regimen. You must train to avoid setbacks. You can also think of that as “training smarter.” Never try to overdo movement that takes you away from executing proper form. This is actually comes with the fundamentals for dancers or elite athletes. If Simone Biles didn’t start with the basics, or Misty Copeland constantly hyper-extended we might be a few gold medals and prima performances short! Form makes the difference with everything.