Does a day ever go by without some scolding health expert or earnest lifestyle guru reminding us that all we have to do to live forever is get some regular exercise? The advice is unavoidable, all around us, intoned like a mantra: exercise, drill, practice, discipline, train, workout – nothing very inviting here. Do we listen? Not if we can help it. Should we be listening? Yes, absolutely.
The benefits of regular exercise are truly extraordinary; exercise is wonderful for both body and soul. Immortality may not be on the list, but so many other good things are. We know this. We just don’t know what to do with the information.
We get bored. We lose interest. We have no time. We injure ourselves. We are perfectionists and get discouraged. We set the bar too high and make it all but impossible to carry out our too-ambitious programs. We lose heart and pack it in. Again and again and again.
Okay. Stop the madness! Let’s have a look at some of the more common hurdles to establishing and keeping an exercise and fitness routine and see if we can’t beat the odds.
Impediment No. 1: I just don’t have the time to exercise regularly!
- Get up earlier. This is the old standby solution, but it works. Set your alarm to get you up 30 minutes earlier than usual two or three times a week in the beginning. Get in that quick walk or workout, then carry- on with your day. Miss Tuesday? Try again on Wednesday. And once twice a week feels pretty good, add a day or two. The routine will establish itself before you know it.
- Walk more, drive less. Another old standby. Park your car a few blocks from your destination, or park in the back corner of the lot at the mall or game, and walk in from there. At night, of course, be sensible and stay in well-lighted areas.
- Grab a quick short walk or two during the day. If that 30-minute walk around the neighborhood is not happening on a regular basis, be creative. Squeeze in a couple of 10-minute walks throughout the day. It’s easier than you think.
- Remodel those weekend rituals: Replace the Saturday movie with the kids with a weekly bike ride or hike. See if your buddies will join you for a swim or jog before you get together at your local spot for drinks and dinner.
- Who isn’t self-conscious about wearing workout gear? Except for kids under 16 and supermodels, no one looks good in sweats! Don’t worry about it – just keep focusing on how much better you will be feeling.
- Keep away from crowds. Exercise by yourself in the beginning if others intimidate you. You can use an exercise DVD, a stationery bike, a treadmill or stair-stepper if you prefer.
- Keep you goals in focus. Think about the future benefits your commitment to fitness will bring. Be kind to yourself and take pride in your dedication. Sometimes, it’s a matter of sheer willpower. But know that the more you exercise, the better and more self-confident you will feel. You will make real progress faster than you first believed, too.
- Change it up! Rotate among activities you like – walk one day, cycle the next, dance on the third, that kind of thing. You will be working different muscle groups and keeping the boredom at bay at the same time.
- Don’t punish yourself. If you design your fitness ritual around activities you actually enjoy, you will be much more successful and have a far better time, too. Just keep moving – that’s the whole point!
- Bring in a buddy. Working out with a friend, a spouse or relative or family member, even a neighbor or co-worker, will make it much more fun. You will enjoy the support. And if you are still worried about how you look, don’t be. Your buddies will likely be just as self-conscious. Make some team t-shirts and have fun with it!
- Learn new skills. Once you get your routine established, add to it regularly (but don’t drive yourself crazy, either – if you get overly ambitious you might just make it all too hard to continue doing!). But maybe a local sports group might be fun. See what the local rec center has to offer by way of classes.
- Work with your basic nature. Lazy you might be, but surely there are times in the day when you have more energy. Find those times and exercise then.
- There are no exercise police. Try not to be so hard on yourself – you will give up before you even get your shoes on. Get that walk started; it may not be thrilling at first, but stay with it. If one block is all you can handle in the beginning, fine. Add another block next week. Remember that exercise will actually give you more energy, not take it away, so stick it out.
- Schedule your exercise just as you would any other important meeting or appointment. This is kind of like the ‘date night’ thing. Mark off your exercise times and respect them. See that your friends and family support and encourage you. And if you can’t keep the appointment this afternoon, don’t cancel. Re-schedule it for tomorrow.