Here’s the truth of the matter: in the beginning, exercising is difficult. No sugar-coating it. It is. You will be uncomfortable, sore and sweaty. You will spend money. You will make sacrifices. You will go to bed exhausted and, at first, wake up tired. Showers will happen. A lot of them. But, as time goes by, you will be rewarded. Everything gets easier. You WILL lose fat and gain muscle. You WILL have more energy. You WILL feel younger and better in every life scenario. You WILL be able to play a full game of basketball or do cartwheels with your kids. You WILL be healthier.
It all begins with a plan. Deciding on an exercise routine that you can maintain is tricky. It involves organization and understanding the self. To help guide you initially, answer these questions: “Why do I want to be healthy?” “How do I get there?” “What barriers do I have?”
The Common Barriers
1. Too Busy
When thinking about starting an exercise regimen, the first thing that comes to mind for most of us is “I don’t have time to do this.” This excuse is flawed. You do have the time – maybe not to spend hours at the gym, but a workout can be any length of time. It is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. That breaks down to 30 minutes per day, five days a week. (Workouts can also be ten or 15 minutes long. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all.) Plan your week. Log it. Make a schedule and make it a priority. You have the time.
2. Too Tired
You may feel tired, but the funny thing about exercise is that the more you do it, the more energy you have. You will be tired at first, but as the days go on, that feeling will fall away. All you need to do is take the first step. Better nutrition will also help you to feel more energized and more capable. Breathe in and go. The more you think about how tired you are, the more you will be.
3. Too Old
There is no such thing as too old for movement! If you do have health problems, you should always check with your doctor before engaging in strenuous activity. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense. A simple walk with a friend or work done in the garden or around the house counts. Movement is the key and the more you move, the easier everything will be and the younger you will feel. Schedule a weekly or semi-daily walk with a friend or a group. Join a senior aerobics class, water aerobics or yoga class.
Knowing yourself, planning, organization and a little willpower will go a long way toward starting and maintaining a new exercise program.
Once you’ve addressed the common barriers and come to terms with how you will overcome them, the next question to ask is, “What is the main reason I want to exercise?” You may want to lose weight, gain mobility, continue to play and get better at a sport you enjoy, run a 5k (or be able to run again, in general), or live to see your grandkids graduate. Whatever your reason, make sure to identify it and write it down. This becomes your main focus – your holy grail. Once you know your destination, you can plot the best route to get there.
The next step is to establish a series of short-term goals that will take you to your destination. Goals should be achievable and measurable. If your focus is to be able to run the Crim 5k in Downtown Flint, what achievable goals will get you there? Working in short, manageable increments will allow you to exercise safely, measure progress and find success. For example, a person can run a 5k in an average of 30 minutes. Your goals should work up to that. So, the first goal should be to run for one minute without stopping. Once that is routinely achieved, your next goal should be to run for three minutes, and so on. You will realize progress and eventually, you will realize your overall focus. Dump the all-or-nothing mentality of exercise – it will only lead you to failure. You have time; just be patient. You’ll get there!
You’ve overcome the barriers. You’ve made the plan. You have your focus and goals are set. All that is left is to begin. Get out there and get to it! There will always be that moment of hesitation and your mind will be filled with doubt and fear. Suddenly, that TV show will be interesting or you may feel tired. This is your body playing tricks on you. Ignore it. Put on your shoes and hit the trails, treadmill, weights. Pop in the video and hit play … and keep hitting play. You need to make exercise a habit and it will become a part of who you are; but only if you don’t quit.
When starting a new exercise program, the last thing you want to happen is injury. Here are a few tips to keep you moving injury-free:
- Get medical clearance. If you have health issues (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma) consult a medical professional about what type of exercise program is best for you.
- Warm up. Never jump right into something at full intensity. Take the time to warm up by stretching your muscles or engaging in light exercise such as a brisk, five-minute walk before taking a long run.
- Cool down. Just as your body needs to ease into a heavy workout, it also needs to ease out of it. It’s never good to stop abruptly – your body is still working hard. Take the time to finish a workout with a lighter physical activity and stretching.
- Drink water. This is one of the most important and most neglected aspects of exercise. Your body needs hydration for healthy movement. If you spend all day drinking pop or other sugary beverages and then engage in a heavy workout, you’ll end up in a world of trouble. You could suffer from heat stroke, muscle cramps and more.
- Listen to your body. This just in: you don’t need to exercise every day. It is okay to take a break and let your body heal if it needs to (maybe make it a walk or have fun with a hobby instead). If you are feeling pain during a workout – stop. If it persists, consult a medical professional.
Knowing yourself, planning, organization and a little willpower will go a long way toward starting and maintaining a new exercise program. Work toward your focus and you’ll feel like a million bucks when you get there. Say hello to the new you!
Healthline. (2020). How to start exercising: a beginner’s guide to working out. Healthline.com. Retrieved from healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-start-exercising#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6
Helpguide. (2020). How to start exercising and stick to it. Helpguide.org. Retrieved from helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/how-to-start-exercising-and-stick-to-it.htm