Easing Into Exercise
© Joan Price. May not be reprinted without permission.
Some experts say it takes 3 to 6 months to make exercise a habit. People who stick to a fitness program past 6 months tend to make a lifetime commitment. They may have lapses, but they come back to it. That's because they've trained their minds and bodies to expect exercise, and they've experienced the immediate benefits, such as increased energy, decreased stress, and a sense of well-being. They feel better, look better, and are more productive.
But when you're first starting out, it feels difficult, both physically and mentally. How do you stick to it while it's a struggle?
Start by exercising regularly -- 4 to 6 times a week -- but just a little at a time. Do what's comfortable -- no pain, all gain. For you, that may be 15 minutes, or it may be 5 minutes. Get to know your body. At first, do a little less than you think you can to see how you feel later and the next day. Then, when you're feeling used to the activity, start pushing gently to do just a little more until you've worked up to 30 to 60 minutes.
Consistency will get you over the hump. Your mind and body will adjust. You know you're there when you realize you feel better when you do exercise than when you don't!
If you think you hate exercise, you haven't found the right type for you. Realize that exercise, for you, may not be aerobics classes or jogging. Exercise may be social dancing, sports, hiking, swimming -- any activity that uses the large muscles in a rhythmic manner for an extended time. Look at physical activities you used to enjoy as a child, teenager or young adult, and see how you can bring one of those back into your life. Did you enjoy bicycling? Skating? Swimming? Volleyball? Rock 'n' roll dancing? You can do all these again!
Your exercise program will only work if you've chosen right for your goals, preferences and lifestyle. In my book, The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book, I take you through a process of looking at options to choose the activity and environment that will make you want to stick with it. Health clubs are perfect for some people and torment for others. A home exercise machine is a top choice for some, and an expensive sock drier for others. You need to look at what would make you feel comfortable easing into exercise and sticking with it.
Realize that you're not in competition with anyone except the you of yesterday. It took many years to put on that extra weight or gradually lose your muscle tone -- you won't be changing that overnight. This isn't something you're doing just until the class reunion or swimsuit season. This is a lifetime commitment, so give yourself permission to take it slowly.
And if you fall off the exercise wagon, get up and try it again. Professional figure skater Scott Hamilton fell on the ice during his first performance coming back after testicular cancer surgery. "It's okay!" he said with a grin. "You can't succeed unless you're willing to fail. You can't land it unless you try it."