Are you getting that feeling that you’ve been here before – you’ve made your resolution to exercise regularly and now three weeks later the days between your exercise sessions are getting more numerous and you’re wondering if you have the ability to exercise regularly? Well, yes, you do have the ability; you just may need to revise your approach. Here are three strategies that may help.
- Start low and go slow. Nothing kills an exercise program quicker than the program being too hard and too much like work to sustain. Your first challenge is simply to do something 2-3 days a week. It doesn’t have to be hard or prolonged; you just need to establish a habit. Maybe it is short walks of 5 – 10 minutes; or an exercise DVD that’s only 10 minutes long; or maybe it is just doing 10 sit-ups 3 days a week. Once you are successful at that level for about a month add a single “hard” day per week – walk twice as far that day; or do two 10 minute videos; or 20-30 sit-ups on that one day a week. Eventually add other days in and gradually increase your overall intensity but always maintain 1 or 2 hard days; 1 or 2 medium days and 1-2 easy days per week
- Change it up but keep your goal in mind. Why are you exercising? Is it to lose weight? …to have more endurance? …to be stronger and have better balance? … to be more flexible? First you need to match your goals to your exercise. Aerobic exercises help you lose weight and improve your endurance. Resistive exercise builds your strength and improves your balance. Stretching exercises improve your flexibility. Sport specific exercise improves your co-ordination and motor skill. But there is significant carry over from one type of exercise to another. For example, if you are stronger your ability to do aerobic exercise improves. So mix it up or “cross-exercise”. Doing so keeps your program more interesting and fun and helps you stick to it. Not sure what to do. Find a friend to exercise with, pick up a DVD of exercises that looks interesting, buy an exercise book that you can follow along with or consult with an exercise expert to help you get started.
- Make a goal and commit to someone. Keep your goal realistic and let someone close to you know what it is so that there is some consequence to you following through on your exercise program. You may start out with something “I’m going to do 10 minutes of exercise on Mondays and Thursdays for the next month”. Review your goals and set new ones as appropriate. Make goals action oriented versus outcome oriented. It is not – “I’m going to lose 20 pounds”; rather it is “I’m going to walk 3 days a week for 20 minutes”. Telling someone what your plans are helps you follow through with your activities and makes you accountable to them. Even better is to get someone to make the commitment to exercise with you so you can help keep each other on track.
The first challenge is to form the habit of exercising and then you can worry about challenging yourself to longer, more frequent and higher intensity exercises. You CAN be a regular exerciser.
Déjà Vu All Over Again was written by Patrick VanBeveren, PT, DPT, MA, OCS, GCS.
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