I have a confession. I don’t really like to exercise. This is my little secret because I have been a fitness expert for 15 years! Exercise gets boring, it’s work, and it sometimes hurts.
My mother has often teased me about being a secret couch potato despite my inevitably active lifestyle. I love staying home, watching movies, reading books, writing, and drawing for hours.
But here’s the thing: When I don’t exercise, I get depressed, chubby, and lethargic. My back also gets really sensitive, as do my neck and shoulders. So clearly, there are great benefits to exercise despite my dislike of it.
If I get into a pattern of skipping my workout due to the long list of excuses I can easily make up, it becomes even harder to get back into the groove of things.
Suddenly my back feels achy, I am tired, my belly gets soft, and I am thinking: If I work out, I will hurt myself, or I am too tired to work out, or I am too busy to work out. I am too fat to work out (that’s always a good one), or exercise won’t help me lose this belly or slim these thighs. I have to go on a diet!
Going into these slumps has made me gain weight, get out of shape, injure myself, and feel low self-esteem. Luckily, I have enough experience to have built up a number of tools that helps me (and my clients) get out of those ruts.
Many people have started and stopped exercise routines due to workout burnout. They jump into a program gung-ho only to get burned out from it (or in the worst case scenario, injured). If that has ever happened to you, it will be tough to get started again because overdoing things is never fun or sustainable.
If you think too big about the amount of exercise you want to commit to, you’ll be a lot less likely to get started.
Instead, start small. Rather than committing to a 20-minute walk, start with 10. Rather than committing to every day, start with two or three days a week. Rather than committing to lifting 10 pounds, start with lifting 5 or 8 pounds or make the exercise choice a bit easier until you get stronger.
In the beginning, be OK with doing less, but not OK with doing nothing. Get happy about being in your body.
Make a Clear Goal
Make a goal to work toward. Perhaps it is to get beach-body ready or to get fit for a special event, or race. If you have a deadline set, then you can no longer procrastinate, or you won’t meet your deadline.
Getting into shape takes time, and rushing it only makes you vulnerable to injury, and likely disappointed at the lack of results. Get really clear about what your goal is (make it measurable and time-specific).
Clear the Clutter
Once you make your goal, look at your schedule. Is there any clutter on your schedule or in your life that will make it impossible to meet that goal?
Focusing on too many projects or things will often make you fail to accomplish one or all of the things on your plate. Instead, simplify your life so that you can support and focus on your new goals.
Write down all the things that may get in the way of accomplishing your goal. Clear up the things that are in your control. For example, create space in your schedule to workout. Or communicate with the people in your life who may be distracting you from working out (for example, your kids or spouse).
Read other people’s success stories, hire a fitness teacher or coach, join a class you would like, follow a person who inspires you as an example to design your routine, hang up visuals, and read blogs covering the topic.
Think about what is important to you about exercising and write it down. Go work out and get inspired by how good you feel.
Professional athletes, performing artists, public speakers, and businessmen often mentally rehearse a successful performance and outcome in order to help them reach their goals. Not only can mental rehearsal help you achieve success, it can help you break out of a rut.
Mentally rehearse getting yourself ready to exercise, then exercising, and enjoying it. Rehearse this daily, and soon you will become an avid exerciser, just as you rehearsed.
Create a Plan
Imagine this: You think to yourself, Today is the day I am going to exercise! You show up at the gym, look around, and wonder where you should even start. You may not really feel you will get a good workout, or you are unsure you are doing the things that will give you the results you want.
Program design is not that complicated, but it is important. This is where it helps to have a plan. Let’s say you decide you want to start running, but have never run before. Research it. Read about running skills, injury prevention for runners, and program design for running a 5-kilometer race or running to burn fat. Not only will it help you come up with a plan, it’ll inspire you and give you material to mentally rehearse.
Or perhaps you decide you want to feel more agile and calm. Then research the variety of options out there for agility and peace of mind. It may be yoga, Pilates, or Gyrotonic. Once you choose the technique, you can read more about the calming effects of that technique, and how to best integrate them into your life.
Perhaps you want to improve your posture so you stand better and feel better. Book a few sessions with a trainer who can help you learn what exercises will improve your posture, or sign up for an Alexander Technique class. Read up on training for a better posture and try some of the exercises you read about.
When I am working out, I feel the rewards of exercising. I love how exercise makes me look and feel. My pants get looser, my legs look leaner and longer, and I often get rewarded with lots of compliments.
But it is also nice to simply treat yourself for making the breakthrough of getting out there and doing it. It could be a bubble bath or a new set of running shoes or some new music. Whatever the reward, decide what you aim to do by when, and if you accomplish it, treat yourself to something nice.
Acknowledge Your Results
It may seem silly, but taking before and after photos is really exciting for a lot of people. Working hard at changing your body and seeing the results is a fabulous feeling. Show your photos off on Facebook or with your friends. If that seems too much, send them to the person who was supporting you throughout your efforts (perhaps your trainer, your relative, or friend).
Sometimes we don’t see major changes from working out, but we certainly feel them! Don’t be afraid to tell others about it. “Hey, I started walking outside everyday, and this is the first winter I went through in years without feeling blue.” Or, “You know, I joined a Pilates class, and I am feeling so good these days. My breathing and posture have changed dramatically!”
Exercise is always more challenging in the beginning. As people get into better shape, they almost always start enjoying it more. Getting started may be challenging, and you may not like it, but the benefits exercise offers are far more enjoyable than not moving and suffering for it. I don’t know about you, but I am now ready to get on my running shoes.
Tysan Lerner is a certified health coach and personal trainer. She helps women attain their body and beauty goals without starving themselves or spending hours at the gym. Her website is www.lavendermamas.com