It can be difficult to start an exercise program after a period, or lifetime, of inactivity. Whether it’s due to bad habits, health issues, being intimidated by others at the gym, or the most popular excuse of all, “I don’t have the time,” it’s easy to find reasons not to exercise. I know first hand, I’ve gone through all of them at one point in time. The bad news is that there is no magic bullet for suddenly establishing a workout routine. However, the good news is that there are several things you can do to stop using excuses and get moving!
Clarify why you want to exercise; keeping your goal in mind will help you get, and keep, working out. If you’re unsure, float some ideas around your head. Is it prevention of chronic disease? Weight control? Having more energy? Improved mood? Better sleep? This list just scratches the surface of how exercise can benefit your mental and physical health.
- Establish your priorities and stick to them! Consider exercise as a necessary part of your day and week, so that you don’t get sucked into a Netflix marathon before your sweat session.
- If you skip a day, don’t beat yourself up. Some people can become defeatists when they skip a workout and feel that the whole week is ruined anyway, so it’s easy to skip it the rest of the week. Just make sure that you get back on-track; you’re making a long-term investment in your health.
- Even 10 minutes at a time can work, and everyone can find 10-minute pockets in their day. Run up and down the stairs for 10 minutes, do push-ups, sit-ups, and other mat work for 10 minutes. You’re aiming for approximately 2.5 hours of vigorous exercise per week. Evidence suggests that you don’t need hour-long sessions to reap health and fitness rewards.
- If you’re intimidated, just remember that everyone was once a beginner. People at the gym will be paying attention to their own workout rather than judging you.
Now that you’re out of excuses, what do you do to get started?
- First, go to your doctor. You need to make sure that your body is ready for exercise so that you don’t put yourself at risk of injury, and to check that you don’t have any undiagnosed illnesses. Your doctor may place restrictions on the type of activity that is appropriate for you. If that’s the case, don’t worry! There will still be ways to get active despite chronic illness.
- If it’s in your budget, invest in a qualified personal trainer. I feel strongly about this point. A qualified trainer can help get you on the right track and design a training plan targeted to your goals. If you’re a beginner, they can teach you how to do the recommended exercises, and if you do have health issues, they can create a workout plan around your restrictions.
- A few years ago, I had a back injury (I still never figured out doing what – can you get one from being lazy?!) and displaced nerves which made it difficult to move. As soon as one of the nerves got better, I had tried to start working out on my own, but wasn’t doing the right things. I eventually was convinced to get a personal trainer, who was fantastic in working with my issues. He not only got me to exercise regularly (no small achievement for him at the time!) but also helped speed up my recovery.
- It’s often said, but find something that you like to do. For some, it’s a walk in the park, for others, it’s team sports, the gym, running, biking, hiking, skiing, etc. If you hate the gym, you won’t stick with it for very long. I tested out a few things before I found what I liked. I like weights, pilates and dance. I love to swim, but I can’t call what I do swimming, it looks more like a cross between the doggy paddle and flailing around in the water. I used to be a runner but now I just can’t get into it anymore. Test out some things and see what you like.
- Start slowly! If you start with an intense, six-day per week routine, all you’ll do is get sore muscles, and potentially an injury, and you won’t be likely to stick with It. If you haven’t been active in some time, try two-three moderate intensity activities in the first week, such as brisk walks, yoga or pilates. Each week, try to up your intensity. Every other week, add a workout. Aim for four tough workouts each week, along with one-two lighter workouts. Make sure that you leave a day for rest.
- Keep a balance between cardio, strength and flexibility training. You may prefer one type of exercise over another, but all three are necessary for health.
- Finally, be consistent. That’s the key to lasting healthy changes to your body and its physical fitness. Most people overestimate the amount of work they’ve done in a week, so tracking your fitness sessions is a great way to get an accurate understanding of your fitness activities. You can use wearable tech, such as a FitBit, or use any of the free websites available, such as mapmyrun.com or myfitnesspal.com.
With these basics in mind, you can take a step towards a lifetime of health. It’s never too late to get started or to restart! Do you have any tips to get a fitness program started?