Many people aren’t exercising enough to achieve the undisputed health benefits of lifetime fitness. How come so many individuals struggle to make exercise a part of their lifestyle?
When I was in my twenties, I took up running. I sprinted across my campus and surroundings, and then throughout the streets of Manhattan. In my thirties, I found myself in the suburbs of New Jersey, often running with my work supervisor. What fun business meetings we had! By my forties, I was in a new neighborhood, jogging with my beautiful golden retriever, Emmie. Now that I’ve entered my 5th decade, I must admit more times than not, my time is spent with intervals of jogging and fast walking, always with my goofy, adorable labradoodle, Ozzy.
My speed and style has most definitely changed, as have the scenery, companions, and even the source of music. Cassette players made way for CDs, and now it’s an iPod. But some things remain constant, and those are the benefits and payback for my time spent pounding the pavement.
My exercise always leaves me feeling calm and refreshed. Any worries or concerns seem less overwhelming after a good sweat session. Negativity decreases, and positivity emerges. My creative mind is open (as a matter of fact, I wrote this in my mind during my last few sessions). I am left feeling strong, open, relaxed, and energized, reinforced with the fortitude to handle anything that comes my way.
The rewards of my efforts exceed the momentary sense of well being. More than one of my physicians has joked that they wish their pulse, blood pressure and blood profiles looked as good as mine. I’ve enjoyed a fairly stable body weight and composition since college, and a recent bone density test resulted in my being in the normal range, rather than osteopenia as so many of my contemporaries have recently been diagnosed.
Now please don’t think I am bragging. It is just reassuring to know that my personal research project of one is backed by tons of evidence-based research supporting the benefits of exercise. So, I can’t help wonder why many people aren’t exercising enough to achieve the undisputed health benefits of lifetime fitness. How come so many individuals struggle to make exercise a part of their lifestyle?
Throughout my years of training and personal wellness coaching, I’ve attempted to help clients overcome the challenge of making room in an already overcrowded life to fit in exercise. One of the number one reasons I hear for not exercising is a lack of time. I’ve often thought, “If you could just experience the many benefits, surely you would make the time.”
You may be thinking this all comes so easily for me, being that I have been exercising religiously for the past 30 years. Hiking in Wyoming, I met a couple that were in there 80’s, but didn’t look a day over 70. They shared with me that they both started exercising only 10 years earlier, after the husband suffered a heart attack. Both of them had shining eyes, straight backs, slim and strong looking bodies, and smiles that could light up a room. So no matter what your age, it’s never too late to start and enjoy the benefits of a well thought out exercise plan.
But how do you go from not working out at all, to being a committed lifetime fitness participant? I’ve pondered this question over the years, and here are the tips I believe to be the most helpful.
1. Connect with your personal greatest motivators. Everyone knows why they “should” be exercising, but why do you want to? What benefits of a regular routine would mean the most to you? Is it more energy, weight loss, a firmer body, the desire to avoid or reduce blood pressure or diabetes medicine, or just the time to unwind, release stress, and have fun? Make a list of your reasons, and remind yourself frequently of what you are working towards.
2. Identify your exercise style. If time for yourself to think, unwind and relax is what you’re after, a solo activity like walking or swimming might be your best choice. If you love competition, tennis or basketball might work. Love to socialize? Try group exercise classes or golf. Don’t fight your nature; think about what makes you the happiest and try to match the activity to the circumstances.
3. Start slow and be realistic. If you have never been a regular exerciser, or been away from it for a while, ease into activity. Don’t attempt to go from not exercising at all, to exercising every day. There is nothing more discouraging than making the decision to work out, and then being so sore and uncomfortable the next day you can hardly move, or worse yet, suffer an injury. Set realistic goals such as three times a week for 15 minutes, and progress once that feels routine and manageable.
4. Schedule your exercise time into your daily calendar. Whether you keep a hand written planner, a computer calendar, or a PDA, review your week, plan your exercise sessions, and put them in as a scheduled activity. Create a fall back plan if something unexpected and unavoidable prevents you from keeping your scheduled time.
5. Monitor your progress. Look back at your reasons for wanting to exercise, and find a way to measure the benefits you are getting from regular participation in your activity of choice. If you have stuck to your program for a couple of months and are not achieving what you set out to do, consult with a certified personal trainer, fitness consultant or personal wellness coach to assess the program you are following. Motivation remains high when you are feeling the rewards for your work.
6. Reward your consistent efforts. Although most of the rewards for consistently sticking to a great exercise routine are intrinsic, it’s fun to build in some extrinsic ones as well. Plan for a massage or facial for each time you complete thirty exercise sessions. Buy a new outfit after the results of your yearly physical leave you and your doctor pleased. Or celebrate your increased endurance by signing up and participating in a race for a cause.
Follow the tips and be patient. As you ease regular exercise into your lifestyle, you will experience rewards that will keep you motivated and continually working at lifetime fitness and health and wellness.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
I have had to learn that the world we live in today is moving at rapid speed, and most individuals are dealing with multiple distractions all day long. This has often made it challenging to have meaningful and focused conversations with friends, family and colleagues. Cell phones ringing, text messages and emails coming in 24/7 pulls attention away from the conversation. When others’ attention wavers, I’ve learned to accept that this is not personal. No one is deliberately being rude or disrespectful to me. It’s just really hard to turn off the constant noise and delay the immediate gratification of looking to see who else is wanting their attention. I am still working on accepting this, and learning to be calm and patient when interrupted.
What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I truly appreciate my ability to focus and be fully engaged when with others. I can shut down my electronics when in conversation, turn away from my computer when on the phone, and ignore rings and beeps while working.
In the mean time, I am still working on appreciating all the benefits of the new form of communicating, and learning to use it to my advantage rather than detriment.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
When I am able to help clients learn, practice and embrace the power of full engagement, it is incredibly rewarding. If a client shares an experience where they had a deep and meaningful conversation and were able to fully attend without distraction, it brings me great satisfaction. What makes me most proud is when my daughters ignore their texts or FB updates while we are together, or when I call and they quickly say, “Mom, I’m with my friend right now. Is everything alright? Can I call you later?”
We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?
I am “not so perfectly” patient. I do admit, I feel myself get pissed off when someone I am with is multi-tasking me! I try hard not to, but feel myself get annoyed when friends answer a text message when we are together, or my husband reads the newspaper when I am trying to talk with him. So sometimes I imperfectly make my feelings known and come out sounding a bit snotty, rather than just calmly stating my emotions. I do keep trying, but I guess I will just continue to be the technology police.
“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!)
Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?
I love my ability to listen well!