It’s no secret that exercise is good for your mind, body and spirit, but if you’re just beginning it may seem overwhelming at first. Where do you begin? What exercises should you be doing, and how much, how often and how hard should you exercise? Let’s make it simple. Starting an exercise program involves only two things: having the “right attitude” and “just doing it.”
Do you view exercise as something you have to do? Maybe your doctor or spouse told you “You need to lose weight because your risk for heart disease is high.” True as it may be, the “have to” mentality does not motivate. Even if you know the consequences of not complying.
In comparison, the “want to” attitude has the positive mental “oomph” behind it to follow the action through. An example of a “want to” attitude might be “I want to be healthier for my family so that I can have more energy, be more productive and relieve stress.”
Once you decide that you “want to” start exercising, define your reason positively. If you need to lose weight, think of it as actually strengthening and energizing muscles instead. Losing weight will happen as a natural byproduct of your positive goal. Be sure to make your motives clear to yourself, and revisit your motive before every workout. Constantly remind your self of the positive outcome that will happen as a result of the workout.
What kind of workout program should you begin with? Begin with the one that you will enjoy. Pick something you know you will not “dread”. Out of the thousands of activities available to you, take time to find one that you can say “I wouldn’t mind doing that.” Once your psyche is on board with the activity you will find it a positive experience and want to do it again, and again. Make sure your whole body is affected: lungs, heart, and muscles. If you want to add flexibility to your goal, start stretching 5-10 minutes following your workout. If you want to add balance to your goal, try a Pilates class, or add a fitness ball to your routine.
How often should you workout? What is realistic for you? Look at your schedule honestly, and then start marking the calendar. A good general rule is to work out more days than not. How long should you exercise? Exercise until you get tired. It may seem basic, but listen to your body. If you exercise so hard that you will not look forward to it the next time, it’s too hard. If you don’t exercise enough to break a sweat and feel as if you put in some effort, it won’t be worth your time, and you won’t meet your goal.
Although general guidelines dictate that most people should get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, realistically you may only get a few opportunities a week to put in a good effort. Know that even on the days you can’t do a full workout, something is always better than nothing. Add exercise into your daily routine. Walk more, take the stairs, park farther away, do your dishes by hand, pack your snacks and lunch for the day instead of eating out. It’s amazing to find out how we’ve made life so easy for ourselves. It’s equally amazing to find out how much fitness we’ve lost because of it.
If you start losing your motivation and feel the “dread” of your next workout, revisit your goal and tweak it, if necessary. Your inspiration may come from different directions at different times of the year. Your new goal may be to be able to hike a mountain with a friend, look and feel good for an upcoming trip, or spend more time with your kids by taking up ice skating. Once again, the key is to take the pressure off yourself by “wanting to” do the activity, not “having to” do it.
Is all of this a bit obvious? If exercise were viewed as an opportunity and not as a chore, everyone would do it. The power to feel and look fantastic is yours, and who wouldn’t “want” that?