Last week, we talked about over-exercising. Now, for those moments or days (or weeks or months....) that you really, really, reaaalllly don't want to exercise, this topic is for you.
A reduction in caloric intake alone can’t do it. Positive thinking alone can’t do it. Sheer will power and wishful thinking alone definitely can not do it. And, we already know that the fad diet industry can not, and will not, ever do it.
If you want “it;” to lose fat, get fit, and enjoy all of the side effects of a trimmer, leaner body, you will simply have to incorporate some form of exercise into your life. For the sworn exercise hater, this may seem like a fate worse than death, but rest assured, getting started with a new exercise regimen can be fun, exciting and relatively pain-free. Take it from the former Queen of I’d-Rather-Crawl-Across-Broken-Glass-Than-Workout, yours truly: anyone can get with it and learn to love exercise.
Plan It Setting realistic, attainable goals is essential for ensuring a positive start. While aiming to walk one hour per day, every day, is admirable, it may not be realistic depending on your circumstances. Setting overzealous goals can be equivalent to setting yourself up for failure. What happens if you are pressed for time, or something comes up and your scheduled walk is cancelled? You may get discouraged or frustrated and feel like there’s just no use in trying. Instead, you may want to plan for three fifteen minute walks to start out. This goal is attainable, and once you gain that success, you will feel empowered and inspired to reach for your next goal.
Squeeze It If you are pressed for time, try squeezing two or three short exercise sessions into your day. You may do ten or fifteen minutes of aerobic activity in the morning and some stair climbing at lunch. You may do a one arm overhead press while reading at your desk and pelvic raises while sitting in traffic. Try abdominal crunches while you are watching television in the evening, or back kicks (or rear leg lifts) while you are washing the dishes.
Don’t forget the old standbys: park your car in the farthest space from the grocery store when you go shopping, walk through the store once before taking a second trip around to fill your cart, use the stairs instead of the elevator, and take a walk during every break. Little spurts of activity are better than nothing- and they add up quicker than you think.
Flex It Flex your muscles- mentally. Mental flexibility is an essential skill when things don’t work out according to plan. The ability to readjust and go to a backup plan will save you unneeded stress and help you reach your goals. If it hails, rains or snows on your walking day, search for some energizing video online. If your child’s soccer practice conflicts with your spinning class, bring some sneakers and run around the track every practice hour during soccer season. If you miss a workout, don’t worry; you can add those missed minutes into your next few workouts. Mental flexibility helps to stave off the “all or nothing” mentality that can be poison to any fitness or weight loss plan.
Try It You may think that exercise has to be a sadistically boring walk on the treadmill, but that’s not the case at all. Try a step aerobics or spinning class. Experiment with hiking, biking, swimming, or skiing. Try kickboxing or boot camp. Dance around your house with your kids.
Trying a variety of activities will give your body a more efficient workout, which will promote a healthier lean tissue-to-fat ratio. Keep in mind that you are getting in shape and having fun, not trying to impress or outperform anyone. Skill and proficiency in any particular sport will come with time. Trying a variety of different activities will open the door to new experiences. You just may find an activity that you really love.
Enjoy It The most effective exercise is the one you’ll actually do. If you have been forcing yourself to exercise without enjoying it, you are most likely doing the wrong exercise for you. While Pilates may be the best thing that ever happened to your sister, if you hate it you probably aren’t going to do it for very long - or with much consistency. Think about the different types of activities that are at your disposal and which ones fit your personality and workout style. Find one or two activities that invigorate you and enjoy them often.
Pace It Progress is great! You want to constantly strive for more, but always in moderation. If you feel out of breath or light headed, you may want to march in place or stop completely. There is no room for “overachievers” here.
Overdoing it can have serious consequences. You are the best judge of what your particular pace should be. If you need to slow down, slow down. If you think you are ready to speed up, speed up. Strive for improvement, not impairment! Even if you are seriously pressed for time and happen to be the most efficient person you know, don’t rush your workouts. Always warm up and keep a pace that’s right for you. Learning to keep pace will help you avoid burnout, sidestep over-training, prevent injury, and reach your goals.
Visualize It Finally, use exercise as a special time for yourself. When you are able to unwind, relax, and feel refreshed and invigorated through exercise, you will want more. Try focusing on what you are doing; paying close attention to every move your body makes. Use plenty of self-talk and announce the action in your mind, “left… right…left… in through the nose… out through the mouth. I’m burning calories, I’m getting stronger, I’m improving my health, I’m giving myself a better body… I love this.”
Concentrate on your breathing. Imagine all the stress leaving your body on the exhale. Visualize positive energy, health and well-being entering your body on the inhale. Get a mental picture of a healthy you and let that picture guide you toward a positive exercise attitude.
Like with any relationship, your love affair with exercise won’t blossom overnight. But, with a little practice and some persistence, you can definitely have “it.” Now you know it; the only thing left is to just do it!
Back to LifeStyle Guide This information should not serve as a replacement for therapy. Please visit the Can Therapy Help Me page for more information if you think you may have an eating disorder, or should require individualized help.
FCCS is directed by Melinda Haynes, MA, California LMFT 102308. Oklahoma LMFT 1153. North Carolina LMFT 2143.