When I was in my twenties, I took up running and began my journey towards lifetime fitness.
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. Once entering my 5th decade, I must admit, more times than not I am doing intervals of jogging and fast walking, often with my goofy, adorable Labradoodle, Ozzy.
My speed and style have most definitely changed, as have the scenery, companions, and even the source of music. Cassette players made way for CDs, then came the iPod, and now my tunes are on my phone. However, some things remain constant; the benefits and payback for my time spent pounding the pavement.
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 blog in my mind during my last few sessions. I am left feeling strong, open, relaxed, energized, and 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. 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 confirms the ton 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 plus years. Or that you have been sedentary for so long, it is too late to become a lifetime exerciser. But nothing could be further from the truth.
On a recent trip when hiking in Wyoming, I met a couple that was in there mid-80’s. Neither looked a day over 70. They shared with me that they both started exercising only ten years earlier after the husband suffered a heart attack. Both had shining eyes, straight backs, slim and strong looking bodies. And smiles that could light up a room. So no matter what 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.
Connect with your personal greatest motivators. Everyone knows why they “should” be exercising, but why do you want to? Is it for 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.
Identify your exercise style. If the 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.
Start slow and be realistic. If lifetime fitness has eluded you, or you have been away from exercise a while, ease into activity. Don’t attempt to go from not exercising at all, to working out every day. There is nothing more discouraging than deciding to work out, and then being so sore and uncomfortable the next day you can hardly move. Or worse yet, suffering an injury. Set realistic goals such as three times a week for 15 minutes, and progress once that feels routine and manageable.
Schedule your exercise time into your daily calendar. Whether you keep a handwritten planner or on a digital device, review your week, and plan your exercise sessions as you would any other appointment. Create a fall back plan if something unexpected and unavoidable prevents you from keeping your scheduled time.
Monitor your progress. Look back at your reasons for wanting to exercise. 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, ask for help. Consult with a certified personal trainer, fitness consultant or personal wellness coach. They can access your program and help you adjust your routine. Motivation remains high when you realize the benefits of your regimen.
Reward your consistent efforts. Although most of the rewards for consistently sticking to an exercise routine are intrinsic, it’s fun to build in some extrinsic ones. Plan 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 striving towards lifetime fitness, health, and wellness.
Yes, I consider my self a life-long fitness participant. My husband is in part my motivation. He had a heart attack 17 years ago and has maintained a healthy lifestyle since then. But I also have found that staying active has helped me to recuperate from the various surgeries I have had over the intervening years. I have been told that I heal well and fast (not something you ever want to find out) but I credit my exercise workout routine for helping to accomplish this.
The benefits of on-going exercise participation are many and sometimes surprising. Yes, you are correct…finding out you recuperate from injury, illness, and surgeries are not something anyone would want to find out. But it is verification that our hard work pays off. Not just in everyday benefits, but long-term and crises benefits too!
I am an active person and spend a lot of time gardening. I had thought that this was keeping me in good shape. I discovered that it does not. Although compared with others I know, I was stronger and more active, I could no longer run more than a few yards. Now I am building an exercise program. It began last September, when I had great difficulty completing 5 minute beginner level fitness videos to today, when I have just completed doing 30 minutes of exercise videos most mornings throughout the month of May. Today I begin adding a few minutes on the stationary bike at least 3 days a week. Although I see and feel improvement, there is a long way to go.
Rather than focus on the “long way to go,” focus on how far you’ve come. You should feel proud of the dedication, consistency, and progress you have made towards lifelong fitness. It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon! Keep tapping into the improvements you feel and see, and more will come. Keep up the fantastic work and do let me know if I can help in any way.