After the Komen walk this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I first started working out and what helped me get started.
At first I started walking a few days a week. A few months later I decided I wanted to try running, so I built up to thirty minutes of running. It’s been almost six years since then, and I’ve never regretted the decision to start exercising regularly.
Regular exercise improves my mood. It gives me energy to get through the day and it helps me sleep at night.
And take it from a cancer patient: From the standpoint of stress management, regular exercise can’t be beat.
If you’re just getting started with an exercise program, keep a few things in mind:
Consider your health – talk to your doctor if you think you shouldn’t start an exercise program. But don’t use this as an excuse to not start. Every doctor I’ve ever talked to has said ‘yes’ to some form of exercise. Too often I think we wait for someone’s blessing to begin doing what we know we should already be doing.
Create a goal – Do you want to walk or run for thirty minutes a day? Do you want to run a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon? Do you want to lose weight? Identify your goal. Be specific. Then write it down or tell a friend. Create some way to hold yourself accountable.
Carve time out of your day – The reason I’m able to stay consistently active is because I make exercise a priority. I have a time of day dedicated to exercise. If you don’t make exercise a priority, you won’t do it.
Plan to cross train – Cross training is just a fancy way of saying ‘doing something else’. If you’re bored with walking, ride a bike. If you’re bored with a bike, do the elliptical machine. When you’re just starting an exercise routine, it doesn’t matter what you do. Just move.
Work up to your goal – When you’re just starting out, you’re going to push yourself too hard. You’ll get past that first mile or first fifteen minutes and think, “I feel good! I can do this!” so you’ll go longer than you intended. You’ll either end up sore or injured this way and you won’t want to get out there again. Set a time limit for your workouts and stop when that time is over. Work up to your goal. Remember, the point is to achieve your goal ‘consistently’, not ‘once then never again’.
Rest – Build in time between workouts to allow your body to recover. Setting a schedule can help with this. Commit to walking Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Stick with that schedule. In two weeks, when you’re adjusted and nearing boredom, add a day to that schedule. But always plan on resting at least one day a week.
Be kind to yourself – Remember, everyone has to start somewhere. Some days are going to be better than others. It happens to the best of us. Give yourself permission to have bad days, but don’t let the bad days eclipse the good ones. Some days I don’t feel like working out. It seems easier to just go back to bed. There have been some days where all I can manage is ten minutes of walking. On those days at least I know I tried, and after a decent night’s sleep, I know I can do better tomorrow.
Today’s silver lining: A good workout always improves my day.