Fortunately for my health, my exercise emancipation was short lived. Several years and 10 extra pounds later, I took up running to shed the excess weight. The first six months were agony, but eventually I didn’t mind lacing up my sneakers. And one day, I actually began looking forward to my runs, sweat and all.
“Exercise is key, because your life depends on it,” said Howard Rankin, a behavior change researcher and director of science at Intuality, Inc.
Ready to create a workout routine you can stick with and enjoy? Here are four tips I’ve found beneficial.
Important note: Before beginning any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you experience pain.
1. Make exercising a regular part of your day
Initially, I took a casual approach to exercise. I aimed to work out every other day, but if I didn’t get around to it, so be it. The problem was, I kept finding reasons to bag my workouts. I had to grocery shop, do the laundry, get to bed early. Soon I was running just one day a week. So I changed my approach and decided exercise had to be a regular part of my day, like eating or sleeping — because it was equally important. Once my mindset shifted, my excuses disappeared.
2. Start slowly, and give your new routine time
One of the biggest mistakes exercise newbies make is doing too much, too soon. If you want to try running, don’t go out and run 3 miles as fast as you can. Alternate running a block or a minute with walking a block or a minute for just 1 mile and build from there. This same principle applies to any new activity you select.
And give your new activity time, as it takes a while for a new behavior to become a habit. “I can’t tell you how many people give up after a week or two because it feels hard or they aren’t seeing results,” said Tami Smith, a certified personal trainer and CEO of Fit Healthy Momma. “Give yourself a chance to begin to see and feel the benefits. Commit to at least 30 days of consistency and then evaluate how you’re feeling about it.”
3. Find a form of exercise you like doing
Not everyone will get into running, like I did. Try a variety of exercises and see what suits you. It might be running, swimming, biking, using an elliptical machine, or a taking a kickboxing class. Or you might prefer working out to a video or dancing in your living room. It’s all movement, and that’s all good.
Remember, too, that many simple activities like walking promote physical fitness. “The term ‘exercise’ can imply rigorous workouts, but movement doesn’t have to be rigorous to be beneficial,” Rankin said. “Any movement is better than no movement.”
4. Ramp up the fun factor
Even if you find an exercise you enjoy, not every workout will be fun. Sometimes you’ll be tired or cranky or just not in the mood to work out. You can also get in a rut, where you don’t necessarily dislike your workout, but it doesn’t excite you, either. This is when it’s time to get creative.
Instead of working out at the gym, drive to your favorite park for an al fresco exercise session. Join a friend in their favorite activity. Sign up for a class that’s piqued your interest, like aqua yoga or Pilates. Treat yourself to some new workout clothes. Do whatever it takes to stay in motion. Because not only is movement good for us, it’s what our bodies are designed to do.
“We are built to move,” said Brett Durney, cofounder of London’s Fitness Lab, a private personal training studio. “Those of us who are blessed enough to be able to move freely should reap the benefits daily.”