How to approach and develop your exercise
Begin your exercise campaign at a comfortable pace and intensity. Once
you've gained some confidence, you can then increase the time and level
of activity. Learn how to exercise without boredom and how to stick to
Making the Decision
If you make the wise
decision of trying to get more exercise, youíll need to figure out what
you are able to do and how long you are able to do it. Iím not talking
about what you could do in your glory days. Iím talking about what you
can do right now. Iíll give you an example.
When I was in college, I wasnít very fat or heavy at all. I used to jog
three miles a day religiously, until the day I got a job, and then I
just didnít seem to have the time for it anymore. With a little patience
and a lot of junk food, I grew to be over 60 pounds heavier than my
former self. Then, out of the blue sky, I decided to take up jogging
again. I bought a pair of cheap running shoes and headed for the local
high school track. There was quite a variety of people walking, running,
and playing soccer. I saw a few high school-aged people and even some
women and men over 60 or 70 years old. I thought, ďThis is great, I can
look forward to 40 more years of jogging.Ē
Start at a Modest Level
I remembered that I had liked to stretch before the three-mile-joy-ride,
so I stretched out my thighs, calves, and any other leg muscles I could
think of. I was set to go, and I couldnít wait to get the ďrunnerís
highĒ that I used to experience daily.
The first ten steps were a little bit uncomfortable, and of course they
would be. I hadnít attempted to jog in seven years (and 60 pounds). ďBut
I only need to run twelve laps,Ē I thought to myself. That would be
I started out strong, but within the first half lap, I had slowed
considerably and I was having trouble breathing. This isnít how I
remembered it. What was going on? I feared I might collapse right here
on the track, and then the grandma runners would pass me up one by one
and laugh. I couldnít let that happen.
Since I could barely run, or breathe, I decided to start limping. It
didnít matter which leg I chose as long as it remained consistent. I
slowly limped onto the grass in the center of the track and pretended to
be assessing the damage to my leg. I was actually sucking wind quite
A few people stopped to ask if I was all right. All I could think to say
was, ďDamn, itís the same muscle I pulled six months ago.Ē Iím glad they
didnít ask me which muscle. I then massaged my leg all over but
concentrated most of my efforts on my left ankle. Within five minutes I
was up and limping again, this time straight towards my car.
Even though I seemed to pull off the fake limping act, I still felt
miserable. I hadnít even run one lousy lap. I got in my car and raced
away. I couldnít go straight home until I had collected all of my
painful thoughts and sorted them out. Instead, I headed to the one place
that I felt most welcome...7-Eleven. I donít remember what I feasted on
that day, but I didnít imagine that the clerk was laughing at me as I
had imagined the other runners back at the track had been. In fact, no
one really laughed at me that day, but they might have if I hadnít been
such a great actor. And knowing that they could have laughed at me, I
ate like a king and queen combined, and I cleansed myself of the
imagined laughter. I wanted a hug that day, but maybe what I really
needed was therapy.
The story illustrates that you need to exercise at your current level of
ability. If it has been five years since youíve exercised, you cannot
expect yourself to pick right up where you left off. Experiment a little
and see what your body can actually do right now.
Build Up The
Another gem I will peddle to you is the idea of starting small and
building up to bigger routines as you become ready. If you decide that
walking will be your favorite means of exercising, donít try for ten
miles on your first day. You can easily start by just walking around the
block each day for a week. Next you can try expanding your walk to
involve a few more blocks. The following week youíll add even more
blocks, and in six months or so, you just might be walking three or four
miles. Make sure that you build up gradually, rather than biting off
more than you can chew. Itís much better to have a continuous string of
successes than a setback every four weeks.
After you lose ten to fifteen pounds, you will feel able to exercise
longer. The more you lose, the more you can do. That seems a bit
backwards to me. The people who most need to exercise are the same
people who can do the least amount of it. Itís a cruel world. Donít
thinkójust get started right now.
Keep Up Your Energy,
Interest and Motivation
When you are ready to begin exercising, remember that you will be doing
this each day. It is important not to get bored. If you keep your
exercise bicycle in the garage, make sure you also have a television or
radio in the garage. Watching television or listening to the radio
passes the time a little faster; before you know it, your 30 minutes are
One friend of mine is a big advocate of varying your routine often. If
youíve been walking on flat land as your exercise, perhaps the next
thing to do is to try adding some hills to your walk. Then perhaps you
could bike on certain days and swim on others. I agree that this would
be a better overall workout than exercising the same way each day.
However, Iím lazier than he, and we both know it. He has weighed 100
pounds less than me for a stretch of nearly ten years, so he must be
doing at least a few things right.
Keep at It!
Whatever your exercise plan will be, make sure you keep at it. Make a
schedule and stick to it. Let it be a regular part of your day, like
brushing your teeth or feeding your dog or cat. Itís easy to say you
will just take one day off, but sometimes that day can turn into days or
Plan ahead for the winter or off-season. You may not be able to jog for
long stretches at a time during the winter, depending upon your local
climate. Buy that exercise bike, or take up an indoor exercise such as
It is also wise to be mindful of the time of day you prefer to exercise.
I knew a lot of people at my office that liked to get up early in the
morning and exercise. I always had a hard time getting up early, since I
had been used to staying up so late (when I was twenty-something). But
many things would keep me from exercising after work. I was often too
tired or mentally drained after work. I also belonged to some clubs that
met in the evenings, and I still needed some time to see my friends.
Yes, life was busy, but Iím sure itís been busy for you as well. Given
my situation, I eventually realized that I could exercise more
consistently if I woke up one hour earlier and exercised in the morning.
Was that easy for me? No. It took me three or four months to adjust to
my new schedule. But once I found myself bouncing out of bed very early
in the morning, I knew I would continue to do so.
The best news about exercise is that it gives your metabolism a jolt to
help you burn more calories even after youíve finished exercising.
Thatís truly a deal you canít pass up. So stop whatever it is that you
are doing and go exercise right now.