“Just get started!” These three words carry tremendous significance, especially when applied to starting an exercise program and healthy dietary lifestyle. This simple act of “starting” something will give us the energy to keep going. Begin your exercise session and you’ll get the energy to keep going. Likewise in the dietary arena; get started with healthier food choices and you’ll continue to desire more healthy foods.
It’s a new year and so many are excited about their new health and fitness goals. If that’s the case, why is it that nearly 50% will give them up within six weeks or less? A recent study finds 42 percent say it's too difficult to follow a diet or workout regimen. 38 percent say it's too hard to get back on track once they fall off and 36 percent say it's hard to find time.
Whether someone has set goals or not and gotten started or not, there’s an interesting contradiction I see occurring every day. People know that exercise is good for them and express their desire to get healthier and be fit, but continue to avoid exercise. In fact, another recent CDC study shows that only 1 in 5 (21%) adults meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines and less than 3 in 10 high school students get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
The questions is, if people know that regular exercise will yield a positive result and express a desire to be healthier, why do they continually chose NOT to exercise?
As a personal trainer, I’ve heard so many of the reasons (excuses) hundreds of times. While I used to think it was pure laziness that kept people from exercising (which is a common reason), I’ve come to realize that there can be much more to it than laziness alone.
Giving up on an exercise program (or never getting started) often times goes much deeper than the very common excuses of not having time, not having energy, and not wanting to get sweaty. Sadly for some, a deep feeling of hopelessness prevents them from doing anything. This often includes those who’ve been inactive for years or even decades. Some feel that they’re so overweight or out of shape, there’s no hope of achieving a healthy body weight, body composition, or reasonable level of fitness.
Others feel it’s necessary to join a gym in order to start exercising. Gyms can be very intimidating places and this alone will prevent many from getting started. These people are unaware of the fact that joining a gym is completely unnecessary. Not knowing what exercises to do or what order to do them are other common reasons for not getting started.
So, if we know exercise is good for us and we want to establish an exercise program, how do we get started? There are many answers to this and it all depends upon the person, their attitude towards health and fitness, past experiences, personality type, and to some degree their current level of fitness. Let’s discuss some approaches that often prove successful.
First, it’s important to know WHY you want to get started. For some, extrinsic goals are a driving force while others are driven intrinsically. What’s the difference and which approach is more successful? An example of an extrinsic goal would be the desire to fit into a certain size dress or suit by a certain date for a special event (i.e. wedding, reunion, etc). While this may work in the short term, people tend to fall back into old habits after the event pas passed.
Intrinsic goals tend to keep us on track for longer as they are driving us from within, ie: “I want to be healthier so that I live a longer and more productive life and spend quality time with loved ones.”
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to establish WHY you want to start exercising and develop a strategy to stay with it! Let’s take a look at a few strategies that are commonly helpful in keeping people on track once they’ve gotten started.
First, just try doing some exercise! Get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning and before you jump in the shower, do 15 squats, 15 pushups (from the knees is totally fine), and 15 crunches. See how you feel! Perhaps you want add in some cardio and get the heart rate elevated. Try running in place or doing a powerwalk on a treadmill or outside. If you have a stairway, make a few trips up and down your steps!
If you can’t seem to muster up the motivation to do exercise on your own, reach out and partner up. Find a family member or friend who will workout with you. This strategy has many benefits and tends to keep people on track longer. First, there’s a good chance that you’re workout partner will be glad you asked, especially if they can’t seem to get started on their own. By setting regular days and times to workout, you quickly develop accountability. You can motivate each other to show up and stick with it once you begin your workouts.
Try a group fitness class! In most fitness centers, you’ll find a wide array of classes offered at many times during the day. Try a few different classes and see what you like best. Studies show that people tend to stick with their exercise program if they’re doing something they enjoy.
If group exercise isn’t your thing, perhaps it’s time to try a personal trainer. A good trainer can help you set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely). Working with a good trainer is an investment in the future of your health because you’ll not only realize the benefits of exercise, but you’ll get an education which will help you to continue on your own in the future.
More important than anything – JUST GET STARTED! Once you get started, you’ll feel better and get the energy to keep going!