Okay folks, we’ve made the decision to live a healthier life, we’re working on exorcising our demons, we’re getting our kitchens and our diets in shape, so naturally it’s time to do the same with our bodies.
If you only remember one thing from this post, it’s this: CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY, CONSISTENCY. I know people who work out like crazy for 2 weeks, take 3 weeks off and then (feeling panicky), hit the gym hard again for another 2 weeks. It is insanely hard to get results this way because they aren’t allowing their bodies to become accustomed to the ritual of exercise (i.e., the initial pain of starting a new routine).
Here are my tips for starting and sticking with an exercise routine.
1. I know that this is written on every piece of exercise equipment, but it’s true – before you get started, visit your doctor. Discuss a realistic target weight and get routine blood work done to test for sugar, thyroid and cholesterol issues.
2. Accept the fact that for the first 3 or 4 weeks, it will hurt. You will be sore. You will want to quit. You will wonder what the heck you’re doing at the gym at this God forsaken hour. Those first few weeks, Advil and ice will be your friend. Remind yourself that it will get better!
3. Commit to working out for 4 weeks without weighing yourself. If you’ve taken an extensive break from exercise, it may take that long for your body to kick into gear. Once you do start weighing yourself, don’t do it more frequently than once every week or every other week. To be honest with you, the only time I get weighed is when I go to the doctor because for me, working out is about feeling great and not about losing weight. Plus, once you start toning your muscles, your weight loss will plateau even though you’re still losing fat, so the number on the scale isn’t always the best indicator for progress.
4. Take it slow. The vast majority of people overdue it, get discouraged and then quit. In the beginning, go nice and easy. Always push yourself to working just outside of your comfort zone. There’s an easy way to measure this. Ask yourself, “Can I keep going at this pace all day?” If the answer is yes, push yourself harder. If the answer is “heck no, I’m barely staying on the machine!” Ease back a bit. When you’re working out, you should be slightly uncomfortable. As you get more fit, you’ll be able to go harder and faster while staying in the “slightly uncomfortable” zone.
5. Make a schedule AND stick to it. Decide what time of day works for you. Mornings are good because you don’t have a full day to talk yourself out of it, however, some people prefer an after work session. This is the part where it’s important to know you and to be honest with yourself. There are a bunch of sample workout plans that you can download online, but it’s also just as easy to write one up yourself. For example, cardio for 40 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and light weights on Tuesdays and Thursdays (giving yourself a break on the weekends).
6. Have your gear ready. I always get my workout clothes, snacks and water bottle ready the night before. If I’m riding my bike at home, I have my outfit laid out on the bathroom vanity and my socks tucking into my shoes. If you’re workout out after work, pack your gym bag the night before and put it in the front seat of your car. Do everything imaginable to make it easy to work out.
7. Consider joining a gym. It may be intimidating at first and you may not know where everything is, but it is well worth the expense of getting a trainer for the first month just so that (1) someone is waiting for you to meet them; (2) you’re paying for it; (3) you have someone to show you how to use everything. Since it takes 4-6 weeks to establish a habit, you’ll have someone there with you for the first month to help you along. Don’t hesitate to shoot me an email if you want help on how to find a good trainer.
8. Find a workout buddy. My friend Kasey and I met on a random group run at 5:30 am. We found out that we were both training for the same race and we met religiously 3 times a week (rain or shine) for our morning runs (except when I had pneumonia). Even though we don’t talk daily or even weekly, I consider her a great friend. Knowing that there’s someone waiting for you is a great inducement to make it there. ***I’d certainly be more than happy to be your wake up call at 5:30am if you need the help!***
9. Sign up for a race. There’s nothing quite like having a firm deadline to get your rear in gear. It could be a 5K or a marathon, just make sure that you give yourself enough time to adequately train for it. When my brother and I signed up for the Disney Marathon in April of 2008 (the race was in January 2009), I could scarcely run 2 miles without stopping and the thought of making it to 26.2 seemed impossible.
10. NO EXCUSES!!!! This is the hardest part. Do not, I repeat, do not let yourself off of the hook. Yes, you’re tired. Yes, you slept like crap. Yes, you have a thousand other things that you could be doing. But taking care of you and your health must be your number one priority. Don’t think about it, just do it. Just get up and go. Imagine how good you’ll feel when you can do 30 straight minutes on the treadmill without stopping. Imagine how awesome it’s going to feel getting back into those clothes that have been hanging out in your closet unworn for months. You CAN do this!
I can’t tell you know many times I’ve heard people say, I can’t run. It’s my knees. It’s my feet. I’m too heavy. You know what? You CAN do it. If a 400 lb. person on The Biggest Loser can do it, so can you. Will it initially be seriously hard? Yes. Will it get easier? Yes. Might you learn to love it? Hell yes. Having been a competitive swimmer for over a decade, running never came easy to me, but it has sculpted me faster than anything I’ve ever done and it has also been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done (probably because it was so dang hard!)
So, if you want to start running, here is a tried and true way to hit the pavement successfully.
Plan to stay out there for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Start off running very slowly and walk when you need to walk. Once you’ve caught your breath, start running again. Stick with this schedule until you can run the entire 30 minutes. Even if this takes you 3 months to do, THAT’S OK!! The key is consistency. Just keep getting out there.
Once you’ve reached your goal, bump up your time to 40 minutes and start the same process over again. When you’ve conquered that, bump up to 50 minutes, etc…
Once you can run for one hour straight (and this could take 6 months or so to reach), you can start counting your miles and getting a more specific training plan in place.
This is the only way I know to successfully become a runner. This process is called building your base. It took me 4 months to get up to the 45 minute mark of running continuously and for me, the key is to keep it nice and slow.
Alright, that’s it! What I’ve shared over the last three days is the base to taking control of your life. I have tons of literature and websites bookmarked, so if you want specific information about anything, just let me know. Never doubt what you can accomplish. Don’t stand in your own way and above all else, be strong.