I have a confession.
I haven’t exercised in three months. Work, family, and other commitments quickly overwhelm me in the morning. By midday I know I have to do something physical, but by then I’m showered, dressed and in no mood for the gym.
Twenty years ago I could have gotten away with it. Sure I still would have gained a few pounds from the lack of movement, but stiff joints were not an issue back then.
I have psoriatic arthritis, which means that I can’t afford to miss a day of stretching and replace it with a day of kvetching, but guess what???? That is exactly what I have been doing. A few days ago, when I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, I made a promise to myself: first and foremost, I would actually get up and head for the gym. This way I would not be completely absorbed by emailing, reading and replying to private messages—only to realize six hours later that half of the day is gone and I’m still in my PJs.
So first thing this morning I got myself up and found that I could, in fact, sweat (never an easy task for me) on the elliptical machine. After 30 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes of weights, I felt great. I could have done more, but I always believed in:
1. Start Slow: Getting back into shape and exercising regularly is no easy task. The key to a successful start is to make it enjoyable and accomplishable. You don’t need to dive in head-first with sky high expectations of yourself.
2. Warm Up: One of the most important parts of the workout that is frequently skipped and ignored—Not anymore! Getting muscles warm and blood flowing decreases your risk of injury and will make your workout more enjoyable.
3. Schedule Workouts: Incorporating exercise plans into your daily planner will increase the likelihood that you will follow through and stick to exercising. Treat your workout time as you would any other appointment. Making it a habit to be at the gym on time will create regularity and therefore increase the chances that you will continue going.
4. Forget About Weight Loss: Getting healthier by working out should be the top priority. Additionally, working out will be far less enjoyable since losing weight is not an instant process; the numbers on the scale don’t always reflect progress. Weight loss will come over time if you keep at it.
5. Reward Yourself: Reinforcing the effort to exercise will only strengthen your motivation and make the process easier. Allow yourself to enjoy a pat on the back for the hard work.
6. Write it Down: Use whatever method you want: Twitter, email, your journal, Facebook; there’s nothing more motivating than public pressure. Get some positive feedback, keep yourself elevated.
7. Set Goals: Knowing your goals and going about the right way to reach them will help keep you exercising. Are you looking to burn fat? Build muscle? Enhance your cardiovascular capacity? Figure out what you’re looking to achieve and get a strategy in place.
8. Make it Fun: By no means is the gym the only place to get your workout done. Hiking, taking up tennis, jogging in the early morning with the quiet and sunrise—whatever it takes to make the experience enjoyable.
9. Fuel Up and Hydrate: Working out on an empty stomach is never a good idea, but you shouldn’t eat right before either. Having a banana or half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich an hour before exercising should do the trick. Drinking plenty of water is also a must, but again, be careful not to drink too much before going so you won’t have a stomach full of water while you’re trying to work out.
10. Get a Workout Buddy: Take someone at approximately your level of fitness and commitment and make arrangements to meet up and work out together every week. This will help you to keep going and decrease the likelihood you’ll cancel or skip your work out.
It’s not impossible to get back on the exercise horse, or so to speak, even after years without exercise. It’s never too late to start getting healthy again, and there’s never been a better time to start than now with summer right around the corner. So, will you join me at the gym? I really could use some company.
p.s. What gets you out of bed and motivated every morning? If you have tips that could help, please post them below. It’s hard to do this alone, but together the sky is the limit!