Starting an Exercise Routine

13 May

I was talking to a friend of mine today about how hard it is to start an exercise routine. They’ve just started to work-out regularly and are facing many of the same challenges I faced when I first started working-out. Even though it can be hard to get into a regular routine there are a lot of tricks to make it less painful.

1) Start slow

I vividly remember the first run I ever went on when I first started running. As an ex-varsity athlete I felt confident that I could bang out a few miles at some ridiculous pace no problem. Before I hit the half-mile mark I was dying. I turned around and walked (more like crawled) home. But I went out the next day and tried again, and the day after that and each day I ran a little farther. I’ve ran hundreds of miles since that day and plan to run many more but it would have been all too easy for me to quit on that first day and never have accomplished anything. So don’t get discouraged if it’s hard at first. It’s a sign that you’re getting somewhere. Of course, you don’t want to push yourself too hard too soon. So make sure to get plenty of rest, and stretch and ice regularly.

2) Every little bit counts

Often times when I talk about running and working out people respond with “Oh I could never find the time to do that.” I have a one word response: bull-s#*%. I work two jobs and volunteer and up until last year I was a full-time student. If I can find the time anyone can. But you have to make working-out a priority otherwise you’ll never make the effort.

This Barbie weight counts, right?

That said, oftentimes life throws curveballs at us and we have to adjust accordingly. Don’t worry if you can’t get in as long or hard of work-out as you wanted. Just getting out and running for 20 mins or hitting the weight room for a short circuit will help. Yes, eventually you’ll have to make the time for longer runs or work-outs but every bit counts, even if you just have a few minutes.

3) Find a time that works for you

Everyone is different. Some are morning people, some are night owls, so find a time of day that works well for you. When I was a student late afternoon worked best for me as that was usually my down-time. Now that I work full-time I find I need to work-out either in the morning or on my lunch break. If I push my work-out to the evening, I usually come up with a whole host of excuses to skip it. Getting up early in the morning to work-out can be tough but there are many ways to make it easier on yourself. But if you’re not a morning person, don’t worry! Schedule your work-out for the afternoon or evening. Just listen to your body and your energy levels and you’ll find the best time for you!

So true, Garfield, so very true

4) Make it fun

Try a new class with friends. Make a rocking play-list. Challenge yourself with interval workouts. There are so many ways you can make exercising fun! Tomorrow night I’ll be participating in a mud run. The race will have nothing to do with time or hitting a certain distance, but will be all about having a blast and enjoying life. Should some work-outs be hard? Absolutely. But mixing in some fun will help keep you committed and motivated.

Variety can also be a big help. If I did nothing but wrong, I’d quickly burn out. But I mix my running with biking, swimming, weight-lifting and yoga. Even if my heart lies with running it’s important to mix things up and make sure that I’m trying other things. Add in a Zumba class. Try spinning. Find out what P90X is all about. You may find something new that you absolutely love (like I did with yoga).

Yoga Love

5) Sign up for a race

Dropping money for something will get you to do a lot of crazy things (exhibit A: running the Marine Corps Half on Sunday). Once you make a financial commitment you’ll be a lot more dedicated to training for the event, otherwise you spent that money for no reason. Your first race can be very intimidating, but don’t be scared! Runners are some of the nicest people around. All the want is for others to fall in love with their sport, no matter how fast or slow you might run.

We even like you and your 20-min mile time

I highly recommend running your first race with a friend, that will help to lessen some of those nerves. I ran my first race alone, but met some lovely people at the starting line that helped calm my nerves.

6) Buy cute workout clothes

Ok, so this may not apply quite so much to men, but honestly having work-out you feel confident can make a huge difference. On days when I’m struggling to find the motivation to work-out I’ll force myself to change into my favorite work-out clothes. Suddenly hitting the gym or heading out for a run seems so much easier!

You don’t have to drop serious money for cute gear either. Target sells some great stuff at very reasonable prices. You can also try Kohl’s or Forever 21 (though I suspect their work-out clothes will fall apart just like everything else they make.)

Cheap 'n' Chic

7) Institute a reward system

Now, you shouldn’t reward yourself after every, single workout- that’s a lot of rewarding. But, rewarding yourself after you’ve hit a certain goal, or after a particularly tough week can help you stay focused. I like to buy new work-out gear. For others, maybe it’s a massage, or a new book. Whatever works for you, do it! Just keep it reasonable.

8) Take a rest day

So, so, so important. I suspect part of the reason I ended up side-lined for two weeks with shin splints is because I was over-training. Making sure you take at least one full rest day a week is crucially important to staying healthy. Some only need one rest day a week, others two or three. When your first starting out, it’s especially important to give your body a chance to rest and recover. For me, I take one full rest day a week and two days a week I lighten my work-out schedule (usually yoga and light cardio or weights.

Sleep is the BEST

Sorry this post is so long, but hopefully some of the tips were helpful! I know it can be hard to get started but once you find your groove and start seeing results it becomes so much easier to stay committed!

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