Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Getting More Exercise 2: making it happen

July 22, 2008

Part 1 of this series explored ways to make time for exercise. Now that your schedule is set, how can you make sure it happens on a consistent basis?

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

-As I mentioned in my previous post, be specific in your plan. It’s a lot easier to wiggle out of “I have to exercise more!” than it is from “Thursday: thirty minutes on the stationery bike while watching the news.” Think through What, When, How Long.

-If you know you have a busy day or week coming up don’t just abandon your exercise plan. Modify it. Get a couple exercise DVDs with 15-minute routines for the days you can’t make it to the gym. Plan fun activities into your vacation that keep you moving. Come up with a Plan A and Plan B, and stick to them!

-Make your exercise environment as comfortable as possible. We need all the encouragement we can get to exercise, so if you stick the elliptical machine in the farthest corner of the coldest room in the house, who would want to wade through the cobwebs and piles of junk to exercise consistently? Clear out the mess, open the blinds, put up a poster or some photos. Make this your sanctuary, and you’ll want to exercise.

INCLUDE OTHERS IN YOUR SUCCESS

Getting others in on your plan increases your motivation, accountability, and makes the process more fun. Let others know about your plans to exercise more frequently, and tell them to check in with you! Or find someone else who wants to bump up their activity levels – you can keep each other motivated, share tips and ideas, or find an activity you both enjoy to keep one another going. Family members, friends, coworkers, online forums or support groups are all excellent places to turn.

TRACK YOUR MILESTONES TOWARDS SUCCESS

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Likewise, keep your expectations reasonable and break your progress down into a series of achievable milestones. If you’d like to exercise five days a week, it’s reasonable to start out at three and work up to five over the course of several months. If you want to lose 50 pounds, don’t let the large number deter you. Focus first on losing five pounds, or set up other, non weight-related milestones along the way.

Some tips:

-Set up concrete, tangible goals in a clearly defined time period. Just as a specific daily plan for exercise keeps you on track, specific weekly or monthly goals provide an overarching framework to guide your daily efforts.

For example, you wish to exercise 5 days/week by the end of 3 months. The first month you might start out at 3 days/week at the gym, the second month you add in a day of walking, the third month you add in an exercise DVD. Long-term goals focus your efforts despite short-term setbacks.

-Track your progress! Note down your goals and your progress towards them. Some people like notebooks, others prefer the visual encouragement of X’s on the calendar. Once you have a string of X’s on your wall, it creates additional motivation to continue the trend and not break the string.

-If you feel discouraged, look back to where you started. You’ll see more improvement than you realized.

-To kick start your efforts, some people like to create “one week” or “one month” challenges. For example: No snacking after 9PM for the month of April, or do some form of exercise daily for an entire week.

FIND THE WEAK LINK

We all have a part of the exercise plan where we are likely to drop off of a routine. For some it is a constant flow of unexpected lunch meetings, for others it is the temptation to hit snooze that prevents a morning workout. When reviewing your plan for the week, think back on the moments when you were less successful at achieving your exercise goals. Once you identify your “weak link” you can think through how to overcome it. Some common stumbling points:

Weak Link: Not feeling up for exercise when you get home.

Solution: Have your exercise shoes right next to the door; head straight for your exercise room and change there; find a class or facility on the way home from work and store your clothes in the car.

Weak Link: So many nighttime chores that it’s impossible to consistently exercise

Solution: Switch to mornings or daytime exercise; allot a specific time period for exercise; exercise consistently on weekends and once or twice during the week.

Weak Link: Snoozing the alarm in the morning

Solution: Move the alarm across the room so you have to get up and turn it off; shift your bedtime earlier; find a motivating picture of quote and stick it on your alarm clock.

Despite the best intentions it can be difficult to consistently exercise. To make exercise a long-term habit, it is helpful to have an exercise routine in place (see Part 1 for specifics on setting up an exercise routine) and strategies to overcome obstacles that may come up along the way.

Getting More Exercise 1: fitting it into your life

July 18, 2008

If you could make one change to lose weight, lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and prevent diabetes, would you do it? After all, heart disease and diabetes are two leading causes of death in America, and millions are on medications to manage these conditions. So what is this cure?

The answer isn’t an expensive drug but exercise.

That’s right. Exercise can accomplish all of the above, plus build muscle and tone your body, increase blood flow to your brain, strengthen your heart, and sometimes improve sleep quality and relieve stress. Despite this, most of us don’t get the recommended 30-60 minutes of low to moderate exercise 5 or more days per week.

If that sounds daunting, don’t feel intimidated. Chances are you already achieve some of that, and incremental increases towards the minimum have a positive cumulative effect. An extra 5 minutes per day adds up to an additional 30 hours of exercise each year. Think of the benefits over your lifetime!

Aim to get as close to the recommendations, and it’s OK to start slow and build up. It may take awhile to adjust to a new program, but you’ll start finding ways to add in ten minutes here or there.

Part 1 of this series focuses on ways to fit exercise into your daily life. Part 2 helps you keep it in your life with tips on making it happen consistently.

MAKE THE TIME

Ideally you’d be able to carve out a daily chunk of time for physical activity. Even if this is not feasible on a daily basis, a couple times a week still brings benefits!

Also, studies have shown that you get equivalent benefits from breaking exercise into smaller chunks – two 15-minute walks are just as effective as one 30-minute walk. Note this means you don’t have to head to the gym for an hour every day to get adequate exercise. In the effort for increased exercise, consistency is key. To find time, ask yourself:

-Where can I find 10-15 minutes daily?

-Do I have more flexibility in the mornings, daytime, or evenings?

-Are there 1-2 days during the week when my schedule is less full? How busy are my weekends? Can I commit to 30 minutes on these days?

-Are there natural breaks that already occur during the day? Lunch is a perfect example, but get creative! Maybe you have a solid morning routine at work and can build in a 15-minute break between tasks.

Once you’ve established a good time think through how you will fill it. Will you be at the gym, on a walk around the block, using your elliptical machine at home? Do you need special equipment or clothing, or to new carpool arrangements? The more you think through the specifics the better prepared you are to carry out your plan.

It may be that some days you manage half an hour of walking and household chores, punctuated by 1-2 days of focused exercise efforts. Others choose to start off the day with a 30-minute walk. Either way, the key is to just start.

HARNESS THE POWER OF MULTITASKING

Short of setting aside time solely devoted to exercise, some prefer to multitask their exercise. For example:

-Exercise while watching TV. This could mean using the bike while watching the news, or some free weights and crunches during commercials of your favorite show.

-Watching a sporting event? Climb up and down the bleachers a couple times during the course of a game. Stand up every time you cheer. Pace the length of a soccer field while watching your child play.

We all have tight schedules and a long list of obligations. Combining exercise with a regular item on your list increases your success in incorporating it into your life.

GET CREATIVE

We all have multiple demands on us, and sometimes exercise can help you manage those demands. Investigate all areas of your life to see if exercise can be part of the solution.

-Find stress building at work as the morning wears on? Step out for a brisk 10 minute stroll to remove yourself from the stress and clear your head.

-On that note, 5 minutes of stretching mid-afternoon fights off drowsiness and refocuses your efforts. After all, a 10-minute bout of productivity can accomplish more than half an hour of half-hearted attempts.

-To mix up the weekend routine suggest a hike with friends instead of the standard “catch up over a meal,” and save money to boot! Or go out dancing, try out the new ice skating rink, etc.

-If the nighttime munchies hit after dinner, take a 20-minute stroll immediately following the meal. Exercise is a moderate appetite suppressant, and staying busy distracts from cravings.

-If you have problems sleeping try ten minutes of relaxing yoga stretches before you sleep.

Is there another area of your life that you’ve wanted to work on? See if you can’t kill two birds with one stone!

MAKE THE MOST OF THE SMALL THINGS

Make your daily routine less sedentary. Take the stairs, park further away in the parking lot, use the furthest bathroom from your office. Wear a pedometer to track your efforts and experiment with new ways to fit in more steps. Housework and chores count too. Everything from gardening to washing windows gets you moving and active, so schedule that in regularly.

Finally, take a look what you’re already doing. Is there is a way to increase the activity level further? Use a push lawn mower or forego golf carts in favor of walking. Love to play fetch with your dog? Think about all that time you spend standing around – do squats or bench push ups while she chases, or start her off with a jog around the park, she’ll still get to run but you join in on the action.

Making time for exercise is less difficult than you think. Use any combination of the techniques above, and don’t be afraid to experiment to find the solution that works for you!