Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, and now it’s come down to this. As if starting a new diet and sticking with it isn’t usually hard enough, now it’s time to talk about the “E” word. I know, I know, exercise is about as much fun as a root canal, right? Not so fast! Perhaps we’ve all been mislead? Maybe there’s a better strategy for exercise, just like there is for starting a diet. In fact, there is! But before I jump into this, I want to put exercise in its proper context.
Exercise or die!
Years ago, when I was a kid, I had a neighbor across the street who had a close call that really shook him up. Being in his mid-40s, suddenly realizing that years of bad eating and lack of exercise had finally caught up with him was quite unnerving, especially when his heart troubles began. It’s not something you take lightly. After a heart attack, his doctor warned that if he didn’t change his ways–eat healthier, start getting regular exercise, and drop 50 pounds –he was going to die (sooner rather than later).
Over the next several months, he was seen walking up and down the block a couple times every day. Slowly, but surely, he started losing weight, looking healthier, and feeling better than ever. Unfortunately, it took a threat to his life, in the form of a heart attack, to motivate him to get healthy. But why are we like that? Why does it take facing some kind of life-threatening penalty before we miraculously find the motivation to exercise and get healthy?
Biggest Reasons Why People Avoid Exercise
- It’s painful
- Don’t have enough time
- Don’t have enough energy
- Too out-of-shape to exercise
Those are some really strong reasons for NOT exercising, especially the first one. Hey, I’m just being honest here. There’s no way to candy-coat those reasons and make you suddenly WANT to exercise 30-60 minutes, 3 days (or more) per week because pain is painful, plain and simple. Most people have so much resistance built up against exercising, it’s no surprise that it would take a death threat (such as a heart attack) to override the pain caused from a typical workout to get you to finally exercise and stick with it.
Just about everybody follows the same advice when starting a new exercise program. Sure, there may be some variations here and there, but you still end up running right, smack, into the same wall of resistance (the 4 reasons above) that everybody else eventually runs into. However, I didn’t bring you all this way only to pull the rug out from under you. I’m here to remove the obstacles that prevent you from exercising. Remember the No-Resistance Diet Strategy I introduced in this series? I have, for you, something no less remarkable. It will take the biggest reasons why you avoid exercise and render them obsolete. And now, the easiest exercise strategy you’ll ever try…
The No-Resistance Exercise Strategy
Starting on week 1, exercise 7 days per week
Week 1: Exercise 1 minute per day at a moderate pace.
Week 2: Exercise 2 minutes per day at a moderate pace.
Week 3: Exercise 3 minutes per day at a moderate pace. (Continue adding 1 more minute each week through week 10)
Week 10: Exercise 10 minutes per day at a moderate pace.
Starting on week 11, exercise only 3 days per week (more if you choose).
Week 11: Exercise 5 minutes at a moderate pace (warm-up), 1 minute at a vigorous pace (aerobic), followed by 5 minutes at a moderate pace (cool-down).
Week 12: Exercise 5 minutes at a moderate pace (warm-up), 2 minutes at a vigorous pace (aerobic), followed by 5 minutes at a moderate pace (cool-down).
Week 13: Exercise 5 minutes at a moderate pace (warm-up), 3 minutes at a vigorous pace (aerobic), followed by 5 minutes at a moderate pace (cool-down). (Continue adding 1 more minute of aerobic exercise each week through week 30.)
Week 30: Exercise 5 minutes (warm-up), 20 minutes (aerobic), and 5 minutes (cool-down).
As with the No-Resistance Diet Strategy, this exercise strategy is designed to remove the normal resistance you feel toward exercise. Here’s a partial list of some of the benefits you receive by easing into exercise using this strategy over 30 weeks:
- It only take a minute to exercise when you’re just starting out
- Exercise time increases so slowly that it’s easy to fit into the busiest of schedules
- Super easy to stick to the routine
- No pain when you’re just starting out means you’ll be more likely to stick with it
- It typically takes 3 weeks to form a habit; you’re creating a rock-solid habit over 30 weeks
- Easy to get started no matter how out-of-shape you feel
- You build endurance and muscle strength slowly, without killing yourself
- You won’t feel overwhelmed by exercise on day one
- So easy, even a cave-person could do it
“But I just don’t have the energy!”
Often, people avoid exercise because they feel sluggish all the time. The crazy thing is, exercise is one of the best ways to boost your energy. But don’t overlook your diet, too. If you eat a lot of foods with a ton of sugar or sugar derivatives, your energy levels will be unstable and you’ll be constantly crashing or feeling lethargic. Starting slowly with exercise will actually help you increase your energy level, even when you’re starting out low on energy.
Can you say ‘boring’?
Another thing that can sap exercise motivation is when people have the same routine every time they work out. While this may work for some, it’s really boring for others. If you want to feel excited about exercise; if you want to really look forward to it, then mix it up. Occasionally change your routine so that you throw new challenges at your body to keep things fresh.
Try to include a fun exercise activity a couple days a week. For instance, you may want to play vigorous basketball, hockey or some other sport that you and your friends enjoy. Find a place to swim and enjoy that when you can. If you life near mountains, try going hiking, kayaking, or even try geocaching. Maybe carry around a footbag so that you can squeeze in a fun and healthy activity when you’re alone or with friends. The point is, exercise doesn’t always have to be running on a treadmill or using a piece of indoor exercise equipment (unless you enjoy that). The more you vary your routine and include fun activities and friends, the more you’ll be motivated to continue.
Pony up a partner
Speaking of friends, some people really find exercising with a partner to be very motivational. It’s obvious that there can be some important advantages to this. For example, when one of the partners doesn’t feel like exercising, the other is there to encourage the right choice. Also, knowing that your partner expects you to show up can encourage you to…well…show up. Being accountable to someone can keep you going, even when you don’t feel like it. Not only that, but it can be very exciting and motivating when you can revel in each other’s progress and even enjoy healthy meals together.
When my wife and I exercise together, we sometimes get so absorbed in conversation that we’re surprised when it’s time to quit. The time we spend exercising together goes so fast, we hardly notice that we’re exercising. It even diminishes the natural pain that goes with exercise so it’s not as noticeable. Having a partner or group to exercise with can make a big difference. But you won’t know unless you try it.
What they don’t know WILL hurt them…
Those people who never exercise may not realize the side-benefits that come with the effort. You might be surprised how exercise effects the brain and body on so many different levels. For example, people who exercise regularly are more confident, think faster, are better at problem solving, are more willing to take chances which may lead to more opportunities, feel more capable of handling any challenge life throws at them, are calmer… and so many more. Some effects are immediate…you feel them right after you exercise. Regular exercise improves self-esteem and an improved self-esteem improves just about everything else you do.
Also, consider stress. When you’re under the effects of stress, your body goes into fight or flight mode which causes certain chemicals to be injected into your body so you can handle the stress load. If this happens too often, the chemicals can be damaging to your body, weakening your immune system, making you susceptible to a host of physical ailments.
Regular exercise reduces stress or the feeling of fight or flight, which minimizes damage caused by the stress chemicals because they’re not being released into your body as often. This results in a tougher immune system which increases your chances of preventing colds and even age-related problems. This, alone, is an extremely important reason to exercise on a regular basis. But the fact is, not only does exercise make you stronger, it makes you a healthier, and more capable person in just about every way. So exercise and you’ll be better able to guide your life in the exact direction you prefer. The benefits you get from regular exercise is like having a secret super-hero power.
Exercise and beyond
So there you have it, folks. I’ve given you a super-easy, no-fail method for starting an exercise program and I removed the obstacles that would normally cause you to avoid exercise. I created a plan that’s so easy, you’ll likely feel totally motivated to get started. And when you combine the No-Resistance Diet Strategy with the No-Resistance Exercise Strategy, tackling diet and exercise should be no sweat.
Remember, you’re trying to develop long-term lifestyle change that includes eating healthy and regular exercise. The next article in this series will likely be the conclusion where I drive everything home to a smashing finale. Don’t miss it!
Reminder: I’m not a doctor nor am I qualified, in any way, to give out medical advice, therefore, you should consult a medical doctor before you start a new diet or exercise program.