Many people who want to start getting more active feel overwhelmed by the idea because they do not feel they have enough time, do not know where to start, or have really high expectations for themselves. Unfortunately, this often results in their good intentions never materializing into any action or changed behaviour. I always encourage people to take it slow at first and to remember that something is better than nothing. Here are 4 tips to help you start getting on track:
- Accountability factor: People tend to stay more on track and committed to a pre-planned workout if they know someone else is relying on them to ‘show-up’. Whether you have planned a workout at home with your spouse, meeting your friend outside for a ski or walk, or having a set day and time with a personal trainer – you are more likely to follow through with your intentions, with the added bonus of some extra motivation during the workout!
- Do something you enjoy: Clients often will ask what is better: using a treadmill or an elliptical? My answer: whatever you are going to use more! If the treadmill is more effective at burning energy, but you are never going to set foot on it, then the obvious choice is to use the elliptical. Furthermore, if you love being outside on the trails and in nature, purchase the correct gear to exercise comfortably in the elements and pursue activities such as hiking, trail running, and cross-country skiing. You are much more likely to stick with an activity that is fun, rather than something that you view as a chore.
- Be realistic: When people are new to exercising, or trying to get back into a more regular routine after a fitness hiatus, I always recommend to take it slow at first and not to place an unrealistic demand on themselves. Starting off with 1 or 2 workouts per week, and over time slowly adding more exercise into your weekly routine, is much more likely to set you up for success rather than trying to do too much too soon, getting overwhelmed with the time commitment and energy involved, and quitting altogether. The ultimate aspiration is to build a sustainable habit whereby regular physical activity is an integral part of your life. Remember that pursuing fitness is not a race, rather it is a life-long journey with a natural ebb and flow of ‘ups’ and ‘downs’!
- Accrual over time is what counts: People often cite a ‘lack of time’ as a major barrier to fitting in exercise into their daily lives. My recommendation is to add in exercise wherever and whenever you can, regardless of the length of time. For example, walking to the grocery store [rather than the obvious driving], taking the stairs at work [instead of hopping on the elevator], or adding in some extra core exercises or stretches [while watching television]. But also not worrying if you cannot fit in a 30- to 60-minute workout all of the time – it is still effective to allocate 3, 10-minute blocks of time throughout your day (e.g. when you first wake up, during your lunch break, and in the evening before winding down for bed) to accrue the same amount of exercise as you would in 1, 30-minute workout. Imagine you incorporated 10 squats into your daily routine every time you had a drink of water. Now, let’s estimate you drink 8 cups per day, for a total of 80 squats per day! If we extrapolate the numbers, you would be doing approximately 560 squats per week (7 days X 80 squats/per day), 2,240 per month, and over 29,120 per year! Remember, adding in small doses of physical activity into your daily routine will result in a substantial amount of exercise over the long-term!
Remember “success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out” (Robert Collier)
Start off with small and manageable amounts of physical activity, remember that every bit counts, and pick activities that you enjoy!