If you’re a member of my Facebook page, you know that exercise is crucial to my well being and so I want to share some tips to get you started on your own fitness journey.
Being in good health starts with diet. This is a must, but incorporating physical activity is essential for keeping your mind clear, stress levels down, self-esteem intact, and your skeleton strong.
If you are reading this, you have likely suffered from kidney stones and have had to endure horrible procedures to remove them. Many of you have been recovering and are having a hard time getting back on track with your former exercise routine. Whether you are trying to “get back to it” or just beginning, below are tips to help get you started.
After my two year bout with cancer, it was very intimidating for me to get back to an exercise routine. I had lost so much strength, and I knew I’d be very sad not being able to do what I once could. It took serious mental commitment to actually get in there and push through those feelings that were overwhelming at times.
I asked myself, “What’s worse, not being able to do what I once could or never trying and ALWAYS feeling terrible about that?” I had many of these talks with myself, not just one. It is a process to get your head around starting any new endeavor or returning to an old one. You have to ask yourself: How much do I really want this? How much better will I feel if I start now? How sad will I feel if I don’t start at all?
Even though I had to start over from scratch, it was worth it to try. It is always worth trying something. Today, after being back to the gym for two years, I can do 30-pound bicep curls, way more than I ever even tried before I got sick. It took two years to get there, but it was worth every single step I took. And I am proud of myself. It wasn’t easy.
Many of the tips I am about to suggest are ones I used to get myself back to it. I hope you find them helpful.
Why do you want to do this?
You might want to get started because you’re tired of being overweight. However, I’d rather you think of physical activity as something you want to do to ward off disease and to become strong. Weight loss is a common goal but is often loaded with triggers. When we exercise and don’t see the scale shift after the first week, it leads to feelings of defeat. Then we stop. It didn’t take five days to put the weight on. It won’t take five days to take it off. But it also won’t take a lifetime, so BE KIND TO YOURSELF!
Make a commitment to yourself.
The first step requires you to have a serious talk with yourself. Are you ready for this? I know you are, but YOU have to commit and focus on all the positive gains you’ll get from making this commitment. Personally, I am always chasing outcomes. If I’m not committed to my routine, I will not experience the outcomes I’m after—good mental and physical health. Making a promise to yourself to show up for physical activity is crucial before you can start. Don’t worry! You can keep it simple. No need to plan out the next year of fitness. Think about the week to come and where you can fit in 15 minutes on most days.
Maybe you want to walk more. Schedule in 15 minutes per day of walking. You can do that. People ask me all the time, “Is that enough, Jill?” If you’ve not previously incorporated activity into your life, scheduling in 15 minutes a day is an excellent beginning. We all have to start somewhere, and starting small will give you a sense of accomplishment and the desire to push forward. START SMALL.
Perfection is not your friend. EVER.
Please be kind to yourself. Whenever we are learning new things, whether it’s a lifestyle change, parenting, cooking, speaking a new language…we mess up. We make mistakes. That’s how we learn! Expect that you will make mistakes because you will. I do! Ignore it and continue with your plan the next day. The key is not to let one day turn into one week. That is where we get into trouble. I make mistakes all the time. I learn from them and try again. If you can’t work out for a couple of days, make the third day count. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Make physical activity part of your daily routine.
You would not go an entire day without brushing your teeth. Why not think of physical activity in the same way? You don’t have to commit to an hour per day of exercise. Anything that gets you up and moving is a great start!
Be mindful of your excuses.
The most common excuses we give ourselves are: I’m too busy, or exercise is hard, or I hate it or exercise hurts. I agree with all of this! But let’s have a closer look.
First off, exercise should never hurt. If it does, you may need help learning the correct way to do it or, perhaps, with your specific medical issues, you should avoid certain exercises altogether.
Exercise is hard when you are not accustomed to it. This is why I say start with baby steps and work up to the “harder” routines later when they are no longer THAT hard.
As for being too busy, we manage to find time to watch TV or surf the internet, so the “I’m too busy” excuse should be reconsidered. I know our lives are busy and that we get tired but think of it this way—when we exercise, our energy levels rise. Getting active will make you feel great now and long into the future. Push yourself a bit to get through that tired feeling, and you will feel so good that you did. Again, just a 15-minute walk to start!
Find another person to be accountable to.
Accountability is huge, and people use this tool to achieve all sorts of different goals. Tell a friend, partner, or family member that you’re introducing physical activity into your life and could use their help. Ask this person to check in with you each week to see how you’re doing. It’s amazing how effective this technique is, and you’ll likely inspire action in them too!
You can also use a free phone app to help keep you accountable each day. I use the Health app that comes with my iPhone to count my steps. For my weight lifting, I pay for an app called Fitness and Bodybuilding (F&B). Search your app store on your phone to pick one that might work best for you. There are plenty of free ones to choose from. I also use a Fitbit, and it just reminded me I need to get up for 224 steps. So up I get. I’ll be right back!
Consistency is more important than intensity.
I would rather you do your walks or bike rides or weights or whatever you choose for your activity on a regular basis than working out until you are about to pass out each time. Working out that hard not only sets you up for injury but also sets you up for not being able to do something the next day because you’re in too much pain. On days you can push yourself a bit more, go for it. Just know that this will change each day.
Listen to your body.
This is important. Most of us are over 40; we get aches and pains. It’s very important to listen to what your body is telling you and not push into that on some days. Getting cancer brought this lesson home for me. I pay close attention to how my body is moving and feeling each day, and if I get pain while doing a movement, I stop. I pay mind to how I am doing the movement and to whether I need to adjust the weight or intensity. We all know those pains that just don’t seem right. Before cancer, I was used to feeling strong and took for granted what my body could do. As a result, I was often careless. Your body will always give you the clues you need to work out safely. You just need to listen to it. It’s the smart thing to do and will allow you to work out again tomorrow!
Kill two birds.
If the treadmill is your thing, try listening to your favorite audiobook or FaceTime with a friend or watch that Netflix show you’ve wanted to catch up on. These are great ways to pass the time and make that workout a breeze.
Choose your inspiration.
What or who is your inspiration to keep motivated? Perhaps it’s your spouse or a fitness expert or one of your past instructors. Me, I follow several fitness people on Instagram, so I’m always learning new things and keeping it fresh. I am nearly 57, so I like to follow bodybuilders that are my age and up.
All movement counts.
Whether you are stuck inside right now or not, everything counts. Dusting? It counts. Vacuuming? It counts. Blasting the music and dancing with a broom? It counts. Jumping in place? It counts. Push-ups with knees on the floor? Darn right it counts. IT ALL COUNTS!
Don’t forget to breathe.
Taking five deep breaths every hour will help clear your mind and increase the supply of oxygen to your brain. It also helps keep you calm as it stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, and that is where our fight or flight response gets triggered! No matter what exercise you do, don’t forget to breathe!
There are many days that I simply do not feel like working out. I have learned to push through the excuses because I am always chasing outcomes. If I choose not to work out, I will feel even more tired, less able to sleep, upset that I didn’t do it, and so on. On the other hand, I have never finished a workout and thought, “damn, I wish I didn’t work out.” Never. Not once. I am always so proud of myself that I kept to my commitment and continue to maintain good health and emotional well being. Chasing outcomes has been imperative in keeping me compliant and accountable for my physical activity goals.
I think the most important thing I can tell you is that it does take time and baby steps is how we get to where we want to be. I consider working out a hobby, not something “I have to do.” Having to do anything is usually a bummer. We HAVE to do our taxes. I’m rarely inspired by doing taxes. Living a healthy lifestyle is a privilege. The fact that we get to wake up every day is a privilege. You, like me, have been sick. You know what the other side of health is. Do whatever you can to avoid sliding back over to that side. Do your part. It is worth it to you and to every