I ran occasionally, took the random exercise class (Zumba anyone?) but nothing stuck. And I was stuck. I was tired and sluggish and feeling bleh. I also, just to be brief, have struggled quite a bit with depression and anxiety over the years, and I could feel similar symptoms rising. The husband, as well as my doctor and mom, suggested I start exercising more regularly. So I did, and now here I am—for the first time in my life—with a regular exercise routine.
I am no pro, but I’ve learned a lot along the way that I want to share with you.
Pick something you “like”
I put like in quotation marks because honestly, you may never find a workout that you love. Working out is hard—that’s why they call it work! (I’m so dang clever.) But you need to find something or a few things you can tolerate—even if what you enjoy is just the high of being done. So try a lot of things—maybe you’re a swimmer or a runner or maybe you love Crossfit. Find out.
Create a schedule.
This is so necessary. If I try to just “fit” exercise in, it does NOT happen. It needs to be a full plan—something I prepare for mentally and know will happen almost no matter what. Start easy—maybe just 15 minutes once or twice a week and build from there. Be stubborn about it though-- this is your time, don't let other minor things get in the way.
If you’re starting a new program, it will be easy to stop. Find someone, ideally to work out with you. My husband meets his boss to run and knowing that his boss is waiting for him each morning makes it easier for him to get out of bed. If you’re starting to exercise on your own, find someone that will at least text you or ask you if you’re still on schedule!
You need to have something to work toward. For me, it was running a half marathon—something I never thought I could do. Maybe for you it’s running a 5k or lifting a certain weight—but find something, and make it feasible, to work toward.
Go easy on yourself
While it’s great to set goals, create a schedule, etc, make sure you go on easy on yourself. There are going to be days that you miss or days where you feel terrible doing it. I had training runs leading up to my half marathon and I was convinced I should quit because it went so poorly. Luckily the husband encouraged me to go easy on myself—and it got better. So give yourself grace.
What gets you going? A new pair of shoes? A pricier bottle of wine? Or going out to eat? Sleeping in? Find something that will motivate you and tell yourself once you reach a certain point in your exercise routine, reward yourself! You deserve it.
Nourish your body
This is where I think people go to either extreme. On one side, you may be tempted to have a super-rich protein shake after working out—but usually those things like exercise bars, Gatorade, etc, are only necessary after an hour-long Crossfit sesh or an 8-mile run. On the other hand, you cannot skip breakfast or just eat an apple each day for lunch and expect your workout to go well. You need to feed your body enough complex carbs (brown rice, oats), vegetables rich in vitamins (kale, spinach, carrots,) and lean proteins (quinoa, fish). I run at noon. For breakfast (at 8 or 8:30 when I get to work) I eat a bowl of oatmeal with flax seed and cinnamon, then try and drink at least two glasses of water. This doesn't guarantee a good workout for me, but it sure helps.
Mix it up
As much as I love running and the fact that it’s kind of a one-stop-shop sort of exercise (it tones your core, legs, butt, etc), if I don’t want to get bored or if I want to become stronger, I’ll need to mix in some other workouts. I currently do “Yoga for Runners” once a week and try and mix in core workouts (planks, squats, jumping jacks, etc) as well.
All of these tips are great, but more than anything, you’re going to have to stick with it. It takes awhile to set a routine and the first couple weeks or months will be hard as you build up. But, I can really attest that it’s been worth it for me.
Questions, comments, anything? Let me know. And if you do have a question and comment, please leave your email or twitter handle or something so I can respond!