Joanne Henson is the author of ‘What’s Your Excuse For Not Getting Fit
1. Understand that exercise doesn’t have to be unpleasant
Many fitness professionals talk about workouts as if they’re of no value unless they leave you gasping for air, covered in sweat and sore for the next few days, but absolutely any exercise is better than no exercise – even at a moderate level. Also, it shouldn't feel like a punishment. If you use exercise to punish yourself for what you’ve eaten, you’re never going to enjoy it or feel motivated to do it.
2. Find something you enjoy
If you love it, you’ll do it. So what do you enjoy? Do you like exercising with a friend or do you need to do it alone? Do you like being outdoors, or do you hate being cold and wet? Do you need variety or do you like the familiar? Do you like high energy activities or something more calming?
Keep trying different activities until you find something you enjoy – how about hiking, belly dancing, martial arts, ballet, yoga, rowing, boxing, climbing or swimming? Exercise doesn’t have to involve joining a gym or running.
3. Ease yourself into it
If you’re new to exercise, or starting again after a long period of inactivity, there’s no need to go all-out straight away. Your body won’t thank you for going too hard too soon, and the pain, struggle and post-workout soreness will just reinforce any belief that exercise is unpleasant.
Take it easy for the first few sessions – you can always work a bit harder next time, and the next time, and the time after that.
4. Make it a habit
What do fit people have in common? They exercise regularly and consistently. So make it your priority to establish the habit first – you can concentrate on increasing your level of fitness later. If that means getting yourself to a gym but doing only ten minutes’ exercise per session for the first month, that’s fine. If you get there three or four times each week, you’re establishing a routine, and then you can turn your attention to improving your performance.
5. Don’t expect a quick fix
One of the reasons people go so hard and give up so quickly is that they are looking for immediate results, and when they don’t get them they become disillusioned. Be patient, give it some time, and remember that exercise has long term, ongoing health benefits beyond body shape.
6. Pick the right exercise for your goal
If you have a specific goal, and you’re going to invest time and effort in exercising, make sure that time and effort is well spent. What is it you want to achieve? Be honest with yourself, and if necessary get some advice on what would be most effective. For instance, if you want to tone up your bingo wings, target that area with resistance training rather than running, or if you need to improve your flexibility or mood, try yoga.
7. Track your progress
One of the positives of regular exercise is experiencing improvement and progress, which will help keep you motivated. Track each small improvement to stay on track - timing your runs with a stopwatch, or counting the number of laps of the pool you can swim before feeling breathless.
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