One of the joys of a community newspaper is being able to talk with so many readers. After last month’s issue, I received this email:
I love your column. The pumpkin workout was so cute to see. I hope you do not think that I am complaining but I do wonder if you have any good advice for someone who knows she needs to exercise but just, to be very honest with you, doesn’t want to. I don’t want to be a lost cause but I think I might be. Help???
A lack of enthusiasm to get out and exercise is far from uncommon, especially as days grow shorter and colder, but I don’t believe in lost causes! November is National Awareness Month for both Alzheimer’s Disease and Diabetes November, so I wanted to share thoughts on how to stay motivated to keep your body, heart, and mind healthy!
I just want to ask you one question: What’s stopping you from getting exercise?
If your answer is, ”Nothing! I get plenty of moderate physical activity and I feel great…” then stop reading this, and I’ll see you back here next month. But if you aren’t even sure what qualifies as “moderate,” how much is enough or where you left your tennis shoes the last time you used them, in 1995 – read on!
For many of us, past attempts may be our biggest barrier to enjoying physical activity. If you ever tried a new exercise routine, gadget or program and the results were not what you hoped, your brain will do everything it can to keep you from making that painful mistake again. Your exercise avoidance may be a basic human protective instinct! Or maybe fitting one more thing into your busy day seems impossible, or fitting your body into your workout clothes is too painful a prospect. Maybe the weight of the last 18 months is too heavy already. Regardless of what is holding you back, starting a physical activity program and sticking with it IS possible.
Exercise overwhelm is real! Start slow. Recommendations for both Diabetes and Alzheimer’s prevention include 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. That’s less than 22 minutes a day. It doesn’t need to be a sweaty, leotard wearing, CrossFit class! Crank the music and clean your kitchen. Walk briskly up and down your stairs for 10 minutes. Move some boxes. It all counts.
Give Up Guilt
Spoiler alert! You’re going to skip days you planned to exercise. No one’s fitness journey is a straight line. Accept that there will be side steps, back tracks and do-overs and you’ll be better able to deal with them. These challenges are normal and actually part of the benefit we can derive from exercise. When we navigate bobbles in our wellness, we learn to navigate them for the rest of our lives.
Get a Cheering Squad
Find your people — Friends, family, co-workers, neighbors — who will encourage you to stay on track. Ask them to do exactly that. You don’t need nagging. Or if you do, there’s an app for that. From people, you need love and support. Please recognize that if you truly can’t think of anyone to support you or anything that sounds mildly enjoyable that might get you moving, and even if you can, a mental health professional may belong on your squad. Remember, exercise can support your health in many ways, but it is not a substitute for a mental health professional.
Exorcise Your (Exercise) Demons
So you weren’t the most athletic kid in high school. Your goal now is not to make the cheerleading squad. Picture yourself living the life you know physical activity supports. Find yourself in a place you want to visit, seeing something you want to see someday, feeling great. Get that picture in your head, and anytime you wonder if it’s worth it to take a 5 minute movement break, close your eyes and see that picture. If you have tried an exercise plan before that didn’t go the way you wanted it to, you are NOT doomed to repeat that result. But, your brain will try to tell you just the opposite in an effort to protect you from the pain it caused you last time. This is not a question of motivation or discipline or will power. You won’t outsmart yourself on this one, but you can slowly build new associations with exercise. A two minute counter wiping dance party that leaves both you and your kitchen glowing will go a long way toward building a positive feeling about getting your heart rate up. Start racking up those feel-good moments and before you know it you’ll go hunting for them.
Remember, just knowing you need to get more physical activity is no magic bullet to getting it. Slowly giving yourself positive experiences with movement over time, finding people who will support you, giving yourself grace when you miss your mark, and knowing that you are building habits to last are the surest ways to find the things in your life that will truly get you moving for a lifetime.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email email@example.com.