There is a great deal written about exercise: how you should exercise, when you should exercise, what body parts you should exercise… The MOST IMPORTANT PART of exercising is simply deciding to do it and ACTUALLY DOING IT.
Once you have made the decision, just do it – in whatever form you feel most comfortable and engaged with. Walk, run, swim, pogo stick, skip, play football… Whatever takes your fancy, just do it. From that point, the single most important part of exercise is to make it a habit. Do it once, then do it again the next day. Find a time that works and do it regularly so it becomes part of your routine.
Getting a little deeper
Having said ‘just do it’, there are definitely some steps you can take if you’re struggling to get started. Most likely, if you want to get started exercising its because you are overweight. And being overweight can make exercise seem daunting.
I found getting going on a regular exercise routine very challenging. I was overweight for nearly 10 years before I finally got my act together and dealt with it. In my case, there were a number of other factors affecting me that made getting a routine difficult, but this is not the place to discuss that!
When I finally decided to deal properly with my weight, I started by walking. I would recommend anyone who struggles with their weight and fitness to start this way. Walking is good because it burns calories, it gets you moving and it is relatively low impact physically.
Find a part of your travel routine that you can shift to walking. Turn a short drive into a walk. Walk from the underground to work. Walk from the train station to work. Walk in the evening when you’ve dealt with everything else. Walk first thing in the morning to get the day started.
Get an app to count your steps and measure your pace. Challenge yourself. Do 300 more steps each day until you get to 12,000 a day.
It doesn’t matter how you do it; it matters that you do it.
Give yourself a break
Don’t be hard on yourself. Do what you can do – if it’s a 20-minute walk, then do that and be proud. Don’t focus on where you want to be, focus on where you are and what you’re doing right now. Use mindfulness and make sure you’re living in the here and now.
Once you’ve got started, make sure you carry on. There is enormous value in routine and habit. Exercise needs to be part of your daily process, it needs to be as regular as taking a shower and making a coffee.
Once you have established a routine, then start challenging yourself. For me, it was starting to run. I had hated running for years because every time I did it, a part of me hurt. My knees or my feet or my back… The thing that turned this round was habit. I started walking. Then I started walking hard. Then I ran. Slowly and badly at first. I was out of breath, stopped often and struggled to finish 3k. But slowly, day by day, week by week, I got better. I started to get stronger. I started to find my rhythm and understand my body.
Now, I can run 8k and feel great. My body is strong, my technique has improved, my breathing is good. I can average 4’40 per kilometre for 8k. I used to struggle to get under 6’00 per kilometre over 3k.
The key to all of this is patience and habit. Do it regularly. Keep doing it – make the time, be committed.
I am not a believer in equipment. I see people out all the time wearing fancy gear – shiny running tights, funky tops, special glasses… None of this matters. I run in a pair of 8-year old short and an old t-shirt. I still get better. I still get fitter.
The one piece of equipment you NEED, however, is a good pair of shoes. If you’re walking or running, invest in a decent pair of shoes. I went to Sweatshop and had a pair of shoes fitted specifically to my feet. It is the one piece of exercise equipment I have spent significant money on and they have been transformational. I cannot exaggerate the value of a good pair of running shoes. Everything else is window dressing but look after your feet and joints. You put eight times your
own body weight through your legs when you run; having a solid pair of shoes that support you is essential.
If you really don’t like running – and there will be plenty that don’t – then there are plenty of other options. Team sports (football, rugby, netball, basketball), 1v1 sports (tennis, badminton, squash), swimming, cycling, gym classes (spinning, aerobics, synchronised swimming, Zumba)… Whatever it takes to get moving and burning energy will do.
In many ways, it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re getting your heart rate up and your body working. As soon as you start doing that, you will be releasing all those good hormones that not only make you feel good, they actually do you good!
Most people will start an exercise people because they want to lose weight. Some will start because they want to get fitter. What everyone will find is that exercise has benefits far beyond simple weight loss and physical fitness. Not only do you get that endorphin rush when you finish exercising, but once you are in the habit of working out, you will find that your sleep improves, your stress levels will reduce, you will have more energy, you will feel more motivated.
The process of exercise may feel brutal, especially at the beginning, but the biggest hurdle is getting started. Once you have done that, you have to form habits, keep it going and you will feel benefits across the board.