Every January 1st, millions of us commit to starting an exercise program in the New Year. We buy the “Amazing!” workout we saw on an infomercial last night at 1am, the one guaranteed to “Change Your Life!” and we dive in with enthusiasm and high hopes. The next day we can barely get out of bed from the soreness and have to wait 3 days before we are able to work out again. We repeat this process a few times before deciding that we “just don’t have the time” to exercise or that we’re not the athletic type, and that new exercise DVD ends up gathering dust in the back of a drawer. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The key to maintaining exercise motivation is simple: start slow and be realistic. If you’ve been sitting on the couch for the last year, a high-intensity workout program is probably not where you should start. Instead, sta rt with something simple, such as walking, and ease in to a workout schedule. The Mayo Clinic suggests the following:
“Give yourself plenty of time to warm up and cool down with easy walking or gentle stretching. Then speed up to a pace you can continue for five to 10 minutes without getting overly tired. As your stamina improves, gradually increase the amount of time you exercise. Work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.” (www.mayoclinic.com)
An approach like this is both physically and mentally beneficial. Physically, you avoid getting overly sore or injuring yourself, both of which can lead you to quit exercising. Mentally, it’s much easier to commit to walking for 10 minutes a day than to commit to a strenuous 60-minute workout, which means you’re more likely to stick with it. As your fitness improves and exercising becomes a habit, working out more intensely and for longer periods of time will come naturally. You may even find that you look forward to your workouts! And that really will change your life.