The Dog Ate My Sports Bra
When it comes to exercise, we all have our excuses, many of them legitimate, some of them…well, not so much. Whatever our excuses, we have just as many good reasons to overcome our excuses and get moving. With the warm weather coming and May being National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, what better time to stop making excuses and start getting active?
Here are some common excuses and some tips for overcoming them:
I just don’t have time.
Do you have 10 minutes? Some studies show that you can reap all the same benefits of exercise (and possibly burn more fat) by being active in 10-minute chunks. So, if you have a 30-minute lunch break, can you eat for 20 minutes and take a walk for 10? When your child goes down for a nap, can you tackle your task list after 10 minutes of jumping jacks or jumping rope?
Be creative with your time. Talking on the phone? Walk around while you do it. Need to do some major reading? Do it on an exercise bike. Can’t miss your favorite show? Lift some weights while you watch. Have to get from point A to point B? Walk or bike instead of driving. Or, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Already walking? Hey, put a little pep in your step: jog or walk quickly instead of trudging. Or, make the walk a little longer—take the scenic route into the office, or park at the back of the lot at the grocery store.
Make time. Consider reevaluating how you spend your time. Does everything you do in a day, week, or month reflect your goals and values? If not, maybe some activities can go, and exercise can take their place. If you don’t see any room for deleting activities, talk to your partner, mom, or friends. See if they can help out with dinner, dishes, or the kids so that you can have a chunk of time at least a few times a week to do something good for your health. Make exercise a priority. Let others know how important it is to you and how they can help you achieve your exercise goals.
I don’t have the energy.
Fit it in before your tank hits empty. Many people find the most success starting their day with exercise. Others do it right after work. Either way, you’re more likely to actually exercise before your brain is drained and your body is ready for bed. Find a time that works for you.
Make sure you’re eating enough to fuel your workout. As an aerobics instructor, I hear quite a bit about people’s attempts to lose weight. Though I try to hold my tongue unless someone asks for my advice, I have a hard time with folks whose attempts to lose weight include going on some crazy starvation diet AND trying to exercise like a maniac. The two just don’t go hand in hand. Though you don’t necessarily have to eat more when you become more active, you certainly need to eat enough to keep the engine running. Make a commitment to healthy eating or at least eating enough that you have the energy to move your body.
Schedule it and stick with it. Put it on your calendar, and don’t give yourself the option of backing out. Start your day with physical activity. Not a morning person? Bring your workout clothes with you to work, school, or wherever you go during the day. Then, instead of going home, where you may second guess your decision to head to the gym or out for a bike ride, go straight for the activity. Get it done, and then go home to relax.
Just do it! Even the most committed among us have trouble mustering up the energy to get ourselves going at times. After all, we have millions of other things sucking our energy reserves dry. However, once we push ourselves out the door, we usually find that we’re even more energized after we exercise. Being inactive makes us feel more tired. When it comes to exercise, using energy creates energy; so, just do it already!
I don’t have childcare.
Find a gym with a nursery. I’ve been working out my entire adult life, and it’s true, having kids did throw a wrench into the routines I had going. One thing that worked for me was finding a gym that provided childcare. Look for a clean nursery and staff with whom you will feel comfortable leaving your little ones. If your child isn’t used to being left with strangers, start by leaving him or her just ten minutes the first day. Then, gradually build to a longer nursery stay for them and a longer workout for mommy.
Exercise with your children. There are a lot of options out there for those of us with kids. Classes are offered in which moms can work out with their young ones (I found a great article on that here: http://www.babyzone.com/mom_dad/fitness_nutrition/article/mom-baby-exercise). Not into classes? Take a walk with your baby in the stroller or carrier or the kids at your side. When my son liked his jumper (he’s over it), I used to do aerobics videos while he watched my feet and jumped along with me. If your kids are older, dance, jog, bike, or lift weights together. Your kids can benefit from the activity too. Plus, exercise is more fun with someone else!
I have a bad [insert body part here].
Engage in low-impact activities. I so hear ya on the aches and pains! With every birthday that passes, I seem to have a new twinge somewhere on my body. And those can be real barriers to certain types of activity, depending on where they are. The good news is that there are so many different types of activity out there. You’re sure to find something that doesn’t bother your [ ]. Swimming, walking, and yoga are three low-impact ones.
Work with an expert. If you have a serious injury or health condition, chances are exercise, if done properly, can make you feel better, not worse. However, you may need the help of a professional who specializes in sports medicine to identify what will work for you.
Check your posture and form. If something bothers you when you are exercising, you may not be moving safely during your workout. Consult with a personal trainer, fitness instructor, or your doctor for help with positioning your body. One easy tip to protect your back is to always suck in your tummy no matter what you’re doing.
I hate [insert type of exercise here].
Find something you love. Would you ever say that you hate food altogether just because you don’t like beets or liverwurst? None of us love all types of exercise. The trick is finding something you can look forward to doing on a regular basis. Walking around the park, biking through the streets of town, dancing in your kitchen, running through your neighborhood, swimming at the lake, learning how to swing dance…what sounds fun to you? Most gyms also offer a variety of classes: spinning, step aerobics, weight lifting, kick boxing, and dance, which can be even more motivating, because there’s good music, good company, and someone up front coaching you through the motions.
Change it up. Even the things I love the most can turn me away if I overdo them. Sick of running on the treadmill or walking down the same streets? Sign up to walk or run for a cause. Tired of the gym? Go hiking, skiing, or rollerblading. The added bonus is mixing up your routine can work more muscles and keep your body challenged so you gain even more benefits than if you were doing the same thing all the time.
Do something you love while you exercise. Even if you swear there is no exercise you enjoy, remember that all you really need to do is MOVE! Take a walk around the mall (go shopping!). Clean your house to music. Plant some flowers. Chase after your children. Whatever. You get the picture: do anything to get your blood pumping.
I can’t afford to join a gym or buy exercise equipment.
Don’t spend the money. Can you afford a pair of sneakers? Hey, you don’t even need those, really. Being active doesn’t require spending a small fortune. Although the classes and machines the gym offers or fancy equipment in your living room may be more motivating for you, it’s certainly not the only way to go. Exercise equals moving your body, and there are millions of ways to do that without belonging to a gym or using expensive gear. For starters, use bags of flour or sugar or jugs of water as weights, or do lunges, squats, push ups, crunches, and hovers on the floor.
Rethink your budget. If you truly believe that joining the gym or owning an exercise bike is the only way for you to commit to exercising, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your spending habits. Maybe the daily Dunkin drinks or monthly bills such as cable TV or Netflix can be reconsidered? Gym memberships start as low as $20/month, depending on what you’re looking for and where you live. And, with a few pieces of inexpensive equipment—some dumbbells, a jump rope, and an exercise ball, for example, you can do quite a bit.
I’ve tried, and I just can’t do it.
Think about what went wrong. Were you a little overambitious? Were you forcing yourself to do something you hate? Was it the wrong time of day for you? Give some careful thought to what got in the way of your commitment to exercise, and do things differently next time.
Think about what went right. Remind yourself of what you did like about exercising. Did you have more energy? Feel more confident about yourself or your body? Enjoy the time to yourself? Make a list of what you liked and make sure your new plan focuses on those things.
Don’t think it has to be that hard. Too many people fail at exercise because they set out to do too much too fast. If you’ve found good reasons not to exercise in months or years, what makes you think you’re all of a sudden going to be able to work out every day for an hour? Start slow. Set small goals. Even five minutes a day is better than nothing. Prove to yourself that you can do a little before you try to do a lot.
Go public. A little support can go a long way. Tell your family, your coworkers, your Facebook friends about your goals and your accomplishments. They’ll cheer you on and maybe even check in to make sure you’re staying on track. Sometimes we need some outside help to keep us going, and that’s okay.
Starting singing a new mantra. Just listen to yourself with all those “I can’t”s. Let’s channel The Little Engine that Could here, people. Though you’re going to need a little more than “I Think I Can”s, an optimistic attitude is a step in the right direction.
Well, that was a long post. I guess I had a lot to say. What do you think? Any new revelations about how you can make this whole exercise thing work? I don’t know about you, but all this sitting and typing makes me want to get up and go! If you’re not feeling quite as excited as I am, consider making a list of all your personal excuses for not exercising and how you can overcome each one. Good luck!