The reason people often fail when trying to implement a regular exercise routine is because they work against their instincts, instead of with them.
What you are trying to do when you establish an exercise routine is to reverse a trend. Imagine that you are a train driver driving at high speed. How are you going to change directions? Are you going to simply crash your gear into reverse? If you did, the train would derail, passengers would get hurt or killed, and you would end up with a catastrophe.
There is a better way.
You could gently apply the brakes until the train is at a standstill, and then slowly start reversing the direction.
Most people do the opposite when trying to start exercising. They try and run for a mile, or go to the gym for an hour, or play a game of tennis -- and then wonder why they feel so stiff and sore the next day.
How can you create change gently?
There is a very interesting Japanese philosophy called Kaizen, which can help you do that. Kaizen focuses on continuous but small change. Let’s take a look at how this could be applied to physical exercise. Take running as an example. Could you run for 15 seconds? Most people can. With the philosophy of Kaizen, you could say that if you can run for 15 seconds, you can learn to run for a minute, and even for an hour. How?
Follow this simple running plan. Add 15 seconds each day.
It will seem ridiculously easy! But do this for about 40 days, and you’ll be running for 10 minutes. A month later, and you’ll be running for 20 minutes. By that time your running habit will be well established. But it will have happened naturally!
You can apply the same principle to establishing any exercise, whether it’s yoga, swimming, or walking.
The important thing is keep to your plan. Exercising is, hands-down, simply one of the best things you can do for your health. It can, of course, help you to lose weight, but that’s far from "it". Exercise can lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression, and it can increase your energy levels, help you think better and slow down the aging process.
With a list of benefits like that, you would think that people would be clamoring to get into the gym, or at least eager to hit the sidewalk for a long walk or run. Yet, more than half of U.S. adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise, and 24 percent aren’t active at all, according to Forbes.
The most common reason why people say they don’t exercise?
A lack of time.
It’s a given that you are probably busy. Work, family, errands and other obligations can easily take up all 24 hours in your day. And if you have anything special going on, fitting in exercise can seem even harder. Forbes reported a 2007 study by the University of Pittsburgh that found having a baby causes men to work out 4.5 fewer hours per week, and women 1.3 fewer hours.
For many people, working out is one of the first things that goes when time gets tight. But from a health perspective it should not be something you’re willing to budge on. Exercise should be scheduled into your week along with business meetings, meal times and sleep. A simple trick is to write it down on your calendar and treat it as a very important appointment, one that cannot be changed or missed.
Unfortunately, not enough people are willing to arrange their schedules around exercise, and this is due to something much deeper than time management -- it’s due to psychological resistance.
What I Do When I am Out of Town
This year I hired a personal trainer twice a week and have been learning a whole variety of exercises that provide total body fitness that does not involve running or, for that matter, the use of any significant equipment.
These last few weeks I traveled to four different cities and was completely out of my normal exercise routine, and I was delighted to have had this training. I could easily use these exercises for a complete workout and not have to run outside in the cold or potentially dangerous neighborhoods or breathe in loads of car exhaust on the road.
So keep in mind that it is possible to get a good workout without any major equipment, and even while you are traveling.
The Psychology of Exercise
Additionally we all know that exercise takes work. If you do it right, it makes you out of breath and sweaty, and while it will increase your energy levels ultimately, when you’re in the middle of a tough workout it can be quite exhausting. This is why so many people, when faced with a choice of working out or staying home on the couch, choose the latter.
Exercise can also feel overwhelming, particularly if you haven’t been active in awhile. You may be intimidated by the gym equipment or by the idea of exercising in front of others. Or you may be out of shape or ill, which makes starting an exercise program more difficult. You may also be over-stressed and feeling like you just don’t have it in you to take on exercise on top of everything else.
All of these feelings, whether they’re justified or not, contribute to your resistance to exercise. Instead of focusing on how great you’ll feel once exercise becomes a regular part of your life, many people focus on the negatives, like the work and the time it takes to stay active.
If you have a hard time psyching yourself up for a vigorous workout, one of the best things to do is focus on the prize: a healthier, more trim you.
To help yourself get into this more positive frame of mind, you can give Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) a try. It can help you remove the negative emotional blocks that are preventing you from successfully implementing your program.
Working Out to Get Results
Have you been eating right and exercising day in and day out, without seeing any results? This is caused by one of two things (or a combination of them). Either you’re not eating the right foods for your nutritional type, or you’re not exercising correctly.
In order to get results, you need to exercise long enough and hard enough. Research suggests, and I tend to agree, that you need to exercise for one hour, five days a week, in order to lose weight.
In my experience, those who are overweight, have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol or are diabetic benefit from this high level of exercise until they are able to normalize their health challenges. After that you can cut back a bit, but still need to make sure you are exercising intensely enough so that it is difficult to carry on a conversation.
You also need to do a variety of workouts, including aerobic and strength training. But in terms of aerobics, there’s a secret you should know.
Research is showing that the BEST way to condition your heart and burn fat is NOT to jog or walk steadily for an hour. Instead, it’s to alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods. That is one of the primary reasons I am so fond of the exercises my personal trainer has been showing me.
This type of exercise, known as interval training or burst type training, can dramatically improve your cardiovascular fitness and fat-burning capabilities.
You can still incorporate some of the endurance cardio into your routine, but make sure you take advantage of interval training. The new evidence suggests that this may actually provide MORE protection against heart attacks than long durational aerobic-type exercises.
Another major benefit of this approach is that it radically decreases the amount of time you spend exercising, while giving you even more benefits.
Getting Back Into the Groove
If you’re just getting back into exercising, you’ll need to work your way up slowly. As the above article suggests, trying to do too much at once can lead to burnout and make you less likely to continue your program.
To start, you might try the article’s suggestion of jogging for a very short period and increasing it very slowly over time. Or you might try walking interspersed with a period of fast walking. Then, as your body grows more conditioned, you can increase to a higher intensity workout.
As you remove the emotional resistance that is keeping you from exercising, and plan regular workouts to fit into your schedule, you’ll have an easier time sticking to your exercise routine. And the more you exercise -- and therefore the more benefits you experience -- the more addictive it becomes. Soon you’ll be looking forward to your workouts and the great feeling you’ll get afterward. But don’t take my word for it. Take the plunge and try it out for yourself!