January 2, 2008

Overcoming Barriers to Exercise

So, like millions of other Americans, you made your New Year’s resolution to get in shape. How do you make sure it actually happens? Here’s a great article on overcoming barriers to exercise. Let’s see which of these categories I fit into, and I’ll add my personal solutions to each:

  1. “I’m too tired to exercise after working all day.” I find getting up early really difficult. However, I purchased the 8 Minute Fitness DVD (here’s an Amazon.com link if you’d like to buy it for your very own). I like it for two reasons. One, it’s only eight minutes long, which is one minute shorter than a snooze cycle on my alarm clock. Missing one snooze cycle doesn’t seem like a big deal, and I’m usually able to drag myself out of bed for it. The second reason is that who doesn’t love cheesy 80s fitness videos? My favorite line comes in the 8 Minute Arms segment when the host tells you that doing 8 minute arms is a natural substitute for shoulder pads.
  2. “Exercise is boring.” I think I already partially covered this with the 80s fitness videos, as the ridiculous workout clothes and one-liners will definitely keep you entertained. However, if that’s not enough, check out gyms that offer televisions built into the machines. It’s not really being a couch potato if you’re on the elliptical watching trashy reality TV shows.
  3. “I’m self-conscious about how I look when I exercise.” I completely feel your pain. While I don’t put on makeup to go to the gym (honestly, who DOES that?), I do wear semi-cute workout clothes. Semi-cute meaning it might be baggy sweatpants and an old race t-shirt, but at least they are color-coordinated. As tempting as it may be to throw on any old things, I definitely recommend investing in some workout clothes that you like. Sometimes I just want to wear the cute new tank or track pants that I bought. And if I’m wearing them, it’s just silly not to work out, right? Anyway, in all seriousness, exercise videos in the shelter of your own home are great. You can wear whatever you want, even nothing. Though if you have a roommate of the opposite sex who might knock on your door with a question about the DVR schedule while you’re in your underwear and a sports bra and you have to frantically search for the remote to turn off the embarrassingly 80s DVD and then scramble for a robe all going as fast as possible so he doesn’t know you were next to naked and doing Buns of Steel, that option too may be tricky. Not that I know from an experience last night or anything…
  4. “I don’t have enough time to exercise.” See #1. I break my exercise up a lot, which isn’t great if you’re trying to run a marathon. However, it helps me get it done. After all, what’s 10 minutes here or there? Along with the 8 Minute Fitness DVD, I sometimes go down to the treadmill and do one mile. Everyone at the gym probably thinks I’m crazy (and they may be right), but every little bit helps, and again, if I planned to do 3 miles on the treadmill (that’s three snooze cycles instead of one), I’d never make it.
  5. “I’m too lazy to exercise.” HA. Join the club. Again, I think the best solution here is to choose something that you can do in short intervals. I even do 5 minutes at a time while watching TV. Sometimes I even do leg lefts or chest presses with a set of light dumbbells because hey – I can do those while lying in bed! I know it’s not intense cardio, but every little bit helps.
  6. “I’m not athletic.” Until a short time ago I was the least athletic person ever. A friend even got me a gag gift of an Abercrombie shirt that said “Jock” in big yellow letters across the front. I started running partially because I thought it would be funny to tell my friends that I ran a big race, knowing that they would never believe me. And then, I went from being unable to run a quarter mile without walking to completing a 10 mile race in the Adirondacks (that’s a mountain range, for those of you non-Northeasterners) and running the whole thing! Just start slow and build up to it. I’ve heard that the Couch to 5K program is great, but my personal program was just kind of me making it up as I went along, so I can’t really vouch for it.
  7. “I’ve tried to exercise in the past and failed.” Like numbers 5 and 6, ditto. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve failed in the past – every day is a chance to start your plan over (I sound like a cheesy inspirational poster). Come up with a reasonable plan that allows you to have a few cheat days, and don’t beat yourself up when you fail (though beating yourself up might be good exercise).
  8. “I can’t afford to buy fancy exercise equipment or join a health club.” It definitely doesn’t take expensive equipment to get in shape! Pick up a set of dumbbells at Wal-Mart, Target, or your local sporting goods store. They’re usually like $5-10 each, depending on size. Between those and walking/running for some cardio, you’ll be all set! I mentioned doing exercises in front of the TV, which is extra easy if you have weights. If you don’t, grab some canned goods or water bottles as substitutes. If you’ve worked out for a while they may not be heavy enough, but if you’re just starting they’ll provide some nice light resistance. You can also check out stretchy bands (I got mine for $6 at TJ Maxx), a big ball ($12 at Wal-Mart), and various DVDs/videos that require little to no equipment (try Half.com, eBay, your local library, or even videos on YouTube). If you don’t want any equipment, I know there are books out there that tell you how to get in shape using only your own body weight – again, try your local library and get them for free.
  9. “I’m afraid I’ll hurt myself if I exercise.” I don’t want to get sued for providing some kind of pseudo-medical advice, so I’ll leave you to read the official article for this one. And just to cover my bases, I should also note that in any posts where I discuss running or working out while drunk, those activities are attempted by a trained professional and I do not take responsibility for any misfortune that occurs if you try to do the same.
  10. “My friends and family don’t support my efforts to exercise regularly.” Hmm, looks like it may be time for you to get new friends and family. Just kidding! Try some online communities (if you’re female, I love Three Fat Chicks On a Diet), or even seek out friends, family, and coworkers who may also want to get in shape. You’d be surprised how many people have that goal! One day I started talking about running with a coworker out near the water cooler (cliche, I know), and more and more people kept walking by and joining in the conversation. I know a lot of Type As are runners, and goodness knows tons of consultants are Type As, but I was still surprised by how large our circle of running discussion got. Alternately, you might have an experience like I did a few weeks ago. A former manager said he wanted to chat with me (ruh oh), and then after some small talk said that he noticed I was losing weight and looking healthier, happier, and more full of energy. He wanted to know my “secret” so he could do the same! It’s great to find people who share your goals – just don’t assume that you have to meet new people in order to do so.

Also, if you couldn’t tell by the fact that I’ve posted twice since, I did in fact survive my drunken midnight race on New Year’s. Still waiting to get pictures from my friend’s camera, at which point you’ll be able to laugh your ass off at me.


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