Overcome Exercise Obstacles Today
My kids were three-years-old and one-year-old when I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time exercise was a part of my daily schedule. I had lost my fitness groove.
What is a fitness groove? The fitness groove is the point at which you happily exercise regularly without thinking about it much. You have all the stuff, you know where to go, you see the same people, and your body submits to the rigor with minimal mental coaxing.
The looming task of getting back into the fitness groove was daunting – nearly paralyzing. But my widening thighs, wiggly upper arms, and dimply tummy were even more terrifying. There were many obstacles between me and my exercise groove, but I overcame them and you can too. Here are some tips to help you clear the hurdles between you and a healthier lifestyle.
The Four-Day Win
1. Accept that finding your groove won’t happen overnight.
It will take persistence and hard work, and it is worth it. You will need to seek out solutions, try things that aren’t quite right, and keep plodding along until you find your groove. Your muscles didn’t deteriorate to the strength of wet noodles overnight, and it will take time to get them back into peak Popeye form. Please ignore dietary supplement vendors who promise a quick fix. It’s not healthy for you, it won’t work, and it’s a waste of your hard earned money. Like so many people, I’ve tried them. They don’t work. Here’s what does work:
“The Four-Day Win” author Martha Beck advises easing into this kind of large-scale life transition. The first four days of your exercise program, just think about what you’ll be doing and do some logistical legwork to figure out where you’ll be exercising, and maybe get a gym membership in place. The next four days, buy the stuff you need. The following four days, drive to your exercise location at the time of day you plan to work out in order to get exercise implanted in your daily routine.
For your next four day chunk, actually start exercising for a few minutes. This four day chunk, where you start spending a little time at the gym, was a surprisingly important turning point for my fitness renaissance. Starting a new gym can be overwhelming for me. My mind is racing with questions: “Where’s the bathroom? What’s the etiquette for changing the channel on the TV’s? Did I lock my keys in the car?” Setting low standards for the first few days at the gym really took the edge off my returning-to-fitness jitters.
By the next four day set, maybe you’re up to exercising ten or fifteen minutes each visit. Congratulations! Now you have some momentum going, and exercise is probably feeling easier. You feel younger and you’re getting that spring back in your step.
Beck’s advice helped me ease into exercise using seemingly small steps that turned out to be truly meaningful, and fostered lasting change.
Dance Like Nobody's Watching (because nobody's watching) with the Xbox Kinect + Zumba
2. Find an exercise activity that is fun for you.
For me it started out with running and that didn’t work (more on this later), but walking agreed with my body. However, I found walking boring, so I got an iPod. I quickly found music boring, but I am in love with the radio program “This American Life” on National Public Radio. I downloaded a few programs and voila! Before I knew it I had lost track of time while out on a walk and my husband had called my friends, Grandma, Dad, in-laws, and the police. (True story.)
Walking was an important first step in losing some weight and gaining more mobility. A friend suggested a local Zumba class, and after my first try I was immediately hooked. I found that as each Zumba class ended, I was already hankering for my next Zumba hit. Try to find an activity that lights this kind of fire in you. I am such a Zumba junkie now that I attend five to seven Zumba classes each week, I have the Zumba game to play at home on my Xbox Kinect, and I’m training to become a Zumba instructor.
There is an amazing variety of exercise activities to try, and gyms and rec centers offer a dizzying array of classes at really reasonable prices. There are also lots of free or low-cost community clubs for walking, hiking, running, and other activities. Here are a few to consider: Karate, Latin Dance, Yoga, group walking club, step aerobics, Tae Bo, Country Line Dancing, Pole Dancing, running, bicycling/spinning, fencing, Hip Hop Dance, and weightlifting.
Try one, or try them all! Your fitness journey will last your whole life. Try as many as you want, or as many as you need to in order to light that fire (in your belly) that makes your husband call the police (because you’ve been out exercising so long that he’s afraid you’ve been abducted).
3. Get the right clothes, shoes, or other equipment.
Insoles are a godsend for those of us returning to exercise after a long hiatus. If you’ve been out of the exercise groove, you are likely lugging around a few extra pounds and your joints are probably a little crankier than they were the last time you made them hustle. Insoles will help to cushion the blow of the collision between your increased weight and decreased joint capacity.
Invest in supportive shoes. If you have wide, narrow, or otherwise oddly shaped feet, seek out and invest in shoes that you can happily exercise in. You may need a couple of pairs of shoes. I have cross-trainers for walking and chasing after my kids. Cross-trainers have a broad base at the ball of your foot to support stable forward motion, and deep traction grooves to prevent slipping. I have dance sneakers for Zumba, which have less tread and allow for easier lateral movements and spins.
Buy comfortable exercise clothes. Do not fall for the latest trends and fashions. Buy what works for you. I refuse to spend my whole workout pulling my pants up, so I will not buy pants or shorts that lack drawstrings.
Invest in a quality sports bra. Go to a retailer that offers professional fittings and buy one awesome bra. Take it home and test-drive it for a week or so. If the bra is a winner, go buy more online at as little as half the price as you paid in the store. You will have all of your tags handy so you know exactly the size and style you require. Stock up on several bras to eliminate the possibility of a bra shortage creating an obstacle to your workout. If you test-drive a bra and don’t like it, return it and get fitted again and try another one. Try and try again until you have a bra that works for you.
If you are taking up a sport where you will need some equipment, explore renting before you buy. Activities like skiing and tennis can get costly very quickly, but there are often opportunities to rent or borrow equipment while you’re figuring out if this sport ignites your internal combustion engine. Once you’ve fallen in love with a sport, buy the best stuff you can afford because your health is worth every penny of it.
4. Resolve Any Pain
Be sure to talk with your doctor and address any persistent aches or pains you experience as you’re getting your fitness groove back. Early on, I stopped running because heavy breathing outdoors hurt my throat. It turns out I have a reactive airway problem that causes my throat to become very sore when I breathe heavily outdoors for periods of time. I’m fine with aerobic exercise indoors, but outdoors is no good. It was very important for me to figure this out. I have had this problem since the 7th grade, and now at age 35 I finally know what my deal is and how I can work around it to achieve my fitness goals.
For another example, a friend of mine had an achy shoulder for a long time that prevented him from exercising. While his gym membership steadily leeched away his paychecks, he resigned himself sadly because his shoulder genuinely hurt. At his wife’s urging, he finally went to the doctor and it turned out a few weeks of physical therapy resolved an issue that had kept him from exercising for more than a year.
Don’t let pain keep you from achieving your fittest self. Go to the doctor and resolve whatever you need to resolve.
Keeping it Fresh
After you have enjoyed your fitness groove for a while, you may get tired of your groove and it will start to feel more like a rut. That’s okay! Fitness is an ongoing journey and not a destination. Return to step one and accept that staying fit is not easy, and that it will require persistence and hard work to keep your momentum going. It is worth it. If you can, find different activities that you enjoy during each season and cycle through them so you don’t get burned out. For example, your workouts could include swimming in the summer, hiking in the fall, indoor exercise classes during the winter, and tennis in the spring.
As your body shrinks, treat yourself to new workout clothes. As the weight melts away, be sure to get fitted for a new bra every three to six months to maintain maximum support.
Replace your insoles every three to six months, or as needed. Buy new workout shoes about once a year.
Be the Heroine of Your Own Story
As mothers we set the tone for our kids and our household. When you’ve hit another obstacle on your path to getting in the fitness groove, remember the role you have in the lives of your family and friends. If our actions demonstrate the importance of exercise in our lives, then our kids, nieces and nephews will believe that exercise is important. And your chubby hubby is going to have a hard time staying round if you’re exercising regularly and filling the house with a cornucopia of fresh, healthy foods. The goal for me is a fit family, and it starts with me. Because if Mama ain’t fit, ain’t nobody fit.