My trainers languished, forgotten in a cupboard, until very recently...
I never thought I'd blog about exercise. I've been avoiding it for a long time. At school I dreaded PE lessons and felt massively relieved whenever they were done for the week.
However, I've come to realise that exercise is a necessary evil and that I really need to strengthen my stomach muscles to help my back. You could say that I've been scared into doing it, but to be honest, fear wasn't enough. I've always known that it was something I was supposed to do, but I'd never successfully gotten into the habit, until now.
At the end of the day, guilt isn't enough. I need to make the exercise itself more tolerable, otherwise I'll just come up with excuses not to do it.
The following steps explain how I've managed to get myself to exercise three times a week. I hope they help anyone who is as reluctant to exercise as I was...er, am!
Step One: Find a tolerable form of exercise
Yes, most exercise is boring. But there are probably some activities that you find less boring than others.
For example, after reading too many blogs about it, I decided that I would try running. Everybody sounded so positive! There was a Couch to 5K podcast! Whoo!
I completely ignored the fact that every time I tried running at school, I hated it passionately. Guess what? I may be in my mid-twenties now, but I still hate running! Running means going outside, wearing clothes I'd never ordinarily wear outside the house, embarrassing myself in front of other people, and getting cold. It also makes me feel terrible. My gums itch in the cold and I get a stitch very quickly.
I also tried Blogilates a couple of times before I decided that I cannot do it because of the shape of my back. I have a particularly curved lower spine and any mat-based exercise will end in tears as my tailbone gets sore from being bashed into the floor. Maybe I'll try it again when I'm more fit, but for now it's off the menu.
I decided that I like DVDs. They can be followed inside, whilst standing up! I can wear old clothes, put music on, and pretend I'm dancing in a nightclub. Nobody needs to see me do it. It's still not really fun - if I were actually in a nightclub I could have a cocktail and would be wearing a nice dress rather than a pair of shorts and a top that I've had since I was 14 - but I'm not terrible at it and I've gotten results quite quickly.
If there is literally no form of exercise that you enjoy, then just pick one that you can do. There are ways to make it easier to tolerate:
Step Two: Make the Exercise Itself Less Tedious
Some people may find that they can make themselves exercise with the promise of a reward. E.g.: if they exercise three times a week for a month, they can get that dress they've been after or they can eat a slice of cake after every session of swimming or something.
This may work for you, but isn't enough for me. I am Scrooge to myself and hate spending money. When it came time to get the reward I wouldn't buy it and I know this, which puts me off following the stick. I know myself. I won't buy the carrot.
So instead I have to make exercising itself less horrible and boring. If you can find a form of exercise you actually like, well done! Personally, I prefer to exercise inside my house so that I can be warm and I won't feel self-conscious or have to spend time travelling to and from a gym.
I rely on DVDs. I tried a Zumba DVD but I couldn't follow the moves, so I'm currently using the Davina Body Buff DVD, which is great. None of the presenters, including Davina, are annoying, there is a low-ability version of the main workouts, I can skip the mat sections, and it has SUBTITLES. Subtitles are vital for me because that means that I can turn the sound off and play my own music over the top instead of listening to the bland dance music on the actual DVD. I find being able to hear my own breathing really distracting, so it helps with that too. I have a playlist that I keep adding to whenever I hear a track I like that has the right tempo. Other ideas that might help you:
- Exercise with a friend so that you can chat and provide each other with moral support
- Buy yourself nice clothes to wear to exercise so that you feel good
- Listen to audiobooks or podcasts at the gym or while walking or running
- Dress up (probably shouldn't wear makeup, unless you want your skin to hate you) and make some non-alcoholic cocktails and pretend you're clubbing when you're actually doing cardio
- Do stretches or jog on the spot or run (or do a whole cardio routine if you've memorised it and can multitask to that extent) whilst watching TV, films, or YouTube videos
Step Three: Make It Easy To Keep Doing
My Davina Body Buff DVD allows you to transfer a 'Digital Copy' onto your computer so I don't even have to bother taking it out of the box. I keep my trainers in the same room and my workout clothes in a pile beside them. All I have to do is get changed, put up my hair, and prepare some large glasses of water!
I've recently started exercising first thing, before breakfast, so that I don't have to sit around digesting, and also because when I used to exercise later in the day I'd often find some way to weasel out of it. Getting it over and done with first thing stops the excuses and allows me to spend my day filled with pride!
But you might hate the idea of getting out of bed and doing a workout, and find that you need to exercise straight after work, or before lunch if you work from home. Make it as easy for yourself as possible.
Step Four: Don't Get Carried Away and Start Thinking That You Like It
If you are a committed exercise-hater, find out the minimum you have to do to make a difference/stay healthy. Don't get carried away and try to make yourself do more, unless you actually start to enjoy it, because if you're anything like me you'll just rebel and end up not doing anything.
Keep adding tracks to your playlist. If your workout buddies stop turning up, find new ones. If you feel the slightest bit bored, try something different. Be relentless in your pursuit of tolerable exercise.