Now that we've looked at how starting small relates to our diet, let's apply the same reasoning to our exercise regimen. The approach is the same, so I've left the headings the same.
As I mentioned before, the biggest mistake we make is to try to do too much too soon. There's certainly nothing wrong with working out every day, but what kind of workouts are you doing? Our bodies need to rest in order to get the full benefits of a workout, and it is really tempting to overdo it, especially when we have reached a point of frustration with how we look or feel. There is a spectrum between Couch Potato and Olympic Champion, so figure out where you are on that spectrum and work at your level. If going for a 30 minute walk every night is a huge step for you, then that's the step to take. If you are comfortable lifting the bar when you do a bench press, moving up to 100lbs right away is going to result in one thing; injury. If you overdo it and injure yourself, you may have to take a break from exercise, which will likely have a negative impact on your relationship with working out.
So again the idea is to start small. Work with your trainer to come up with a plan that works for you. Once they know what your goals are and how often you want to workout, they will be able to put something together that will be both safe and effective.
I will discuss this more fully in the future, but it is extremely important to be mindful when you exercise. This ties into the idea of being fair. Listen to your body when you're getting ready to workout as well as while you're working out. If you are overdoing it, you may be able to pick up on that earlier than if you were just mindlessly “pushing through the pain.” You will need to be honest with yourself about the way your body is feeling; soreness is fine, pain is bad.
Small shifts in the way we think can have big impacts, so be aware of what is going on in your mind before, during, and after working out. Are you dreading the gym? If so, why? Learning to let go of the negative mental chatter is not easy, but giving it a try is worthwhile.
Some of us like to run, some of us like to lift, some of us like interval training, climbing, kickboxing, cycling, etc. There is probably something you can do that will seem exciting and help you to actually look forward to your workouts. Start small by trying different fitness classes, finding different workouts online, and talking to friends who already participate in certain activities. “I don't like the gym” is no longer a valid excuse because there are so many options out there, and many of them are available to try for free.
If that all seems like a bigger step than you are ready to take, drop it down a notch. Instead of meeting a friend for coffee to chat, catch up while going for a walk or throwing a frisbee around at the park. Find ways to add little bits of activity into your daily life and you'll be on your way to living an active lifestyle.
This does not mean go out and buy a bunch of activewear and exercise equipment. That would be against the point of starting small! For the purpose of this discussion, “prepared” means that you've checked with your doctor to make sure that you are okay to start exercising, you have a decent pair of supportive athletic shoes, and you're ready to see what happens when you start moving a bit more often. You're ready to be sore the next day, you're ready to forgive yourself for taking a day off, and you're ready to start with a few manageable workouts at a time.
Just like in Part 1, you don't have to do this alone. Find a workout buddy and go for a run or to the gym together, perhaps the same person you send a message to when you make a good dietary decision. If you are having trouble finding the motivation to workout, find 1 or 2 times a week that are non-negotiable. You don't get to skip work if you don't feel like going, right? You don't get to skip your 8am Bootcamp on Monday either. Discipline takes over when motivation isn't there.
The only finish line we have is the one at the end of our lives, so there is no such thing as steps towards being more active, stronger, more flexible, etc that are too small. The key is to keep at it, and not to expect change overnight. You can do this, you just have to do it.
Ryan Casselman is a personal trainer, musician, and the founder of Real Trainers. Stay tuned as he finds out what he's going to write about each week or so!