By Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D.
My youngest son was born 5 years ago. At that time, I couldn’t imagine running a single mile, let alone a marathon. It was hard for me to get started; I felt overweight and out of shape. I started walking because running seemed too difficult. Then I added half a mile at a time.
I also found a running group. I hesitated to go at first because I didn’t “feel” like a runner. I am glad I did because it helped to have friends who saw my progress and encouraged me to keep going. They also held me accountable — I knew they expected me there three times a week and would ask me why I missed a run.
Starting to exercise regularly — whether it’s running or any other activity — is difficult. That’s one of the reasons that the obesity rate in our country is so high. It takes work to exercise. We have to force ourselves to do it even when we don’t want to. We expect it will be easy and frankly, it just is not.
Here are a few tips that will help you adhere to a regular exercise routine.
- We need to expect that it will be difficult. It takes 21 days for something to become a habit and longer to become a lifestyle. Reminding yourself that exercising regularly is not easy and expecting that it will be difficult can help keep things in perspective.
- Focus on the benefits you will get out of exercising regularly. On average, active people live four years longer than inactive people, largely because they put off developing heart disease —the nation’s leading killer. Regular exercise can also lead to improved health, a decrease in symptoms related to an illness, an increase in energy, and improved brain functioning. Thinking about these benefits can get you out the door.
- Start small. Sometimes we jump right into something in a manner we can’t sustain. Instead, think about building up over the long term. Maybe you start today by walking a mile. Then, repeat that two more times this week. You can add to that next week by walking a mile and a half three times a week. When you feel ready, start running for 30 seconds and then walking for 30 seconds and continuing this progress.
- Make time. The number one barrier people report for not exercising is time. They say that don’t have the time to exercise. We all just need to make time. You may have to wake up at 5 a.m. or skip your favorite TV show at night. These sacrifices will be worth it — you will feel better both physically and psychologically.
- Set a goal. Write it down on paper and then break it into smaller, incremental goals to help you stay motivated. Post your goals somewhere you can see it often. Many people also find it easier to exercise or run regularly when they have registered for a race or event. There are many local races this summer and fall you could train for such as the Mankato Marathon, Half-marathon, 10K and 5K in October — there is a race for everyone.
- Tell others your goals. When we share our goals, we are more likely to accomplish them. Tell your family and friends about your commitment to start exercising. Facebook can be a very powerful tool to keep you going. Post that you plan to start and then periodically post your progress. Facebook allows you to get instant support and encouragement from your friends, which will help when times get tough.
- After telling your friends or family about your goals, ask for their help. Perhaps they could exercise with you, or hold you accountable each day by asking about your workout.
- Watch an organized run or walk for motivation. The 10Kato Run, which includes both a 10K and 2-mile run/walk takes places on Memorial Day. Come watch one or both of the races or participate by running, walking or a combination of both. Register at the event, in the hospital parking lot.
- Forget about what you look like. Another barrier that holds people back from exercising is their concern about how they look. Keep the focus on you and your progress. One of the things I love about running is that runners come in all shapes and sizes — watch any organized race and you will see what I mean. You might inspire others like you to be more active.
We could all come up with a million excuses to not exercise regularly. But be honest with yourself. We must each hold ourselves accountable. Focus on the good that comes out of the workout. And every time you exercise, celebrate at least one thing that was good about what you just did. Instead of thinking about how you only ran one mile, celebrate the mile you just ran. This will keep you confident and motivated for the future.