Exercise for Beginners: Enjoying the Workout

exercise for beginnersThis article not about the exercise you haven’t been doing – this is about the exercise you are going to start doing.  It is about time that you made time for your health, time for elevating your heart rate, toning muscle, and working up a sweat.  The real key to exercise is regularity, and the key to regularity is finding ways for exercise to be engaging and enjoyable.  The best way to do this is to consider the countless options for exercise you have around you, figure out what motivates you to get out and take advantage of those options, and be mindful of your participation and your expectations so that you continue to enjoy exercising, instead of letting it become an obligation and a bore.   The only way to stay fit for life is to maintain your interest and commitment to regular exercise. Opportunities for exercise are all around, and the reason so many different activities, intensities, and goals exist is that everyone needs exercise to be healthy but not everyone enjoys the same thing.  This may seem obvious, but the point is that you have the right to enjoy your exercise and the ability to find activities that are engaging and fun for you to do.  Take some time to consider and list the activities that you might be interested in doing for exercise.  There are the obvious ones: joining a gym, jogging, playing sports and taking fitness classes.  These are great if they work for you, but if they don’t then get creative.  Go on hikes with friends, go swimming at the beach or local pool, bike to work, wash the car and mow the lawn, climb stairs instead of taking the elevator, walk to the local restaurant when you go out for dinner, take a class on salsa dancing, find a local bird-watching group to join, get an stationary bike and peddle while you watch TV, find ways to turn the things you already do and enjoy into activities that keep you fit. Motivation is an important aspect of getting regular exercise.  There are many aspects to motivation and it’s important to have as many of these aspects working for you as you can.  Motivation has to do with the what, why, when, where, how and who of exercise.  Consider what you care about, what your goals are and how you interact with the world.  Are you exercising to lose weight, to feel stronger, to live longer, or all of the above?  If you find that your are more motivated when someone is helping you and encouraging you, then taking exercise classes is the clear choice, and you have plenty of options there, classes on Pilates, weightlifting, yoga, fencing-  you name it and there is probably a class on it with an instructor whose job it is to keep you exercising regularly and properly.  Maybe you are motivated by having a lofty goal in mind, working towards some big accomplishment, and in that case you might enjoy training for a triathlon or a fund-raising race.  Don’t like getting sweaty?  Swimming laps in the local pool is a great option.   Get bored easily?  Try making a list of activities and switching them up all the time so that the sense of novelty is working in your favor.  To stay motivated make sure your exercise plans fit with who you are, and develop those motivations sufficiently to stick to your plans even when you are feeling a bit lazy. Successfully motivating yourself is not just about finding activities you enjoy, it also involves understanding how important exercise is to your health and noticing the benefits of exercise for your daily life.  It is easier to get going when you remind yourself of that exercise is strengthening your heart, lowering your stress levels, improving your mood, clearing your mind, increasing your focus, decreasing your muscle tension and lengthening your lifespan.  When you are exercising, do it conscientiously so that it is enjoyable and healthy.  Don’t just try and get it done with as quickly as possible, go about it properly.  Take the time to learn about warming up and stretching before and after to prevent injuries, take appropriate breaks and stay hydrated so that your body can derive the best benefit, stay mindful of the way you exercise and try to improve your technique no matter what it is you are doing.  Figure out when exercise best fits into your schedule and take pride in fitting it in and keeping your promises to yourself.   After you complete a session of your preferred exercise, take the time to recognize the way it makes you feel and use that feeling to motivate yourself the next time you are having trouble getting up and at it. Exercising can sometimes seem like a nuisance, a dull and obligatory activity that is easy to put off indefinitely, but there are so many benefits to exercising and it will improve so many other aspects of your life that you owe it to yourself to make exercising something fun and engaging.  There are so many ways to exercise your body and maintain your health that with a little creativity you can find the ones that work for you.  The trick is thinking of creative activities that you enjoy doing, motivating yourself by trying new things, setting reasonable goals, scheduling your exercise to fit with your lifestyle, and going about it in a mindful and conscientious way in order to get the most benefit and avoid injury.  Once you’ve got some of these basics figured out for yourself then it is time to do more research on the other aspects of being healthy, such as nutrition and sleep habits.  For an introduction to this sort of comprehensive health plan, check out intro to biohacking which is all about making fitness and health fit into your busy life.  Exercising does not have to be a chore, with a bit of creativity it can be adventurous and convenient.