STEP 2: SCRAP THE EXCUSES
Once you've found your motivation, the next step is to get rid of any excuses that stand in your way. "I have no time. I'm physically limited. I can't afford a gym membership." There are a million cop-outs, and yet hordes of people—even those with busy schedules and chronic pain—manage to exercise.
Excuses allow you to continue living the way you are now without making any tough choices; they let you feel better about not doing things you know you should. In order to move forward, you have to institute a zero-tolerance policy for excuses.
What follows are the stall tactics I routinely hear from people who live a sedentary life—and why those excuses aren't valid. As you'll see, there are practical ways to get around almost any obstacle, and when you feel motivated and have a positive attitude, you can resolve any perceived problems that stand in your way.
I don't like exercise.
How many people like brushing their teeth at night? But we do it because we don't want to end up with a dentist's drill in our mouths. Exercise is the same; you do it because you need to.
But I'm not advocating that you simply grin and bear it; instead, find a way to make workouts less of a chore. There are so many different ways to move your body, from walking to Zumba dancing; keep trying until you find one that seems appealing.
I don't have time.
Work, family, housekeeping—who isn't juggling a lot? But don't you always make time for the important stuff? If you're not physically active, it's because you haven't made it a priority.
People who fit exercise into their lives tend to have figured out how to be more efficient. One client of mine uses her morning workout to plan her day, including what she's making for dinner. Find a way to incorporate activity into things you already do. If you're a stay-at-home parent, for example, get a jogger stroller and run your kids to the park. And don't let situations that aren't perfect defeat you. Maybe you can't walk around your neighborhood after work because it's too dark, but you can squeeze in a 20-minute walk on your lunch break. Research has also shown that certain higher-intensity workouts, such as interval training, produce good results in less time. Keep in mind, too, that as you become more fit, your energy level will rise and you will get more done at a quicker pace. In a sense, by taking time to exercise, you will create more time elsewhere.
I don't know what kind of exercise to do.
If you want to really see changes, you need to do a combination of activities that includes three elements: cardio, strength training, and functional fitness exercises.
Unstructured exercise is important, too. Parking at the farthest end of the lot (as Terane Weatherly now does), getting up to talk to colleagues instead of sending e-mails—these little things contribute to overall fitness. And if this informal type of activity is all you can do, I suggest that you purchase a pedometer and aim to log a few miles that way every day.
I've suffered an injury.
This can seem like the perfect get-out-of-gym-free card, but a gradual return to activity is part of the recommended recovery process.
Movement increases blood flow to the injured area (bringing nutrients that help speed recovery) and strengthens the surrounding muscles (taking pressure off the injury). Staying active while injured also helps you maintain flexibility and range of motion, which are important to ensure full healing. This isn't to say that you should get back out there if you're really hurt; I'm definitely not recommending that you exercise through pain. Let your doctor guide you.
But even if your injury is lingering, there are ways to be active. If your leg is out of commission, you can do an arm-focused workout, using an upper-body ergometer (a bicycle for your arms) for cardio exercise, or performing strength-training exercises (like biceps curls). If you have an upper-body injury, you can do lower-body resistance exercises (squats and lunges) for strength, and try an upright or recumbent stationary bike for your cardio workout. Injured runners can walk up a steep grade, which provides vigorous activity without the pounding. Whatever you do, ice the sore spot afterward.
I have a medical condition.
While it's true that arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, a neurological problem, or excessive weight can limit your exercise options, it's not the case that no exercise is right for you (remember, Terane once weighed 285 pounds). In fact, having a chronic condition typically makes physical activity even more critical. The symptoms of many health problems recede with exercise.
Work with your doctor to flesh out a program and make sure you're not taking on too much. If you can afford physical therapy or a personal trainer who specializes in your condition, those are ideal ways to start.
I don't see results.
When you begin exercising, your body plays a trick on you. One way it responds is by upping the amount of glycogen it stores in the muscles, which requires water. Therefore, as you become more active, you initially carry more water weight. This physiological fact of life can disguise the reality that you're probably losing fat. That's why, in these early weeks of increased activity, I suggest avoiding the scale and gauging your progress by the way your clothes fit—most likely they'll feel looser. Ultimately, you'll stop putting on water weight, and fat loss will translate into a lower number on the scale.
What, though, are the results you're hoping for? Is it only weight that matters to you? My guess is that if you're exercising regularly, you're actually experiencing a number of benefits—from improved muscle tone to healthier-looking skin—but with weight loss as your primary goal, you're not noticing them. Another mark of progress is increased strength and endurance—irrefutable signs that you are, in fact, getting results.
I'm too tired.
Fatigue can be a vicious cycle. You're too tired to exercise, so you don't move much—which makes you even more tired. Plus, when you don't get physical activity, you miss out on its sleep-enhancing benefits.
Being too tired is a sign that something is not right, whether it's an emotional issue, a physical condition, or an inability to manage your life. It's probable that the same thing keeping you from exercising is also what's causing your fatigue. But exercise can give you the boost you need to confront whatever issues you're dealing with. If you are tired because you're depressed, physical activity will help lift your mood. If you have a condition that makes you tired, like fibromyalgia, exercise is a great way to ease symptoms.
Remember also that even the healthiest people have days when they'd rather nap! Yet they exercise anyway because they know that in five minutes they'll feel energized.
In the end, overcoming excuses is freeing. Instead of wasting energy trying to come up with reasons why you can't exercise, you start to see things very clearly. You are an exerciser; it's part of your day, like dinner. When you reach this point, you don't have to worry about staying motivated. You've become a different person. An active person.
Next: Set your goals (you'll reach them sooner than you think!)
We Hear You!