Thursday, July 14, 2011

How To Begin An Exercise Plan

I know you probably used to be the most active person ever. Soccer practice, dance lessons, swim team, pick-up basketball games, alumni softball, and just general avoiding the couch, then suddenly life got in the way, and you stopped working out.

In early 2008, after working for two years post college, I was putting in roughly 60-70 hours a week, many of them while eating on an expense account for work. I was working out once a week, could barely run a mile, and wasn't able to fit into the even the largest size at some stores. A picture of me and roommates together, me looming over my tiny roommates like the Michelin man finally inspired me to get my act together.

But though I was already a fan of spinning, and a former swimmer, the prospect of running to lose weight hadn't yet entered my mind. In fact, I was almost violently against the idea with a laundry list of excuses just waiting for anyone who suggested that I 'go for a jog.'

Then in the spring, at the suggestion of my very expensive trainer, I grudgingly signed up for a half-marathon. Here's how that half turned into a habit.

1. Find a activity that you like. This is crucial. You can't just say you want to be a runner. While I didn't like running per se, I've always loved endurance training - the slow burn for an hour or so, and I rarely get bored. In fact, I enter a meditative state almost and tune out. Relaxing.
-->You get bored quickly - try a class at the gym
-->You like to be around people - try joining a boot camp class or martial arts
-->You are really out of shape and feel awkward at the gym - Try riding a bike
-->You love football/soccer/basketball - Find a race to train for
-->You are plugged into the iPod all day - Try running to a favorite playlist

2. Set aside time; sacrifice something else in your life. It's not enough that you simply dedicate an hour each day to exercise. You must look at your life, look at your daily (and it has to be something you do almost daily!) activities and figure out what you can give up. I gave up my daily morning ritual of slowing getting ready and eating breakfast, and some TV at night. Some things you can give up:
--> Television. Give up a few shows. Come don't need them!
--> Chores. I bet you love this one. Delegate tasks, do them less frequently, pay someone else to do them.
--> Streamline rituals. Buy prechopped vegetables for dinner, pick out your outfit at night, organize your sock drawer, get a key hook, basically figure out the things that you run around frantically for in the a.m scrambling to do and find a way to eliminate the problem.
--> Cooking. Cut out a few elaborate meals and substitute quick salads, and do a little prep work on the weekend. I will cook a big batch of quinoa or farro to use all week.

3. Budget some money to make this happen. You will need a new sports bra, some new sneakers, money to pay for your gym class, or even a bottle of water after a hot workout in July. Don't deny yourself these simple items, give up something to make room in your budget. Cut out:
--> Restaurants: one to two meals a week is all you need
--> Make your own lunch: This comes up to savings of around $25-$50 a week
--> Get free checking: varies, but $5-$25 a month
--> Stop using your non-bank atms, try a no fee ATM
--> Make your own coffee
--> Cut out a few drinks on your nights out.

4. Make a committment. Outloud, with your wallet, on Facebook, to your coworkers, to your worst enemy, to your boss. Basically find a way to announce your intention loud and clear. If you don't want to announce it to the world, that's okay. But tell someone outside of your immediate circle of people. Tell a few people actually. The more that you hear yourself saying to others "I'm going to run a half marathon this fall," the more it becomes real in your mind.

Good luck!

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