5 Steps to Becoming an Exercise Enthusiast

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True confession time…I’ll admit it…I’m not a big fan of exercise. I’d much rather curl up with a good book than do bicep curls. But turning those pages doesn’t quite count as exercise (which is really a shame because I’d be an Olympic athlete right now if it did!).

I have always been a bit envious of people like my friend Cathy who love to play tennis, pickleball, badminton and bike to the store. Weeheee…. I think I was born without that “love to move it” gene. Most of my work and most of my hobbies are done sitting down.

Sitting, as it turns out, is not that great for us. Some have called sitting the new “smoking” as far as how it can damage your health. Exercise, as we’ve been told for years is good for us.  It helps keep our hearts strong and healthy, reduces disease-causing inflammation, and improves blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It seems like exercising more would be a no brainer. It’s a winner all around.

But despite knowing this and great resolutions to exercise more, I still had trouble getting those workouts in. So, if you are like me and not that enthusiastic about exercise, or you just can’t find the time to fit long workouts into your schedule, you are in luck. I’ll share 5 easy steps to help you get the exercise you want –and just maybe turn you into an exercise enthusiast.

BONUS help! There’s a link to a FREE printable exercise cheat sheet to help keep you on track at the end of the post.   

First of all, there’s good news!

A new study shows we don’t need to put in hours at the gym to get the benefit of exercise.  

You have probably heard the guideline about including 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, such as 30 minutes of walking 5 days a week.  A study that just came out from the Journal of the American Heart Association has found that even if you just exercise in 2-minute bursts it can still count and add up to good health.

You may have heard previously that exercise needed to be in at least 10 or 15-minute blocks to really do you any good. But this new study says, as long as you get your 150 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise, even if it is only 2 minutes at a time that can still add up to a longer life and better health.  So now you can fit your exercise in just about any time anywhere.   

“Well, great!” you might say, but what would that look like and how can I actually make myself do it? Here are 5 easy steps to actually get the exercise you want and need and make it as painless as possible. 

{Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.} 

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. That means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry though. It won’t cost you a penny more! You can read my affiliate disclosure here. 

Step 1 – Learn how to make exercise a habit by setting mini-goals!   

Exercise Goals

For years I had trouble getting into the exercise habit.  I knew I needed to exercise regularly, I just couldn’t get myself to actually do it consistently over time. A book called Mini Habits by Stephen Guise really helped me with this.  He talks about a strategy that can help you get into good habits based on setting very small goals where there is barely any resistance to doing what you set out to do. Because of this book my meditation habit has been going strong for over 4 years. Because of this book I do yoga stretching every morning and get my 150 minutes (sometimes more!) of moderate exercise every week.  So if you have a hard time getting yourself to follow through when starting a new habit you should definitely check out Mini Habits.

What’s the key? 

My biggest take away from this book is that I need to set very small goals at first to create habits. To say, I’m going to do an hour of yoga 3 times a week is fine. But I know myself and it’s unlikely that that’s going to happen for more than a week or two before I start to feel overbooked and decide to do something else one of those nights, like catch up on laundry or go out to eat with a girlfriend. Stephen Guise started his exercise habit by telling himself he just needed to do one push-up. That’s it. I started my yoga habit by telling myself that first thing when I get out of bed I just need to do one yoga stretch. Just one. That was the goal.  

It works!

The cool thing is that once you do that one thing that has so little resistance behind it that it takes almost no willpower to complete, you get to say, “Ha! There. I did it. I met my goal. I’m awesome!” and then move on with your life.

The great thing is that in time you will likely start to do two stretches or a push-up and a couple of sit-ups, or whatever. Because you’ve succeeded at achieving your small goal (and haven’t let yourself down yet again) you become more confident and start to feel comfortable with setting goals that are just a little bit harder.

Stephen Guise, explains a lot more about how all this works in the book and I highly recommend it. If you don’t have time to read the book right now, just trust me and set very small, (I mean ridiculously small, tiny, micro) easily achievable goals to help you set an exercise habit. You don’t want to have to use up your limited store of willpower to make yourself exercise regularly. 

 

Step 2 – Figure out what cardio/aerobic exercise you are most likely to do.

Cardio Exercise

Remember we want this to be as painless as possible. So if you like what you are doing that really helps.  I like to walk, that’s my thing. I’m a pretty fast walker, too, so I can get my heart rate up if that’s what I’m going for. The benefits of walking, which have been touted as a great exercise for so many years now  I feel a little silly even talking about it, are many.

One is that if you are actually able to walk (and I realize not everyone is) you can walk anywhere, in your neighborhood, on trails, in glorious scenery while on vacation, in the city, in the country, in the mall, on the beach, on the treadmill, you can even march in place while watching TV at night to take a break from sitting.  

No equipment needed

You don’t need any equipment other than some decent shoes. They don’t necessarily even have to be fancy ones.  In 1955, Emma Gatewood, at 67 years old, walked the 2050 miles of the Appalachian trail in just regular shoes. She also helped save a national treasure – The Appalachian Trail. If you want to get inspired, you can read all about her amazing journey in Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. Believe me, hiking the Appalachian trail is no “walk in the park!”

That said, do take good care of your feet, because you’ll want to use them to exercise and get you around in general for a long, long, time. Just don’t use the excuse that you don’t have good enough shoes as a reason not to walk. 🙂

Walking is weight bearing so if you are doing it fairly vigorously it can also help decrease bone loss with can become an issue for many of us as we get a little bit older. There are a bunch of reasons to walk for better health. But I’ll let you look those up (if you need more convincing) elsewhere. 

As I said, walking is my thing. I have little resistance to it. My dog likes to walk with me. I can walk in my neighborhood in a safe and attractive area. If the weather is bad I can walk on the treadmill and watch my favorite shows on Netflix at the same time.

It’s almost a treat after a long day at work. I get to spend 30 guilt-free minutes watching anything I want on Netflix! If I can get myself over the hump of putting my shoes on, I can get myself to walk. 

I’d love to play tennis for my exercise, but I’d have to go somewhere to play and find a partner. For me, those additional things I’d need to do before I exercise might be enough to derail me from actually doing it. Remember, it’s important to try to set goals/habits that you have very little resistance to and that don’t take a lot of willpower to accomplish.  

So what about you?

What’s your thing? What do you like to do? What will you have the least resistance to doing over time, for 150 minutes a week? If you get bored with one activity, (that’s where Netflix while on the treadmill helps me), what other activity could you mix in with that? Thinking this through and finding answers that work for you will help you become an exercise enthusiast! 

Step 3 – Set up a “mini” weight lifting routine.  

Strength exercise Routine

If you don’t already have some, buy some weights or exercise bands. Or borrow some from a friend who isn’t using hers or doesn’t need the light ones anymore. My husband likes exercise bands for some of his workouts. I always like the precision of free weights so that I know exactly how much I’m lifting with each rep. Wow – I sound like a real bodybuilder there. LOL  I’m not by any means and anyone who knows me will certainly agree.

It will depend on your fitness level, but if you’re starting out at the couch potato end of the spectrum starting with 3-pound weights and fewer repetitions is probably a good idea. {Again, as always check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise regimen.} I keep my weights at the side of the couch by the wall. They are out of sight but so close by that there isn’t any reason not to use them while I’m watching TV at night.  I found 4 exercises that work to strengthen my biceps, triceps, shoulders, and chest.  

  • bicep curls 
  • tricep kickbacks (I rest my non-weight lifting hand on a handy dining room chair) 
  • pull-ups/rows 
  • press-ups 

(If you google these and go to a reputable site you’ll find instructions as to how to do them properly.) 

How to fit it in…

I do these exercises 3 times a week. I try to do them Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. That way I only have to know what day of the week it is to know if I need to pick up my weights. But Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday would work just as well. They say it’s good to leave a day between lifting weights so that your muscles have time to repair.

When to do this mini weight lifting routine? You could do it after your aerobic exercise. But for me knowing I have to do one more thing after I finish my walk can add up to just enough work or time to make it seem like too much of an effort. So I fit mine in while “relaxing” after dinner in the evening.

At some point during the evening relaxation of watching a movie I get up, grab the weights and complete 3 sets of each exercise while watching the show. It only takes about 5-10 minutes and without thinking about it I have some muscle (and bone) building weight lifting accomplished.

I’m not trying to be a bodybuilder here. I’m just trying to keep up my upper body, which has never been very powerful, strong enough so that I can lift the things I want to lift and do the things I want to do for as long as possible.

If you have other goals, that’s great. Again it’s important to choose exercises and routines that work with your life and what you want to accomplish. Remember, mini-goals and mini-habits are what will likely work to keep you on track and help you get results. So don’t go too big. You want to set up a situation where it’s so easy there’s no reason not to do it, then build on that success.  

 Step 4 – Stretch yourself!

Benefits of stretching

Stretching is good for us yet it is one aspect of exercise that sometimes gets overlooked except for maybe stretching after a long walk or run. Benefits of stretching include increased flexibility, increased stamina (yep you read that right), better blood circulation, improved energy levels, the release of stress which can create a more positive mood, and the list goes on.

I wanted to incorporate some stretching into my daily routine because I noticed I was getting a little less flexible. That seemed too closely related to getting old, so I wanted to nip that in the bud.

I like the idea of yoga. When I was young would actually watch a show on PBS called Hatha Yoga with a yoga teacher called Kathleen Hitchcock. This was in the mid or late 70s. I was maybe 9 and loved doing the yoga poses along with her. So when I think of stretching I think of yoga.

One of my first “mini-habits” after reading Stephen Guise’s book was to do 1 yoga stretch each morning. I could do that even though I’m NOT a morning person. I’ve read that doing a little yoga each day is more beneficial than an hour of yoga once a week. Now I do 7 simple and gentle stretches each morning that help wake up each part of my body.   

Not into yoga?

There are other types of stretching as well. Maybe yoga is not your thing. What do you like?  What will you actually do? Think about it. Do a little research if you need to. Schedule a convenient time in your day to stretch. For me it works best first thing. Otherwise, I can end up pushing it back and back until the day has passed and I haven’t done my 7 simple stretches. But stretching after a long day at work could be really beneficial as well.

Remember to make your goal small and manageable so there is virtually no resistance to doing it. So that it takes almost no willpower on your part to incorporate it into your day.  

Step 5 – Make your mini-goals and write down your plan.  

Write down your mini exercise goals

Set a mini-goal for each type of exercise, aerobic/cardio, weight lifting, stretching. Make these goals so small and achievable that you’ll have no reason not to do them. Write your goals down. Then schedule them on a calendar.

Keep it somewhere you can see it and check it off when you’ve completed the goal.

Here’s the FREE BONUS help I mentioned earlier – a calendar especially designed to help you become an exercise enthusiast. Click here to grab it:Exercise Habit Cheat Sheet

You can increase your goals and make your exercise mini-habits a bit harder as needed. If you notice that you fall off the “exercise train” at any point, go back to the previous mini-habit/goal that was working for you in that area and do that for a couple of weeks until you get back into the habit and decide you can move forward.  

If you love to exercise then you already have the hard part licked. But if you are like me and exercise isn’t on the top of your list of fun things to do then these 5 easy steps can really help get you into a great exercise habit. They might even make you an exercise enthusiast! You CAN do it! I’m cheering for you! 

Want to try 4 basic exercises that you can do anywhere without equipment that will tone your whole body? Check out 4 Easy Exercises to Tone Your Whole Body.

If you enjoyed this post please share it on Pinterest or Facebook!

PS: Want to learn other easy habits to help simplify your life so you can create the life of your dreams? Try out the Seven Days of Simplicity Action Plan. Readers are loving it!

 

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