If so, you first need reasons to love exercise for its many benefits so you can begin to energize your heart and mind to fully embrace, and welcome a balanced exercise program into your life, for its many benefits to your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Naturally, the next step is to talk to your doctor about taking a fitness test, to determine if there are any exercises that are unsafe or off limits for you. [Hopefully a doctor that values a preventive, holistic approach to primary care…]
And now, to really get started, here are 12 tips or guidelines to follow, and more and more, to enjoy making exercise an integral part of your lifestyle:
- Start out slowly. In order to make lasting change, your brain must develop associations between exercise and pleasant feelings and physical sensations. This cannot be overstressed! So start off easy and light, smile a lot, and make it fun. If you’re new to exercise, or haven’t exercised in a while, begin with short 5 or 10 minute sessions. Then gradually increase to at least 30 minutes, making your ultimate goal to reach an average of about an hour a day, 5 to 7 days a week – and – to enjoy the process.
- Select exercises you most enjoy. Similarly, you’re more likely to follow through and to remain on course when you begin with exercises you have fun doing. You and your body are designed to move, to sweat, to stretch every which way. Keep this in mind about your human nature, and choose as many outdoor activities as possible. There’s something about being out in nature that is energizing. When you do fun and exciting activities, reward centers of your brain release dopamine. Literally, you can choose to ‘wire’ your brain to associate exercise with pleasure, making it more likely you repeat desired behaviors.
- Identify potential obstacles (excuses). What could get in the way? What has in the past? Excuses? Schedule? Money? Other ‘reasons’? If you anticipate possible obstacles, you can find ways to jump over or go around them! If it’s money, for example, instead of a gym, start walking daily. If it’s time, wake up 15 or 30 minutes early. If you’re not a morning person, exercise during your lunch hour or TV time in the evening. If it’s too cold or too wet, have several DVDs or tapes at hand. If it’s an unreliable friend, let go trying to ‘fix’ them, and exercise for you. In other words, take a stand to disallow excuses from running your life. Once you know what your excuses are, have a plan to get around them.
- If you’re a genius at making excuses–here’s another approach. Become aware of any ‘excuse mode’ habits you may have. Then, the moment you notice yourself slipping into this mode, stop immediately and give yourself a clear, verbal directive on what to stop – and what to do instead. For example, say something like the following to yourself (or aloud if possible), “Stop! Stop with the excuses! You want to feel good! Exercises do that for you – and excuses are obstacles! Here’s what you’re going to do. Now! You’re going to put on your shoes, walk out the door, and go for a run – now!” Be sure to follow through with your stated action. Make a conscious decision to stand your ground, and refuse to waste your amazing abilities for intelligent and creative thinking on excuses!
- Put exercise on your schedule. Plot exercise sessions into your schedule or in your daily planner, as you would a meeting with a VIP (or someone who is going to give you your dream job)! This sends a strong message to your brain, more specifically, the part that operates all the systems of your body, the subconscious mind, that you mean business. When you put something on your calendar, the act of doing so activates subconscious neural activity, such as goal-directed images, feelings, thoughts, etc. The repetitive nature of these sensations makes it more likely that you’ll engage in behaviors that make the ‘scheduled events’ happen.
- If your budget allows, hire a trainer. If only for a few sessions, having your own personal trainer is a great way to start or invigorate your exercise regimen. It will boost your confidence, increase your comfort with gym equipment, and make the experience of working out more enjoyable. Providing it’s a good fit, by the way, your brain also learns best in the context of a 1-on-1 relationship. Another good reason to hire a personal trainer to start! If it’s not in your budget at present, you may wish to save up for it, i.e., by cutting other expenses, such as gifts, movies, etc. And before you hire a trainer, make sure to search the web for ideas on what to look for to make it an optimal experience.
- Find a motivated friend to workout with. For many, working out with a friend boosts motivation and good feelings. Make sure the person you partner with, however, is at least as, or more motivated than you to exercise! You cannot afford to work with a person with an energy-draining attitude, at least not at this point. Subconsciously, you may form negative associations with exercise, thus, toss out the exercise and still keep the friend (your brain is naturally biased toward keeping friends). So, do not partner with an unmotivated friend – at least not until you get to the point where you are so fired up about exercising that you are a constant source of inspiration, with unstoppable momentum. How do you assess a friend’s level of motivation? Someone who’s not motivated makes excuses and complains to get out of doing the work, i.e., repeats ‘”it’s hard,” and so on. Even with a ‘perfect’ friend, however, avoid pitfalls of dependency. Decide in advance to enjoy their companionship, however, if they cancel on a given day, be ready to proceed working out solo!
- Be a compassionate friend to yourself. It’s great to have supportive friends, however, one of the most important friends you need is the one who is with you 24/7 – yourself. What is compassionate friend? One who understands, supports, encourages and believes in you. If you miss a day or do less than your full workout here or there, for example, a good friend understands your disappointment, doesn’t minimize it, and yet also encourages you to simply resolve to get back on schedule the next day and do a little extra time. If you make excuses when the going gets tough, a good friend is there to call you out on this, and rather than condemn, criticize or find fault, they encourage and inspire you to keep stretching to reach your goals, and have fun in the process. A friend reminds you of what you’ve learned, your strengths, your areas of growth, your vision. A good friend also celebrates your successes, big and small, is proud of you and all the ways you are growing. Be that good, compassionate friend to yourself.
- See a clear image of your life with exercise in it. Picture yourself in your mind’s eye enjoying all aspects of exercise. That’s right, including the sweat. Feel the thrill of feeling that “You stayed with it” especially in moments when you ‘felt’ like quitting and didn’t. Run it like a ‘movie’ in your mind. What do you see, when you picture your life with exercise as a welcomed part, a fun responsibility you love? What feelings do you feel, as you step into that picture of your life? Feel the excitement and joy of seeing yourself easily doing what brings you a healthy, trim, fit body as if it is now. Remember to smile with pleasure, even gratitude, at the sight or thought of exercise. Studies show the simple act of smiling activates inner physiological processes that are of benefit to your mind and body. There are other benefits as well. When you consciously smile while you exercise or think about it, this ‘wires’ neural pathways that associate exercise with pleasurable sensations. Thus, it’s a great way to ‘teach’ your brain to adopt (learn!) a new habit.
- Set an intention to enjoy a trim, fit body and life. Your intentions have the power to alter the overall course of your life, one moment at a time, one area at a time. Your intentions are emotional commands that put your subconscious to work for you. They set present-moment beliefs into action with a resonating frequency that attracts more of what you want to bring into your life. That means you are always producing what you really, really want, thus, you cannot afford to let your subconscious ‘wants’ be in charge. The more clearly you know what you want, the greater the ‘vibration’ of your intention. To create the life you aspire is a process of surrendering your self to be transformed by what you consciously intend to create. Once you set a high level intention for a healthy lifestyle, your actions naturally flow to support what you aspire. From this place, your vision, beliefs, actions and choices flow as one. A natural outcome of a healthy lifestyle is a trim, fit body.
- Practice ‘imaging new-you in action’ mini-retreats. Several times each day, take a few minutes, perhaps 5 or 10, and sit back, relax and close your eyes to practice the ‘imaging new-you‘ movies in your mind. In these moments, see yourself taking action to create your healthy new-you lifestyle. Breathe deeply. Smile. Notice how great you look and feel. Enjoy the pleasurable feelings and sensations in your body. Feel the growing confidence, belief you have in yourself and your ability to easily produce the changes you want in your life. See yourself as an agent of your life in exercising the power of your choice to take action. Your intentions may be great, however, it is your actions and not just your words that manifest and bring your dreams home. Your actions are also the truest and best measure of your highest intention. These mini-retreats are also a great way to relax and de-stress any time of the day, as needed, even as you empower the image of new-you!
- Begin each morning and day, with gratitude. Each morning, before you climb out of bed, take a few deep breaths, welcoming the morning and day with gratitude. Smile. Feel the gratitude throughout your body. Feel grateful for your life, strong body and mind, happy heart, and the persons you most love. And then, as you open your eyes and step out of bed, stretch your body with arms reaching toward the ceiling, and affirm your gratitude again with a verbal statement such as, “Thank you Life (God, if you prefer) for a day filled with health, wellness, joy and positive energy to make choices that nourish my mind and body, life and spirit today.”
In sum, start gradually and follow the tips above as guidelines to implement changes in your life that energize you to make exercise an integral part of your lifestyle. It may take a few days or a week or two to see improvements in your mood and energy levels. Stay positive, and enjoy the learning and growth. When dealing with the natural discomfort that accompanies change, keep the focus of your mind and heart on the reasons and benefits of exercise to your body and emotional wellbeing – and life.
Approach your exercise with the end in mind. Identify and plan ahead to deal with potential pitfalls. Seek a trainer, and motivated friends, that add to and enhance your own efforts to sustain the momentum toward reaching your goals. Be prepared to act as a compassionate friend to yourself as needed. Practice visualization, and set an intention to successfully enjoy your life with exercise in it. You can maximize each day by stating your intentions at the start of each day, and, with gratitude, before going to sleep every night.
In addition to the above guidelines, for optimal results, include nutrient-rich foods that naturally boost your health and energy, and remain flexible to tweak your program, as you check what best works for you, and what does not. You may see some instant results, particularly if you allow yourself to fall in love with exercise in your life.
In any case, take a stand and enjoy your consciously healthy lifestyle, with exercise as a welcome companion. Your health is a priceless gift!