Five reasons to look forward to exercise

May 23, 2011

Have I taken leave of my senses? Can a person actually look forward to exercise? Or at least not dread it?

Yes, oh doubtful one, you can. Here are some things to consider:

1. Make sure that your goals are attainable. Maybe you want/need to lose 50 pounds. That’s a lot of weight. It may not sound doable to you, but rather, absolutely exhausting. So break it up into smaller chunks. Say, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds.” Lose that 10 pounds, and then do it again, and then again 3 more times. The overall goal won’t seem as daunting, and you’ll be able to build your confidence with these smaller successes. If you think about all the exercise you’re going to have to do to lose 50 pounds, you’ll feel fatigued before you begin. Just get going with the goal of doing it long enough to lose 10 pounds. You can make another goal later.

2. Don’t have an “all-or-nothing” attitude about your workouts. I used to be this way. If I couldn’t exercise for a good solid hour a day, I felt like a failure, like it just wasn’t going to be good enough. When I was able to go a full hour, it was great. But for various reasons, I often couldn’t, so I spent the whole session feeling bad about not doing enough and not focusing on the pleasure of moving. And I tended to dread it the next day. So do the best that you can. Push yourself, but not so far and so hard that you injure yourself or are unable to move the next day. Whatever you can do, be proud of yourself, and then just do the best you can again tomorrow.

3. Focus on working those muscles. If you’re doing strength training, concentrate on how you’re strengthening your arms, thighs, core. Visualize yourself lean and powerful. You can feel that way even before you get there if you focus on the positive effects of whatever you’re doing. If you’re doing cardio, think about how you’re building endurance with each lap or each minute that you keep going. Pretend you already look like Jillian Michaels doing whatever it is you’re doing, and you may just start feeling that way.

4. Let those endorphins do their thing. There seems to be sort of a physical addiction going on when you exercise regularly, and not in a bad way. It’s hard to describe, but when I haven’t exercised, my body just feels the insatiable urge to move. It’s like an itch, and the only way to scratch it is to get moving. It’s a cheap, legal drug. Now that’s the kind of addiction I can recommend.

5. Remind yourself of the benefits. The craving for exercise, and the satisfying of that craving, are much more rewarding than filling a craving for sweets, because the feeling lasts much longer. After a Twinkie, all I want is another Twinkie and a soda to wash it down. And then something salty. And more soda. And then something sweet again. In contrast, after even just 20-30 minutes on my elliptical, the good feeling lasts all day.

The bottom line is: Exercise doesn’t have to be an insurmountable daily task. It may feel like more than you can handle for a while, especially if you haven’t exercised in years or maybe never have. Just do the best you can each day and never give up. You’ll find that your tolerance of physical activity will grow—maybe slowly, but it will grow. Don’t quit!

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