Sticking to a regular exercise schedule isn’t easy. After all, there are plenty of potential hindrances – time, boredom, injuries, self-confidence. Darcy Reber, nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, shares practical strategies for overcoming common barriers to fitness.
“I don’t have enough time”
Setting aside time to exercise can be a challenge. Squeeze in exercise throughout the day. If you don’t have time for a full workout, don’t sweat it. Shorter spurts of exercise, such as 10 minutes of walking spaced throughout the day, offer benefits too.
▪ Get up earlier. If your days are packed and the evening hours are just as hectic, get up 30 minutes earlier twice a week to exercise. Once you’ve adjusted to early-morning workouts, add another day or two.
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▪ Drive less, walk more. Park in the back row of the parking lot or a few blocks away and walk.
▪ Revamp your rituals. Your weekly Saturday matinee with the kids or best friend could be reborn as your weekly Saturday bike ride, rock-climbing lesson or trip to the pool.
“Exercise is boring”
It’s natural to grow weary of a repetitive workout day after day, especially when you’re doing it alone. But exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Choose activities you enjoy. You'll be more likely to stay interested. Anything that gets you moving counts.
▪ Vary the routine. Rotate among several activities – such as walking, swimming and cycling.
▪ Join forces. Exercise with friends, relatives, neighbors or coworkers. You'll enjoy the camaraderie and the encouragement.
▪ Explore new options. Learn new skills while getting a workout. Check out exercise classes or sports leagues at a recreation center or health club.
“I’m self-conscious about how I look”
Don’t get down on yourself. Remind yourself what a great favor you’re doing for your health, or focus on how much stronger you feel after a workout. Avoid the crowd. If you’re uncomfortable exercising around others, go solo at first. Try an exercise video or an activity-oriented video game. Or consider investing in a stationary bicycle, treadmill, stair-climbing machine or other piece of home exercise equipment.
▪ Focus on the future. Praise yourself for making a commitment to your health. As you become fitter and more comfortable exercising, your self-confidence is likely to improve as well.
“I’m too tired after work”
No energy to exercise? Without exercise, you'll have no energy. It’s a vicious cycle. But breaking the cycle with physical activity is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Hop on the treadmill or stationary bicycle while you listen to the radio or watch the morning news. Or step outside for a brisk walk.
▪ Make lunchtime count. Keep a pair of walking shoes at your desk, and take a brisk walk.
“I’m too lazy to exercise”
If the mere thought of a morning jog makes you tired:
▪ Set realistic expectations. If your mental bar is too high, you might give up without even trying. Start with a walk around the block. Don’t give up if you feel worn out. Take another walk around the block tomorrow. Keep it up, and eventually you'll no longer feel worn out.
▪ Work with your nature, not against it. Plan physical activity for times of the day when you tend to feel more energetic – or at least not quite so lazy.
▪ Schedule exercise as you would schedule an important appointment. Block off times for physical activity, and make sure your friends and family are aware of your commitment. Ask for their encouragement and support.