It is alarming how many people in the United States have a desire to get healthy, are told by their physician that they need to get healthy, know how to exercise and still cannot consistently exercise to achieve their wellness goals. When I was in my twenties, I found myself in this situation. I was overweight and knew that I wasn't active enough. I played sports in high school and knew how to exercise and work out, but somehow I could not stick with it no matter what I tried. I knew how many miles I should run or how many minutes on the treadmill or how many reps, but it didn't matter. Nothing I did worked because I hated working out and would never stick with it.
Finally I got to a breaking point. I realized that I was going to get healthy but I wasn't going to go into it trying to do exactly what I thought I should do. I decided to find a simple activity that I enjoyed and could do often. I didn't jump into hours of exercise, I would start slow, very slow. I would do a very small amount of activity and try to increase later. I changed my focus to creating a habit rather than completing the recommended amount of exercise immediately. I also decided to stop nagging myself and trying to guilt myself into getting healthy. It didn't work and almost made it more difficult to stick with something.
The following steps are how to create an exercise system that you can use to accomplish your goals. The specific exercise and amount of time you devote to it are flexible and this can be followed to lose a few pounds or drastically improve your health. It is very different from what you see on TV or hear about. It is not immediate but certainly has benefits that extend beyond a quick fix.
1. The first step is to determine activities that you like. This is important. I found that I HATE running. I tried several activities before I found one that I don't absolutely hate. For me it was biking. It seemed much easier for me to do than running and was the first step to developing an exercise routine.
2. Next establish an easy routine. For me this was to bike for 10 minutes every morning when I woke up before work. Starting small with only 10 minutes of easy exercise instead of 90 minutes of an intense workout. What you want is not to immediately lose weight. The goal for this step is to create a habit. It is hard to create a habit when you are dreading tomorrow's workout. When you think it is simple, you can continue to follow it until it becomes automatic. When I would work out for 3 hours one day, the next time I wanted to work out I would think "there is no way that I want to do that again today." But when I worked out for 10 minutes I noticed that it was easy to keep up with it.
One note here: Establish an easy minimum. The 10 minutes was the absolute minimum that I would do in a day. Most days the 10 minutes just warmed me up and then I suddenly had more motivation to keep going. To get started I needed a small task, but in the heat of the exercise I didn't need to stop at 10 minutes. Even if you exercise for an hour most days, tell yourself that all you really have to do is 10 minutes, that's it. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to do this consistently.
3. Once it is a routine and you have at least two weeks of exercising, slowly increase the time and effort. Make sure to tell yourself the minimum is all you need to do, but try to expand on that and do more than the minimum whenever possible. If you find yourself going far past the minimum every day you may want to increase it slightly but this is not important. Again the emphasis should be on creating a habit of exercising and then increasing how much exercise you do every day.
4. The last thing to consider is how you will handle getting off track. It is bound to happen even if you set an easy minimum. The worst thing that you could do is to guilt yourself to death. I was never motivated this way and this would make it likely that I would quit and say this is all just stupid and won't work anyways. Instead of guilt, be lenient with yourself. Tell yourself that it is ok and in no way effects tomorrow. Tomorrow you can start back up and continue on your path.
While this may go against many fitness experts on television, it is a process that I used to get healthy. A marathon runner or exercise guru might talk about how they spend four hours in the gym and you should too if you care about your health. That is nonsense. Your fitness goals are different from theirs. If you develop a healthy lifestyle and use this system to create a positive habit, that is what is important. How extreme you end up taking that habit is up to you.
Trust me, it will be easier to add more than start from the bottom. Don't start at the bottom and expect to immediately be at the level of someone that has spent years training, it isn't possible. But, if you dedicate yourself to slowly moving towards your goal you will be amazed at how easy and automatic it can be.