Hope for the Fitness Challenged
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Okay, I confess. I’m a couch potato. I can be entertained for entire days with nothing more than movies and junk food. I know that I should exercise, but any activity that requires that much energy is unappealing to me.
However, recently, I began to feel somewhat guilty about my sedentary lifestyle. I don’t know whether it was the conviction of the Holy Spirit about taking better care of my body, or the fact that my favorite jeans no longer fit, but I decided it was time to take action.
Working out while strangers watch has never appealed to me, so I decided a gym membership was not an option. I also opted out of trying organized sports. Remember the girl in your middle school gym class that always ducked and covered her head when the kickball, soccer ball, softball, volleyball, etc. flew in her direction? Yep, that was me! I’ve never been the athletic type.
Then I stumbled upon an answer. It came in the form of an infomercial. This new exercise program would firm and tone like nothing ever seen before. With the enthusiastic women touting their new sleek figures onscreen and the miraculous before and after photos, who could turn this down? The commercial promised results in 10 workouts or less. What a deal!
Fortunately, I decided to check out the program before investing any money. Our church library had one of the advertised videos available. I took it home thrilled that I would soon see television-style results for free.
Once I donned my snazzy workout attire and popped the tape in I was amazed. A very fit, no-nonsense teacher began barking out commands as a class of equally fit women hopped, jumped, and lunged their way to better health. I knew I was in trouble the third time I had to rewind the tape. Wait, what do you do with your right leg? Was it up on the step with the right leg, then lunge, then twist, then lift? Or was it lift, then twist, then lunge? Squeeze my gluteus what? Is she speaking English?
I quickly realized that this workout was not for the beginner. But not to be outdone, I completed the workout the best I could (fast-forwarding through the hardest parts). As I collapsed in an exhausted heap on the floor, I decided the infomercial was right about achieving success in only 10 workouts. If anyone lives through 10 of those workouts, they will either be many pounds lighter, or just too tired to care!
My next attempt at fitness was with an exercise ball that I had picked up during a clearance sale. I’m sure you’ve seen these. They are usually brightly colored with fit guys or gals perched on them in various positions. My friends assured me that they made working out fun.
I decided to start off slow this time. I began with a taped workout for beginners. (Actually, I think the box said “for Dummies.”) Unfortunately, I spent more time on the floor than on the ball. You may laugh, but sitting on one of those things is not as easy as it looks. Each time I picked up one leg as the teacher instructed, I found myself rolling off the side of the ball and crashing onto the floor.
A word of advice: if you do decide to include a fitness ball in your workout, be sure to clear the room of all surrounding furniture. A topple off the ball hurts much less when there is no coffee table to slam into.
Why do I share these mishaps with you? It is because I believe I have found a solution for fitness-challenged folks like myself. After trying many of the workout videos and exercise equipment on the market today, I learned a few things that were beneficial for novices like me. If, like me, you are not very coordinated or athletic, you may find these tips to be helpful.
It is important to remember that your body will need time to adjust to a new exercise routine. If your leisure time is normally spent relaxing on the sofa, don’t expect to run a mile – or even make it all the way through that beginner’s aerobics video -- in your first workout.
If you have not worked out in a very long time, it may be best to start with simply walking. You want an activity that will increase your heart rate, but it is best to start with something easy and work your way up.
The same principle is true if you choose aerobics or any other workouts on video or DVD. Start with a routine that is designed for beginners. Allow yourself days or even weeks to work up to a more rigorous routine.
Leave the Expensive Equipment for the Pros
When you are just beginning to exercise you probably will not want to invest in costly equipment that could be difficult to use. There are many affordable alternatives that you can purchase for home workouts.
Get back to basics. Old-fashioned push ups, squats, and sit-ups are all beneficial exercises that require no equipment. A quick search on the Internet will provide step-by-step instructions and photos of exercises that you can do at home.
Pick up some light hand weights. They do not cost much and are very useful for working out at home. If you are really in a pinch, canned goods can double as weights – as long as you don’t mind your can of soup being a little shaken up prior to cooking. If you want a heavier weight, save your plastic milk bottles and fill them with sand or water. They even come with convenient handles already on them!
Buy some resistance bands as an alternative to weights. They are cheap and are great for strength training.
Remember the days of jump roping? Jumping rope is a great cardio workout. Check out your local department store for a good deal.
Take a walk! Whether it is a trip through your neighborhood, a hike on a nature trail, or an excursion around the inside perimeter of your local mall, walking is great exercise.
If you do decide to purchase equipment, buy it used. Yard sales are great places to find bicycles, stationary bikes, treadmills, and other exercise equipment. Guys, especially, may enjoy working out with equipment rather than bouncing around with a group of ladies featured on an aerobics tape.
If you do decide to use aerobics or dance videos, you can buy them used as well. E-bay always has many to choose from and local video stores usually offer a limited selection for rent.
Accountability is Key
If you truly dislike exercising -- as I did when I first started – you will need more than good intentions to keep you going.
For me, a wellness program offered through my workplace is what has kept me motivated. Each month participants are required to earn a certain number of exercise points for a six-month period. At the end of six months, the people who have succeeded earn prizes.
At first I didn't sign up. I decided I could do just as well on my own. At the time, I was too busy to add the stress of a monthly exercise quota. But, I promised myself, I would still make my health a priority by faithfully exercising. How many times did I exercise in those six months? Not once! I need accountability to make me stick with it.
The same is probably true for you. Find a friend, spouse, or group of peers that will support you and your exercise goals. If possible, include them in your exercise routine. Find an activity that you both enjoy and meet once a week to do it together. Swap exercise videos with each other to vary your routine without having to spend money on new ones.
Even if you don’t have someone to exercise with you, find someone to report to about your progress. If you know someone will be asking you how your workouts are going, you are more likely to keep them up.
Rewards Help Too
Reward yourself for accomplishing your goals. No, not with a hot-fudge Sunday and Oreos, but with something enjoyable that won’t damage your fitness goals. Perhaps you could purchase that new book or CD you’ve been wanting, if you exercise consistently for a month. If you are married, enlist your spouse to help. If you keep up your exercise routine, your mate could reward you by taking over some chores, keeping the kids while you have a night out, or treating you to a special date night.
My husband and I currently have a deal that I love. Since I get home first, I usually cook dinner. However, he recently decided (because I was behind on earning my exercise points for the month) that if I exercise when I come home, then he will cook dinner when he gets there. The one thing I like less than exercising is cooking…so I’m now an exercising maniac!
Find an accountability and rewards system that will work for you and stick with it.
It’s Worth It
As much as we fitness-challenged folk hate to admit it, exercise truly is important. Scripture very clearly paints the picture for us. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” ().
Whatever it takes to for us to establish a regular fitness routine; we need to do it. Research has shown that regular exercise helps reduce the risk of many diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. It also improves our psychological well-being.
Before I began exercising regularly, I never believed the people who told me that regular exercise also increases your energy. My few haphazard workouts merely left me exhausted and sore. However, they were right. If you keep up the routine, you will start to notice a renewed sense of energy. You will most likely even get to a point where you will enjoy it.
While there are still days when it is a struggle to make myself exercise after a stressful day, I’m always glad when I do. Knowing that I’m honoring God with my body, while improving my health for years to come, makes it worth the effort.
And maybe one day I’ll even be able to use that fitness ball with poise!
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