Five secrets to making exercise part of your daily habit.
Are you one of those women that has a love/hate relationship with exercise? Do you feel like there aren't enough hours in the day? Welcome to the club, my friend. What I’ve come to realize is that exercise is essential to literally live your best life. Whether it’s running or walking, going to the gym or taking a class, golfing, swimming, or yoga, exercise of any sort is the key to better mental and physical health. If you aren’t exercising routinely, you might want to reconsider it.
A few years ago I signed up to run a half marathon with a good girlfriend who was recovering from a car accident. She had always been a big runner and when she asked if I would train with her I said absolutely yes. At the time it was a knee-jerk reaction to help a friend in need. You see, I'm not a big runner, but I always ran to stay in shape. I would run a 10-minute mile for 4 miles a few days a week if that gives you an idea. Running was my release. I loved the runner's high and if you've ever run for exercise, you know what I'm talking about. It makes the run that much more worthwhile, but I digress.
This half marathon was taking place in late fall. My goal was to keep moving outside through the winter and I figured that training would jump-start my ability to keep going. If you live in New England, you know that this is an ambitious goal. Training for such an event forced me to be disciplined and work out six days a week. What? Seriously, what?? Something I had never done before. But I had committed to doing this, which helped me stay on track. The training program I found not only helped me reach my goal but also led me to make exercise an important part of my morning routine and my life.
Here’s what I know to be true about exercise…. everything is just BETTER!...you feel better, you look better, you are more mentally sharp and best of all hot flashes and night sweats aren’t as intense - what a relief.
If you aren’t exercising and want to start, but don’t know where to begin, here are some tips that might help you get this party started.
Start small. I know everyone says it, but it’s true. By setting a realistic goal (keyword realistic) you have something to work towards. It doesn’t have to be lofty, it can be as simple as “I'm going to do something physical for 10 minutes every day". This is how I started, literally. If you set a realistic goal and track it, you will see what I mean. When I was preparing to run that half marathon, I had a 90-day training calendar. It started with a 10-minute run and built from there. Each day that I did a workout, I crossed it off the calendar. Such a simple activity, but oh, so powerful. If you haven’t tried it, give it a shot. My mantra is you can do anything for 10 minutes.
Hire a trainer. There is something about paying someone to help you get in shape. It forces you to take the first step since you’re spending your hard-earned money to have someone work with you and tell you what to do. I hired a trainer when I first moved to Boston over 20 years ago. Back then, you wouldn't catch me running outside if the temperature dipped below 40 degrees, which meant that I wasn't exercising from October to May. If you're like me, you may be completely intimidated by the gym and all those machines, but at the time, I saw it as my only alternative to keeping my weight in check and staying active. I was lucky that I found a great trainer who I stayed with on and off for 10 years. The benefit of a good trainer is they are consistent, they keep you accountable, and since it’s their area of expertise they have great insights on how you can get the most out of your workout. If it sounds like this is what you need to get started, hire a trainer for a month...I promise you you’ll be surprised by the results.
Join a workout group or find a workout buddy. Working out with a group is a great way to stay motivated. If you think about it, there is power in numbers and everyone's there to do the same thing...workout, which keeps you going and accountable. Pre-pandemic, I had a small group –there were 3 of us– and I considered myself lucky to have been part of a group with strong women, committed to exercise because we pushed each other through our workouts. We met three days a week without fail and it’s helped me stay on track. Grab a friend or two or three and take a class together. And remember, groups, come in all shapes, sizes, and focus areas. There are walking groups, running groups, CrossFit groups; you name it, there is a group out there that can help you start and stick with a fitness routine. Post pandemic, my tribe is my Peloton family. It's not perfect, but it's a group that keeps me accountable and moving forward. If you have a smartphone, you can do these workouts. Beyond the bike or tread, they have a variety of classes and if they don't have the class you want, they'll create it.
Stretch daily in the morning and at night. I can’t tell you how important stretching is at this stage in our lives. Flexibility is key to balance, mobility, and staying pain-free. This was the last thing I wanted to do mainly because I am so inflexible. It wasn't a priority until about 4 years ago when I started having lower back issues and realized it was from not stretching! If you do nothing else, stretch. Spend at least 5 minutes at the end of each workout and before going to bed doing a few of these basic stretches.
You can do anything for 10 minutes. Even if your schedule is too busy to get a full workout in, the goal is to do something every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes. The 7-minute workouts by Johnson & Johnson make this goal easy to achieve. Do these workouts when you're pressed for time or not feeling it. Peloton has also perfected the 10-minute workout. You can check them out on the onepeloton free app.
By the way, if you are wondering if I finished the half marathon in a respectable amount of time (less than 2 hours), that would be no. I was definitely hurting after it, but I'm so glad I did it. It was an experience I will never forget.
Do you have a workout that works for you? Let us know. We are all in this together.