The dictionary defines habit as a custom, practice or routine. The example it gives is this: It was his habit to go for a run every morning. Breaking certain habits is difficult, but establishing them is hard, too. It takes decision, effort and conscious thought to turn a desirable behavior into a habit. First of all, you must consider the new behavior valuable to you, valuable enough to accept the inconvenience to you. You have to be convinced, at least on some level, that taking on a new habit is beneficial. If you have always thought of exercise in terms of losing weight, then this idea of activity spurts may seem insignificant, even ridiculous. But, research has spoken on this one and spurts of activity throughout the day—even for as brief as one minute—have benefits to overweight people and everyone, health-wise and weight-wise. Just get started and it could easily become habit-forming.
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Joining a Gym
If you want to join a gym, do it. Get a personal trainer, if you can. Gyms and trainers can be helpful, especially for getting you started on fitness goals and work out equipment. It’s not necessary to do these things in order to succeed in recovery, but they can be helpful in keeping you committed. Talk with someone at the gym about your work out goals. It’s best to avoid setting weight-loss goals because that will probably lead to a diet or some form of artificial control of your food intake. If the trainer is good, she will not expect quick weight loss, but may expect weight loss at a certain pace. The thing you seek at a gym is an environment of support in your commitment to improved conditioning, gradual weight loss and overall better health.
If you can’t join a gym, don’t worry about it. Get a treadmill or another all-body machine and a set of weights. Used equipment is available! No problem if you don’t have any equipment. There are many great workout DVDs on floor routines that don’t require anything but a floor. Buy or rent these and find the ones you like, that fit your body and needs. The best way to stay with your regular workout routine is to recruit a friend or relative to workout with you. Stick with a schedule—at least three or four days a week.
One practical way to make exercise fun is to associate it with something you enjoy. For example, I love stand up comedy, so I’ve set up my treadmill and weight set in front of my TV and watch comedy acts I’ve recorded while I work out. I’m walking and laughing and lifting and laughing and the time goes right by. I actually look forward to working out because this is when I watch these funny programs. Exercising with a friend accomplishes the same thing; if you’re walking you’re talking too. Dancing is fun and great exercise. You don’t have to go to a club to do it—although that would be great too. Many of us have our favorite dance recordings and no one’s stopping us from rocking out in the living room. Headphones are popular exercise equipment because they add fun music to any form of solo working out.
Just plain walking is good exercise, and for many people, the most convenient. Again, having a buddy is helpful to keep you on track. Walk in a mall if the weather is bad. Have a specific time on specific days to go. This applies to the gym, the DVD workouts, walking, running and whatever else you may do. Again, the best exercises are the ones you enjoy, and many people get moving doing a sport they like: golf, tennis, soccer, badminton, baseball, racket ball, and football. But, you have to plan it and then do it, and do it consistently!
Maybe you’re out of shape and feel that almost any exercise is too much for you. Get a check-up with your doctor. Start slowly and build up your body and your time. It may not feel comfortable at first, but, like any good habit, it will get better as you get better. Start at five minutes, if that’s where you are. Then, go to seven minutes, then 10, then 13, and then 20. This way, you won’t experience so much resistance and are much more likely to keep going. Reaching small goals can be so reinforcing. If you can start at 15 minutes, or a half hour or even an hour, go for it, but make sure you can keep it going. Consistency is the issue here—and common sense.
Remember, besides the benefits that you and your body will enjoy from regular exercise, you are sending an important message to your body: Excess fat is now maladaptive, meaning it does not support survival. Consistently eating well and enough, and exercising more, tells your body to stop storing fat and then get rid of it. This doesn’t happen in a hurry, but gradually your body will get the message.
Some of my clients are concerned that exercise increases their appetite, and wonder if they should eat more food to satisfy this change. This uncertainty stems from the old idea that eating more food automatically causes weight gain or prevents weight loss. Of course, if your appetite increases, you must satisfy it with a bit more good food. Otherwise, you may end up with symptoms of the feast or famine cycle. The cravings might start. Always keep up with your hunger by eating great food, but be on the lookout for that dip in your potions. You can trust your body to handle exercise too.
If you start an exercise plan and then you find yourself sloughing off, missing days and then weeks, change things up. Something isn’t working and it’s important to find out what it is. If you don’t think about it, it will go away, and then you’ll lose out on all the benefits. Talk it over with a friend. Explore your options. Don’t just sit there—do something else!
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