The easiest thing about exercise is making the decision to do it; but the hardest thing is doing it. Most people have been in such a situation at some time or another. You make the decision to start doing some exercise – New Year’s Eve is a popular time for this decision to be made – and it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. In fact, it seems like a fantastic idea.
Now you have to decide when you will start. Well, you can’t start right now, correct? Tomorrow would be the earliest, wouldn’t it? But then you’ll need to go and buy some sportswear, so perhaps the next day. But then, the next day you’re meeting friends at that new restaurant, so better to leave the start until the weekend. And so it continues: procrastination is the thief of time and time provides plenty of opportunities for procrastination.
If the above represents to any small degree your experience with not starting an exercise regimen notwithstanding your good intentions, the first question to ask is: why is it so hard to get started?
Why Do We Find It So Hard to Start Exercise Programs?
I am absolutely convinced that the world is divided into two groups: those who love exercise and the other 99.9% who hate it. Even those who are blessed with prodigious sporting talent will often fall into the 99.9% of exercise haters. They may love the thrill of competition but the thought of having to train just turns them off.
So why do so many of us hate exercise when we know it’s good for us? There are probably quite a few reasons but I think the fact that we find it painful, boring and time consuming are significant contributory factors in affecting how we feel about exercise. So if we could reduce those three factors there is a chance that we might be more likely to start to exercise and to continue to exercise.
By the way, it’s not just me who puts the world into two groups. Here’s what Shirley S Wang of the Wall street journal has to say:
When it comes to exercise, many people seem to fall into two distinct camps: those who love a vigorous, sweat-soaked workout and those who view it as a form of torment.
Exercise Need Not be Painful
Exercise does not have to be painful. However, we need to add some context here. If you truly feel that you have a chance of winning a medal in the 10,000 meters track event at the next Olympic Games, your exercise regimen is probably going to hurt a little bit. And if you really are an Olympic hopeful, you shouldn’t be reading my words – as full of wisdom as they are – you should be training and listening to your coach.
On the other hand, if you fall into that great swathe of people who want to exercise because they know it’s good for them, then it is safe to tell you that exercise does not have to be painful. That’s not to say that you will not experience some mild discomfort, but on a pain comparison scale this will be more like bursting a blister than having a tooth extracted without anesthetic. Quoting Dr Brian Parr, Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of South Carolina Aiken, Alan Henry says:
Discomfort is natural, but pain? No way. ‘The idea that exercise should hurt is simply wrong-muscle pain during or following exercise usually suggests an injury,’ Dr. Parr explains. ‘However, some muscle soreness is unavoidable, especially if you are new to exercise.’
If you know that your exercise session is not going to hurt you then the worst thing you have to worry about is boredom.
Exercise Need Not Be Boring
The reason that some very talented sports people don’t like training is because they find it boring. They love competition; they love playing their sport; but training is just something else. For you, however, there are ways to reduce the boredom and even to reach the point where you look forward to your exercise session.
Probably the most important piece of advice is not to exercise alone. I know some people find long solitary runs almost therapeutic. Many of us do not. If you can find yourself an exercise partner or partners you’ll find that your exercise sessions take on a social aspect. They become something you look forward to. They become events in your social diary that you hate to miss because you’ll be letting others down. When it’s just you, says fitday.com:
It can become a habit to cancel a workout after a long, busy day because you feel tired or because you feel that it’s a waste of time…. If your workout partner is counting on you to be there for an exercise session, you’ll be less likely to cancel.
Exercise Need Not Be Time Consuming
For some people this is not a major issue. This is especially the case for those who combine their exercise regimen with their social life. However, the simple irreducible minimum is that there are only twenty four hours in a day and everyone has various commitments that they need to fit into that short period of time. That’s why it is important that you do realize that exercise need not be overly time consuming.
Of course, it depends on what you are looking to achieve from your exercise program. If like many other people you just want something that is going to help you stay fit and enhance the quality of your life then it is quite possible to put together a program of four or five sessions per week, each lasting about twenty five to thirty minutes that will do the trick. For example, if you go running for thirty minutes it is not inconceivable that you will cover two or three miles – or further – in that period of time. That is more than long enough and fast enough for your body to undergo a training effect.
If you are an exercise hater, then the chances are you will never come to love exercise. It is not unreasonable, though, that you should come to view exercise as a little bit more than something you have to do. You may get to the point where exercise is a part of your life that you’d rather not do without.