Last time I told you why to exercise. Now I’m going to tell you how to start and how to keep going. The two most important elements in starting any regular exercise program are contained in the two words “start” and “regular.”
First, assemble your “Starter Kit.” Get a calendar, a Blackberry, a PDA or however else you keep in touch with yourself. Add a good pair of walking or running shoes (dogs are optional). Make sure that your shoes fit properly by getting fitted at a reputable running store.
Then, make an appointment for next week—and don’t let yourself down. Keep it! Pick three days. On each day, set aside ten minutes to go for a walk. Call it week one. You are ready to start.
The next step is to make it regular. The most important ingredient in a regular exercise program is that it is, you guessed it, regular. Keep doing it. Ah, there’s the rub. That takes motivation. That’s okay. Motivation takes time. Your goal is to establish regularity, the habit of showing up and keeping that appointment with you. Give yourself the gift of time. Take five weeks, or six. So, during that first week, choose three days, and commit to walk for ten minutes. Week two, do it again and make your walk five minutes longer, for fifteen minutes, those same three days. Add five minutes each week so that by week five or six, you could be walking thirty minutes—regularly.
“Okay,” you say, “how fast should I go? I’m not sure I can spend thirty minutes but maybe fifteen or twenty would work . . .” Remember, the goal is to establish a habit, so fifteen or twenty minutes fits into that goal, even if you stay at that time for awhile. I have seen people get so motivated over time because they feel better that they want to do more. And so they do. Once you’ve started, you’re on your way to reaping the benefits of better health and fitness. Not only will you want to do more, you will be able to do more. And so you will.
Walking is a good way to start since you don’t need much equipment and you already know how to do it. All you need is that starter kit and a place to go. Do it at work, do it at home, on a treadmill or a track. Just remember, keep that regular appointment with yourself. You can modify your habit by riding a bike. Choose what you like. Choose what you’ll do, indoors or out, at the gym or at the park. Summer is around the corner. Go out and meet it. Walk to it, swim to it, cycle to it, hike to it, dance to it, prance to it, skip to it. Just start. Then make it a habit. Make it yours.
Oh, and about your question—how fast should you go? Don’t worry about it. Take that first step. We can talk about the rest later.
Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM