Workout Tip #1: Do What Works

I used to think that running, especially over long distances, was the measure of a person’s athletic and fitness abilities. I’m not sure why exactly, perhaps because it seemed that good runners looked athletic. So, I would force myself to run and get bored out of my mind. Then, I’d quit running. And since running was exercise, I also quit exercise.

From a logical perspective this is called “fallacious” thinking, specifically a “straw man” argument. I setup running in my mind as the only proper exercise and when I couldn’t run, I thus, couldn’t exercise. It was silly thinking, but it truly hindered my exercise. I had to create a “clean slate” with exercise and working out and you may have to as well.

First, exercise is simply burning calories. Granted, it can be intense, moderate, or weak, but burning calories is burning calories. So, while you may burn more calories playing an intense game of squash than walking for thirty minutes, if you hate squash and don’t play it, the 100 calories you burn from walking is better than the 0 calories you burn from not playing squash (even if those who do play squash would burn 400 calories in the same amount of time).

Second, remember your age. Just because you were a basketball stud in high school doesn’t mean you need to run out and join the nearest pickup game at age 48. While that may be an excellent way to get in shape, it may also be an excellent way to get so sore the next day that you give up exercising for another 30 years. Basically, you may need to reinvent what exercise means for you. I say “may” because perhaps you can exercise the way you used to. Most of us probably can’t; if anything we don’t have time for 3 hour practices 5 days a week with games on the off days.

Finally, and related to one and two, keep an open mind. Trying new exercises will keep your routines more interesting and you’ll stop your muscles from getting used to the same old stuff (this is a good thing, btw). Plus, you may find something you actually love to do. For example, I never knew how relaxing and and exhilarating cross country skiing could be until I tried it.

Today, I actually enjoy running, at least outdoors (treadmills still bore me to tears). I admire those hardcore runners, but realize that I don’t need to be one myself.

Change #15: Use Your Legs

Being able to walk is truly a gift and yet so many of us take it for granted. If you can walk, do it (even if it’s on a treadmill at the YMCA; my previous post when I “complained” about walkers on machines was meant tongue in cheek). Instead of driving around wasting gas looking for a parking space, park out and walk. Walk to the store if it’s close and safe. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. When you walk to lunch at work, take the long way. Basically, if you can walk safely and it’s a reasonable distance, then do it! It is free and beneficial. While at grad school at Emory University, David and I would walk the 15 minutes one way to class everyday. We burned hundreds of extra calories and saved the 750 dollar parking fee as well as hundreds of dollars in gas a year. Get a pedometer to calculate how many steps and miles you’re adding to your workout. Walking with friends/family is also a good way to bond with others and get support in your weight loss goals. While I don’t advocate walking being your only workout all the time (although it is a good way for sedentary people to get started exercising), it certainly adds to the calories burned and general activity level.