Developing a beginner workout routine takes time

I didn’t always have an exercise routine.  It wasn’t until my doctor told me to get my cholesterol down within 90 days OR ELSE that I knew I needed to get serious about my health.

So almost nine years ago, I decided to make some changes. I started by eliminating most of the bad food I was eating.  So, for example, I skipped the soda (or pop for us Midwesterners) for a few weeks.  Then I let go of the fried food. After a few weeks of that,  I stopped eating candy. Reducing portion sizes came next. By taking on only one challenge at a time, I was able to have lots of small successes and maintain my motivation by building on the wins. Tip: Develop one new habit before moving on to the next.

After a few months of this, I was talking to my neighbor. She was lamenting the loss of her walking partner, who had moved to North Carolina. At that moment, without thinking, I took a bold leap and told her I’d walk with her. Thus started my daily workout routine. That’s when the pounds really started to come off. Up until then I had been totally, totally sedentary. Totally. That was 75 pounds ago. Tip: Get a partner, it’s more fun.

I approached walking the same way I approached eating, with baby steps. First we walked 3 blocks. (She was a seasoned walker but I had to build up distance.) Then we added a block every several days or so. After a few months we were up to 2 miles, and several months after that we joined another walking group and before we knew it we were walking four miles.  Eventually we worked our way up to about 5-6 miles a day. Tip: Build slowly.

We would get up early in the morning to do this. At the time, getting up at 4:45 in the dark to get dressed and walk at 5 a.m. was no fun. Now I look forward to it (most days). It’s my time, it’s quiet, and I can think through problems. Lots of people see it as a chore, but I see my workout time as the one time of day when everything I do is for myself. Yes, it can be hard to stick with it, but in general, it has become a habit. Tip: Try to work out at the same time every day. Schedule it.

In those early days I didn’t eat before I left the house — just gulped down a tall glass of water and off I went. Now I know better. I eat a little protein (a piece of cheese and a small piece of meat) and a banana before I leave, and it makes all the difference in how I feel and in my performance. Tip: Eat a little something before you go.

We walked 5-6 ays a week, even  in winter as long as the temperature was above 20 degrees (I took a fall on the ice once. Ouch.) I loved the darkness of winter.  We saw planets and shooting stars. It was still and beautiful.  Five to six days a week we walked, talked, and enjoyed our historic neighborhood houses. Tip: Don’t skip more than 2 days in a row or you forget the great feeling.

My neighbor had some health problems and had to bow out for awhile so I found another walking buddy, and the two of us cast our eyes on a half marathon. Tip: Set goals.

I was in my early 50s and being an exercise neophyte, I had NO IDEA what I was doing, but I knew I needed help.  That’s when personal trainer Jen Dunbar entered my life, at the recommendation of the owner of my gym. She put me on a workout routine that helped strengthen my legs. It included yoga, spin class, running and walking.  By the time i finished the first marathon, I was hooked on getting fit.  Jen introduced me to free weights and workout machines. I did another half marathon the following year, and I was in even better shape than the year before. Tip: Get help. Personal trainers are good, and gyms offer beginner workouts.

Now my regular routine (when I’m really on) is three days a week of a boot camp class with Jen (generally free weights and body weights), and 3 days a week of cardio (rowing, walking, biking, spin, elliptical).  The variety keeps my workouts interesting. Going to class keeps me accountable, and now that I’ve worked with Jen for so long, she is good about checking in on me when I disappear.  She helps me with injuries and with my severe lack of mobility (Right now we’re working on stretching my upper back and she’s encouraging me to get back into yoga. We are also working on strengthening my hamstrings.) Tip: Keep it interesting with variety.

The point of all this is I didn’t start to do it all at once.  If that works for you, that’s great. But for me, it would have been a setup for failure.  Now working out is part of my life. It makes me feel good and it’s good for me.  If you don’t have a regular routine, take it slow. Don’t try to do it all at once.  Start with one thing and do it well. Then add another thing. And another And before you know it, you’ll be doing it.


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