glow notes

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

starting a fitness program - and enjoying it

Fitness doesn't have to totally suck. I promise.

You might not believe me, but that's OK. Just read on.

Here's what I've discovered in myself and observed in others. When most people start an exercise program, they exercise too hard too soon. This doesn't feel good.

Later, they don't progress their program, and plateau at the same moderate level of fitness. That's ok, but it doesn't feel as great as it could.

First of all, let's bash one misconception. I want you to know that being very fit doesn't mean you have to work out all the flipping time. But Ellie, you might ask why do I meet so many people who seem obsessed with working out and spend oodles of time at it? That's because once you get into it, it feels so dang good, you might want to do more. For some people, it becomes more than a physical need - it becomes a social outlet, spiritual food, legal/healthy alternative to mind-numbing drugs, and way of life.

But you don't have to worry about that right now. Right now, let's keep it light.

Today I'm going to write about how to do this if you're just starting out. Maybe you used to be fit and let it slip, maybe you've never picked up anything heavier than your remote control and aerobic exercise means there wasn't a parking space right in front of the grocery store. (nb: if you used to be in shape, but got out of shape because, like me, you had really important career stuff to attend to [yawn!], it's even more important to progress slowly, because you remember how much you used to be able to do and could hurt yourself - believe me, I know.)

Here's a suggested progression:

  1. Make a list of ways of moving that you would enjoy. Some possibilities:
    -walking the dog or walking with friends or just walking
    -roller skating/blading
    -dancing around the house in your skivvies, wowing the cat with your slick breakdance moves
    -hiking in a beautiful location
    -putting on boxing gloves, punching a bag, and pretending it's your first boy/girlfriend, the one who ditched you for the girl/guy with all the Izod shirts and the name-brand boat shoes
    -disco ping pong
    -tennis, but the goal is NOT to hit the ball
    -aerobic housekeeping (and reach and put that plate away, ladies and gentlemen! Now, three sets of vacuum pushing on each side and we're done for the day!)
    -boot camp for TV-holics: each commercial break do one exercise such as pushups (start with wall pushups), jumping jacks, ab crunches, triceps dips on the couch, curl cans of soup, speed squats, lunges around the perimeter of the room, or whatever else you dream up. The goal is to do 20 reps, then yell "woo hoo!" and switch seats on the couch with other people in the room (or yourself, you count) before the show starts again.
    -pretend to be Bruce Lee. Say things like "I've come to avenge my family honor!" and do air kicks, spins, and fast punches. Be careful not to throw a shoulder out. Uh- better shut the blinds, too, some people might not understand your Superman underoos.

    Whatever! The point is just move. It doesn't have to be serious. It just needs to make your blood move faster than sitting on your butt. You can do this stuff alone, with friends or family, in a class setting, at home, in a gym (except for the ones involving wearing only underwear, most gyms frown on that), outside (skivvy rule applies here also) or any combination thereof.
  2. Type up your list. OK, pshew, that's the only serious part. Now, save your list. Call it something like "Ellie's secret master plan to take over the world via superstrong deltoids and a much improved VO2 max" or "Project Hot Body."
  3. Print several copies of your list. Buy a cute little binder to store them. Get some stickers to put on it. Make a label with the project name on it. Put it in a place of honor, next to your prom photo and your Star Wars action figures that you pretend belong to the kids. Or just print it out and put it on the fridge.
  4. For the first week, do something on the list for 10 minutes, 3 times. Don't do more. I repeat: don't do more. Don't let yourself do more.

    What, you want to do more? Hah! Tricked ya!

    Check items off as you do them. Each worksheet is a week. Date the worksheet and save it. Make notes on the sheet about how you feel before/after, how you're sleeping, how your body is changing, health notes, emotions, etc. and save them to review later. You can switch around items on your list, it doesn't have to be the same thing each time.
  5. Week two: 15 minutes, 3 times/week.
  6. Week 3: 20 minutes (or split into 2 10-minute things), 3 times/week.
  7. Week 4: 20 minutes (or split into 2 10-minute things), 4 times.
  8. Weeks 5+: every time you do 10 minutes, put a check mark next to an item on the list. Make it a goal to put 10 checkmarks up there each week, spread out over at least 3 days. If you do 10, do a little victory dance or a cheerleading routine. If you do more than 10, give yourself some kind of a treat for each 10-minute increment. Treats can be free or can cost less than $5. Some ideas:

    -a gold star. Hey, it works for kids.
    -a half an hour of TV!
    -a 10-minute nap
    -a 'get out of jail free pass' on the housework - had anybody ever actually died because the dishes piled up?
    -a glitter pen in your favorite color
    -a magazine you love!
    -read a really terrible novel for 10-minutes
    -a hot bath
    -a bath item from the kids aisle at Target: a rubber ducky, bubbles (try the colored kind), soap pens to write on the walls, soap body paints
    -or save up your $5's and get something nice: a cute outfit, a massage, fancy new shampoo, or (this is my favorite) pay a housekeeper to clean your house once.

    The point isn't that you have to earn these things in order to deserve them, the point is that it's a game, and it's FUN!
  9. If you find yourself getting too serious or not looking forward to your movement time, revisit your list and rate each movement item from 1-5, 1 being "I do this because it's good for me" and 5 being "that's not exercise, it's PLAYTIME!." Now, cross any items off that rate less than a 3.
  10. Revisit your list once a month and see if there's anything new you can add. Maybe you'd like to try a kickboxing class and get in touch your your inner Michelle Yeoh (or Jackie Chan, as the case may be). Or perhaps you'd like to meet a friend (or friends) at the gym and see who can pick up more total weight in 30 minutes, winner gets something cool - like their dog washed or a ride to the gym next time or gets to wear the fake diamond tiara from the $1 store or something.

That's it! Do this program for 3 months - just *3 short months* and if you don't like it, you can go back to watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns, I won't give you any flack - and see if you don't sleep better, feel like eating healthier foods, have more energy, sit better for meditation (if you do that sort of thing), and more.

Oh, and I'd love to hear how it goes!


  • At 7:11 PM, Blogger Danielle said…

    You give a convincing argument. I am in. 3 "short" months, here I come! Thanks.

  • At 4:38 AM, Blogger Ellie said…

    YEAH! Let me know how it goes. And 3-months? 's nothing! Think about it - 3 months ago feels like yesterday.


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