The lovely Rachael Bailey is back today with her second tip on how to make exercise a habit. (If you missed the first installments of this series, make sure to catch up here and here.)
Tip #2: Start slow and build up
Let me share a story with you: when I was in high school, I decided one day to go for a run. It was snowing outside and I hadn’t exercised since the soccer season ended, but I figured I’d be fine.
I’m sure you can imagine the aftermath: I got out of breath quickly and I kept slowing to a walk. My muscles burned. I felt dispirited and miserable. I gave up because I couldn’t achieve my ideal goal the very first time I set out.
After the birth of my second baby, I decided to try running again instead of my normal elliptical-and-weights routine. This time, I started small with a half an hour of repeats: I ran for two minutes, then walked for two minutes. Week by week, I added more running time, until I was running for the entire half hour on the eighth week. When I ran my first half-marathon in April, I used the same principle in my training: start slow and build up. When I went to my very first yoga class, I didn’t expect to be able to pretzel myself up like the instructor. But week after week, I could feel my flexibility and strength improving: I was content with the small successes along the way to my overall goal.
The point is, there is always going to be a difference between your capabilities now and where you’d like them to be. The key to success is creating a realistic plan for getting from Point A to Point B. If you want to be able to play tennis for half an hour without stopping, great! Work up to it so that you can play that half hour one day, and the next day, and the day after that too. Add another lap to your swimming routine, an extra mile on your bike, or another twenty crunches. Then add more the next week, and the week after that, until you’re at your goal**. (Then set a new goal!)
Don’t expend all your energy in one burst—that will simply make you sore and frustrated. The key to creating the habit is this: start slow. Build up.
**One note: if your goal is to lose weight, I would strongly suggest that you consider taking your measurements as well. Since muscle weighs more than fat, it’s likely that you’ll lose inches before pounds.