Yes, it is that time of the year: the time when we all reconsider the reality of the past year and how we may not have been quite as good to ourselves as we had wished. Sure, we ate more dark chocolate because it is good for us, but what about that promise we made to get a little more active? It’s not enough to know we want to exercise. We seem to need a specific strategy to get and keep us going. We’re here to help.
Before we start, we should consider what is holding us back; there’s always something it seems. The most common excuse tends to be lack of time. There are things you could do including getting up earlier (admittedly not for everyone) or choose to drive less and walk more. Setting an appointment with yourself can make a great difference. Another idea is to replace a habit: for example, watch less TV or surf a little less online. Alternately, you could use every commercial break for a few sit-ups.
“Exercise is boring,” is another oft-heard complaint. Start by choosing an activity you enjoy; get some friends to join in; or explore new options like a class at the fitness centre. Other popular complaints include “I’ve always failed in the past,” and “I can’t afford gym fees.” Admit it; those are weak excuses, so get over it.
How can you set yourself up for success? It’s not as complicated as you think. Here are some simple steps you can take, tips actually, to make a difference in your life. The first, and most important, is to commit yourself to consistency. That is, commit to sticking with your plan. If you find you are not able to meet your goals, change them to make them more possible.
Don’t try for the Olympics right off the bat — take baby steps and you’re less likely to be intimidated out of your plan. Over time you will find yourself pushing a little harder and doing a little more without even noticing.
As for what your activity will be, pick something that’s fun for you. Like hiking the trails or something more urban with people watching? Maybe shooting hoops or kicking a ball around? How about table tennis? Start with fun stuff, then add in some friends or a partner to make it competitive, or not. You might even join a team.
How about getting a dog? This might not be for everyone, but if you’re thinking about a dog, that can be a great motivator to get you out the door. A dog wants to run and play and you can join right in. If you won’t do it for yourself (this is the one place we do use guilt as a tool), do it for Buddy!
One trigger that will work for some is to get some great workout clothes and shoes; and an mp3 player can make your new fitness activity more fun. Sometimes new toys can make the difference.
Finally, reward yourself (not with food, please). Doing something consistently is an accomplishment, even if your actual task seems small and insignificant. If you have been exercising regularly, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back.
Starting a fitness program is one of the best things you can do for your health. Physical activity can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and coordination, help you lose weight — even improve your sleep habits and self-esteem. Give it a try — you CAN do it.
Dr. Paul Martiquet
Vancouver Coastal Health
Dr. Paul Martiquet is the Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.