Are You Waiting for the Perfect Time to Exercise?

Get started with exercise. There's no better time than now.

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Over the years, I've trained enough clients to know that, sooner or later, most of them will utter a phrase I've learned to anticipate: "I'll get back to my workouts as soon as I can." The As-Soon-As excuse (or, as I call it, ASA) is something we all end up using at one time or another, as in, "I'll get back to my workouts as soon as the weather clears up/my hair looks better/the Moon is in the right position/my boss stops being such a jerk."

Unfortunately, "as soon as" often turns into "never," as we wait for the perfect time to exercise. Instead of waiting for the perfect time, why not start now?

Why Do You Stop Exercising?

When it comes to exercise, you may have good reasons why you're not doing it. You're busy, confused about how to start or maybe you even have fears that keep you from even trying.

These reasons, however, often become excuses to avoid the more uncomfortable aspects of exercise.

Below are some common problems that may lead to the dreaded ASA excuse, as well as tools to help you banish that phrase from your exercise vocabulary.

Excuse: I'll exercise as soon as I'm in better shape. Some of us put off exercise for fear of discovering (or exposing to others) how out of shape we really are. What if you can't walk very far or you can only lift small weights? Some of us would rather not exercise at all than to face how far we are from the fit person we want to be.

You tell yourself you'll join a gym as soon as you're in better shape but, to get in shape, you may need to join a gym ... which you can't do until you're in better shape. That kind of circular thinking can keep you off exercise forever.

Solution: Start where you are. As adults, we put pressure on ourselves to be good at everything, especially exercise.

But just because you jumped rope 20 years ago or ran a mile once doesn't mean you can do the same things right now. If you haven't exercised in a while, you'll need time to build strength, endurance and confidence. Taking your time will keep you injury free and make you feel more successful. These resources may help:

Excuse: I'll exercise as soon as it's not so uncomfortable. It's inevitable that, when you exercise, you sweat, you breathe harder, your heart pounds and your lungs burn. You may feel twinges of pain coming from muscle groups you've long forgotten about. If it's been a long time since you've worked out, that first step can be daunting.

Solution: Take it easy. No one said exercise must be miserable, although that's what many of us think. There's a certain amount of discomfort that will happen when you try something new, but you're in charge of how hard you work. By easing into it, you can save yourself some discomfort. A few tips:

  • Wear quality shoes. Wearing those old running shoes is a sure way to make your feet hurt and, possibly, cause an injury. Get a good pair of shoes that fit the activities you'll be doing.
  • Always warm up. Take at least five minutes to gradually warm up your muscles. Try walking or light versions of the movements you'll be doing.
  • Go easy. For cardio, stay at a moderate level, about 4-5 on this Perceived Exertion Chart or between 55 to 70% of your maximum heart rate if you're monitoring target heart rate. For strength training, use light weights for the first few workouts.
  • Always cool down. The cool down helps the body get back into balance. You should also stretch to help the muscles recover and repair.

Excuse: I'll exercise as soon as my schedule clears up. This is probably the most popular ASA excuse, though we know that non-exercisers aren't any busier than exercisers. The difference is that exercisers make workouts a priority.

Solution: Start right now. Don't wait for work to slow down or the kids to go to college. Start now with the time you have and the workouts you can manage. Even 10 minutes is better than nothing and, once you start, it'll become easier and easier. Not only that, exercise will give you more energy to tackle your to-do list. These resources may help you find time to exercise:

Excuse: I'll exercise as soon as I figure out where to start. If you've ever been pulled over for speeding and pleaded ignorance (e.g, "Oh, the speed limit is 35? I had no idea!"), you know how well that usually goes over. The same is true for exercise. Many of us use confusion as an excuse, telling ourselves that as soon as we do more research or find that perfect exercise book, we'll finally get started.

Solution: Do something...anything. You don't have to be an expert to move your body and you don't need fancy equipment or complicated workouts, either. Start with a daily walk. Walk at a brisk pace until you start sweating and go for as long as you can (or between about 20-60 minutes). Repeat at least three times a week and you're 'officially' exercising.

It seems simplistic, but that's exactly how it should be when you're getting started. These resources can help:

Excuse: I'll exercise as soon as the season changes. I once had a client who canceled her training appointment because it was raining. Oddly enough, our sessions were indoors, but that didn't stop her from using that excuse. There are times you can't exercise outdoors, but taking off whole seasons isn't the answer either.

Solution: Be creative. Even if outdoor exercise is your first love, have a backup plan for bad weather. If winter's coming and you know you can't get out, plan ahead for how you'll fit in your workouts. You can join a gym, try videos, do home workouts or walk at the mall. Don't let the weather stop you from staying fit.

It's hard enough to exercise when things are going right -- add bad weather or some other discomfort and it seems impossible. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make exercise as easy and as comfortable as possible, but exercising when things aren't so perfect can actually deepen your commitment to healthy living. If you can workout on a rainy day,there's no telling what you can do when the sun comes out.

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