18 March 2013

Getting active: How to get started and stay at it

There is not one best work out activity and thank goodness for that. Everyone has things they like to do and things they don't. If you told me that the only way I were going to be able to lose weight and get in shape was to do cardio*, I would be so screwed. Honestly, I probably wouldn't even give it a go. I like lifting weights and doing body weight exercises and I hate doing cardio. I always have. The good news is that I'm convinced every person can find something active that the like to do. Whether it's swimming or tennis or frisbee golf or walking their dog or roller skating or skiing or karate or dancing or jumping on a trampoline or playing tag with your kids, there's something for everyone. If you try to force yourself to do something you don't like to do with the goal of getting in shape, you're adding an additional obstacle onto an already difficult task. Find something you like, something you can look forward to doing, and you're more likely to stick with it.

Another good idea is find someone, rather than something, that motivates you and do some kind of activity with them. It is very beneficial to have someone else around to hold you accountable. Doing something you find dreadful with your best friend (or spouse or sister or kids) all of a sudden becomes enjoyable because you can laugh and chat while you're taking a five mile walk around a lake or hiking a mountain or playing handball. As a personal example, back in college a friend of mine and I used to work out Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Other than spending time with her, an obvious benefit, the thing I remember most fondly about this time was that our exercise strategies complemented each other and we learned from each other. She is a soccer player so she was familiar with lower body, leg and cardio exercises and she introduced me to many of those. I was a gymnast growing up so I focused a lot on upper body, core and full body exercises and I introduced her to those. It was a really great partnership and we had fun and laughed while we pushed each other.

Other ideas for getting started:
  • Try a group class. Personally, I like to work out alone, but I know a lot of people who are motivated by being around others in a class. My mom is a prime example. You'll never find her lifting weights or on a cardio machine but she will totally rock it in a Zumba or Jazzercise class. While it's not for me, I've also heard great things about spinning classes.
  • Take an intro course to learn the basics, especially if you're taking on something that's new to you. Whether it's "Bike Maintenance 101" or "Geotracking for Dummies", getting familiar with the basics will make your more confident and will likely spur your enthusiasm for learning more about that new thing, which will keep you coming back for more.
  • Tag along with someone. Know someone who goes indoor rock climbing every Thursday? Ask if you can tag along next time they go. I'll bet that they'd be happy to "show the ropes", literally and figuratively, and introduce you to one of their favorite hobbies. Everyone loves to discuss their passions (why do you think I'm writing this blog? :D)

Find something you like to do or someone you want to exercise with and get started!

*It's totally not and I don't recommend doing much, if any, cardio just for the sake of doing cardio. Interval training and weight training is a much better way to go, but that's the discussion of a much longer future post. That said, if you actually like to run or bike or you're are training toward a future goal, by all means, go for it!


  1. Thanks Tina! Here are my two cents:
    1) Write things down. Set goals. I can't stand counting calories or keeping a food journal, but I do make my workout schedule for the week, write it on my planner, and (try my hardest to) stick to it. It keeps me more accountable, and I'm less likely to skip a workout if it's already plugged into my week.
    2) Muscle confusion. Switch up your workouts. Keep your body guessing. Doing the same thing will bore you, mentally and physically. For example, if you enjoy running or swimming, incorporate intervals and sprints along with your endurance training.
    3) Explosive movements. You'll burn more calories and get stronger and faster if you do short burst workouts involving high-intensity movements. Push your body to do a few more box jumps, burpees or mountain climbers. Sample High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts can be found all over the web.
    - If I could only follow this advice all the time, I'd be in great shape! - Jen

    1. Hi Jen :) Really awesome points. Thanks for throwing in your two cents!

      1) You're completely right about adding exercise to your schedule as a great way to do it more consistently. Even though I actually enjoy lifting weights, I don't just spontaneously go the gym and I don't know anyone who does. It's super difficult since we're all so busy to choose to exercise when there are so many other options and things to do, and putting it on your calendar like a mandatory appointment is a great way to prevent yourself from backing out. It's all about priorities - if it's a priority, you'll find time in your schedule for it, and writing it into you planner definitely helps you stick to that.

      2) Another great point. I want to add that you don't even have to change it up drastically. Even little things to work slightly different muscles in the same muscle group will help provide balance in your body and also keep yourself from plateauing (is that a verb?) and getting bored. For example, I like to do calf raises almost every workout, but instead of just doing normal calf raises, I do some sets with my feet turned in or out or sets of one leg at a time.

      3) Absolutely! Obviously some things, like squats and bench press, don't lend themselves to explosive movements, but throwing in some high intensity exercises (like the ones you mentioned) will add a new dimension to an otherwise somewhat even-keel workout. I'd love to feature a post by you sharing your experience with these different HIIT exercises (or another topic) if you'd be interested :)


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