How To Start Good Exercise Habits

 

We have all been there, probably several times. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym or done any type of exercise. There are many reasons that we let exercise go by the wayside, but how do we start again? Starting again may be even more daunting than starting for the first time, but here are some ways to get back to it.

Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just do it. You go to the gym, you run three days a week, you play tennis every other day, you take a kick boxing class every Tuesday, etc… there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off. Choose the ones that you like and make the most sense, and then choose a few that don’t. You may be surprised at how well some of these tips work.

Reward Showing Up – 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to get active every day (even just for 10 minutes) for one month. This helps solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go. Just go!

Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it’s going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. There is an endless range of programs that can suit your tastes.

Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can adjust your workout plan to incorporate all the exercises you like and take out the exercises you don’t like. You will notice that after time, your likes and dislikes will change. An exercise you used to hate may become one of your favorites.

Realistic Scheduling – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting. Be realistic with your timing. For example, if you are not an early morning type, trying to get up a half hour earlier to exercise may prove to be too overwhelming.

X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar that he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve exercised. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.

Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster. The stronger you get, the faster the pounds will drop, and the better you will look and feel.

Habits First, Equipment Later – Expensive equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a bunch of equipment. Furthermore, some of the most effective exercises require no equipment at all (push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, sit-ups, etc.).

Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.

Start Small – Trying to run ten miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Ease your body and mind into your exercise routine, and after a few weeks you will want to start challenging yourself by doing more.

 

Men vs. Women — Do Men Lose Weight Faster?

I was talking with one of my friends who is trying to lose that last 10 pounds. She was so frustrated, no outraged, at her husband, who dropped 30 pounds in a short amount of time, by just changing a few things. She has been trying to lose the last ten for a few months by doing everything in the book from Jenny Craig to the latest exercise craze.

Yes, it may seem unfair, but men have a tendency to lose weight more easily than women.  One reason: the fat-muscle issueMen have muscle. Women have fat. .Due to testosterone, men are more prone to build muscle tissue. This gives men an overall higher metabolic rate, since muscle burns calories and produces energy more efficiently than fat. Women, on the other hand, are prone to storing fat in order to support childbirth. But, as we age, men and women store and burn fat about the same. So those men, who lost weight effortlessly earlier in life, will suddenly match up with women of their age group when they hit middle age. Payback?

Another factor may be that men don’t bloat. Water retention is the bane of women everywhere. Men, luckily, don’t have this problem. Not only do their bodies not store as much fat as women’s bodies, they also don’t have to put up with boated stomachs and puffy hands and feet. This is a definite reason why men appear to lose weight more rapidly than women.

I had to include something positive for the gals, though.  Women can “diet”. Women can be fussy about eating just salads, slimming down their drinks with low-cal alternatives, and balancing heavy meals with fruits for desserts, but a man? If my husband ordered a salad and a wine spritzer for dinner, he would never, ever be able to live it down. Look at the associations in advertising too – a beefy man grilling a big hunk of red meat, while it’s a woman who spoons the leafy greens.

Testosterone, muscle composition, less fat storage, no water retention, and high metabolic rates notwithstanding, weight loss strategies remain the same for men and women. Eating right and exercising daily and cleverly, are all part of long term healthy weight loss strategies. Ensuring that you eat breakfast, drink enough water, and get enough exercise are the basics of any weight loss program, and must be incorporated into your life whether you’re a man or woman.

Vanity Is Your Friend

You know one of my favorite sayings is “nothing tastes as good as looking fit makes you feel”. I know it may sound kind of shallow, especially as I try to teach my kids that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. But come to find out, there are a few million people who may agree with me, and there are even studies to back it up.

The word vanity can conjure up all sorts of images, and it can even be applied to the bell curve with most of us falling somewhere in the middle. When it comes to motivation, vanity is a great asset. We all know there are so many health benefits to eating right and exercise including the prevention of:

Heart disease and Stroke

High Blood Pressure

Noninsulin-Dependent Diabetes

Obesity

Osteoporosis

But many people think that these conditions won’t happen to them, so that’s where vanity comes to the rescue and keeps them motivated to exercise and eat right. Yep—people just want to look good. (Many younger women will stop using tanning beds not because of the overwhelming evidence that it causes skin cancer, but because it can cause wrinkles. )

A recent article in the LA Times called “In-Your-Face Fitness: Vanity can be a healthy asset”, offers some interesting facts about the price of beauty(including that pretty people make more money), but the bottom line is that exercising to maintain good looks is just fine because it helps you stay healthy.

Anything that gets people to exercise and eat better is a good reason, even if it might seem a little vain.

Resistance Tubing-Weight Training without the Weights

So many home exercise gadgets, so little time.  Not everyone wants to spend their precious time exercising at a gym, and luckily there are a lot of home options from DVDs to Wii to body weight training to resistance tubing.
These little tubes are simple, small, lightweight, affordable, and you can buy them just about anywhere. So how can such a simple, lightweight object actually help you build muscle?
These tubes are essentially hollow plastic ropes, (or long, flexible plastic tubes). They are made of very durable plastic and rubber that has just enough stretch and bend to serve as a flexible rope, yet they are tough enough that they “resist”  the force exerted when you pull on one or both handle of the tubing.
Resistance tubes are made with varying degrees of strength and tough-ness. The more they resist, the harder they are to pull on, and therefore, the harder your muscles have to work to do so. Because of this, resistance tubing comes in varying levels of resistance, and most are color coded to the  different resistance levels.  They are measured in pounds, as in the weight equivalent of the resistance they provide. (For example, a five pound resistance tube doesn’t weigh five pounds, but it is designed to be as difficult to pull on as would be a tube with a five pound weight attached.)
People use resistance tubes for many different reasons. They can help tone muscle, add muscle bulk, and burn fat. They are also good if you want to mix up your routine and do something a little different, and because they are lightweight and small, they can easily be used at home, or even in the office for a discreet workout during lunch or an afternoon break.
Resistance tubes are generally affordable; I bought a complete set on Amazon.com for around $30. You can buy them individually or as a set, and they will come with an instruction manual and usually a DVD to show you how to use proper form to get results.

The Smart Pantry – Three Tips For When You Forgot To Plan

I have a love hate relationship with grocery shopping. Since I can remember, I have always done my grocery shopping once a week. I like planning my meals for the week and buying all the ingredients. However, the grocery store is really a land mine of temptation. At every turn there is an isle or an end cap display of something that looks really yummy. It would be torture to go to the grocery more than once a week. It takes a lot of will power at the grocery, and I never go when I am hungry. 

I also make sure to buy a few healthy extras each time, just in case, because sometimes  I am short a meal, and I find myself with no plan for dinner. Poor planning  happens to everyone, but rather than call Papa (John that is) I will “throw together” a mish mash of items. At times like these I try to use a one-two-three approach to making a balanced meal:

1. Make it “Whole” by picking whole grain version of pasta, rice or bread.

2. Make it “Lean” or “Extra Lean” by searching for cans of tuna packed in water, skinless chicken breast, lean ham or extra lean beef.

3. Make it “Colorful” by using a variety of fruits and vegetables.

There is always something in the fridge and pantry that can be used for dinner, and when I use the one-two-three approach, even though it wasn’t planned, I can feel good about what I am serving and eating.

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