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The sad part is that exercise is actually easier than most people imagine it to be. It's more fun too! I'll talk more on that at the end of this article. In the meantime, the problem is, that when most people begin an exercise program, they seem predestined, in most cases, to fail. The reasons for this are simple, but they are still strong enough to turn most people off from exercise after only a short time on the program. However, as with many other things, knowing what to expect and what the pitfalls are is a good way to avoid falling off the exercise wagon With that in mind, let's take a quick look at a few things that tend to nip exercise programs in the bud. 1. Ignorance: The truth is that everyone is ignorant at some phase of any new endeavor. While it is not necessary to be a rocket scientist to learn about exercise, there still IS A GREAT DEAL TO LEARN. If you do not know what exercise does or how it works, it is easy to make errors in judgment which can put you on the slippery slope to failure. With exercise, like anything else, there will be a learning curve, and you might not get it right at first. In fact, even experienced exercisers, bodybuilders, weightlifters, gymnasts, golfers and others involved in physical activity are constantly learning new things and improving their chosen activities as a result. SOLUTION: Give yourself some learning time, and take advantage of that time to actually try to learn a little about exercise...like you're doing right now! 2. Too Much Too Fast: It is easy to understand that a person may be ignorant of certain facts about exercise, but a little harder to understand that a person may be ignorant of their own body. However, when it comes to any new activity or job we often have no real concept of what to expect until we have been at it for a while. Normally, if you touch a hot stove, you get a pretty fast message that you had better move your hand. With exercise, this works two possible ways: ** Way Too Much Too Fast: This one is easy to understand. You overdo it (often without realizing it), and the next day you feel like what my mom used to call H - E - double L! Your body aches, or worse, you can hardly move some part of your body. Sometimes the message comes during the workout itself. Maybe it's an injury or maybe pain. Sometimes it may be a bad feeling ranging from "just not feeling well" to "sick" to even "scared" if your heart seems to be acting funny or you feel faint. It's easy to see why someone who feels so bad as a result of exercising may get the urge not to do it any more. Often, the excuse is: I need to lay off for a couple of days until I feel better. Eventually, you feel better, but for some strange reason, you sort of "forget" to start exercising again. After that experience, who can blame you? ** A Little Too Much And/Or A Little Too Fast: Not quite as bad as the situation above, this can still put the kibosh on your exercise plans. Maybe there's no pain, or very little pain, and you can't actually put your finger on anything which makes you feel that you should not continue with your
exercise program. However, as the days pass, it becomes harder to do your workout, and not just for physical reasons. You begin to dread it or start making excuses to skip "just this workout". What is happening is that you are probably going too fast or trying to do too much. Your body is a fantastic creation. It can realize that things aren't right and will send you the messages one way or the other. SOLUTION: Once you realize what's happening, just back off. If you are weightlifting, for example, you can cut the weight back, or decrease repetitions. If you are walking, you can slow down for a while or decrease your distance. What is happening is that your body, which has been unexercised for so long, needs time not only to deal with the exercise itself, but also needs time and resources to renovate its systems and streamline procedures so that it can effectively help you out. For example, your body can be trying to build new blood vessels, increase red blood cells, and update its ability to dispose of waste generated by exercise while it is trying to deal with the exercise and its aftermath as well. This can overwhelm an out-of-condition body which is suddenly asked to meet the requirements of a new exercise program. Cutting back to allow your body to catch up is NOT failure. It is a sensible decision which may be exactly what is needed to help you stay on your exercise program. You are still exercising, and will reap the benefits. Once your body catches up, you can proceed at a faster pace. Many an individual began their path to being able to eventually run a marathon by walking out to the mailbox, then down to the corner, and eventually around the block. Don't worry, if you stick with it, you will get there. 3. Unrealistic Expectations: Along with ignorance comes unrealistic expectations. After all, how can you honestly have any idea what to expect if you have never done this before? It is a normal human tendency to want to be able to see results. It IS HARD to keep on doing your exercise program if you cannot see that the exercise is working. Unfortunately, a lot of what occurs with exercise, especially with a new program, happens inside where it cannot be seen. SOLUTION: Exercise is KNOWN to work, whether for overall fitness and health, or for specific goals such as weight loss or performance in an activity such as golf or wrestling. This is something you will simply have to accept, but it has been demonstrated in study after study. However, always remember that once you have achieved the ability to exercise at a certain level, your body will stabilize and no new changes will occur until you crank it up a bit. You will eventually, once your body has accepted the fact of this new lifestyle, have to walk a little farther, or a little faster, or lift a heavier weight. However, exceeding your body's ability to keep up can make you start to regret exercising again. 4. The Wrong Exercise Program: There are a lot of different ways to exercise, and, while each one is good in its own way, none is perfect. Also, since each of us is different, what I like may not be what you like. This is why I do NOT recommend MY FAVORITE EXERCISE PROGRAM to anyone. While many people would be happy swimming, biking, or hiking, many would also balk at having to lift weights and walk on a treadmill staring at a wall for 45 minutes, four days a week...plus other little exercise goodies interspersed throughout off days. Personally, I love the few minutes of introspective solitude and concentration, but many people need the company of others. SOLUTION: Look around and see what works for you. Remember, however, you should try to do
a mix of strength training AND some cardio (aerobic) exercise each week. Strength training is generally done with free weights such as dumbbells or barbells, or with some sort of exercise machine capable of providing progressive resistance. You don't have to toss around 100 lb weights to get the benefits of this sort of training, either. In fact, start with very low weights and just concentrate on exercising regularly and doing each repetition of each exercise through a full range of motion. If you cannot move the weight smoothly through the required repetitions or if you experience some of the negative mental or physical problems mentioned earlier, you are probably trying to do too much too fast. I hope you can see from this short discussion that exercise need not be as hard as you think. Of course, you will have to work hard, sweat a little, and occasionally a sore muscle might crop up. However, you DO NOT need to do the exercises you see in books at the intensity or with the weights or resistances that the person in the picture is using. I remember the first book on bodybuilding I ever tried to follow. I was a skinny sixteen year old kid (Oh! To be able to say that again.) and I tried to use the weights the book recommended. I could not keep up, and after a few workouts, the weights went under the bed until I sold them to a friend for $10 several years later! At the start of this article, I mentioned that I would talk about exercise being fun. When you first start to exercise, and you are trying to find the right exercise program, what weight to use, how long to exercise, and are coping with the sore muscle or uncooperative schedule, or you cannot really see any visible results, exercise can seem to be an unrewarding chore. However, at first you will also notice a certain small thrill at the knowledge that you have made the decision to take the baby steps which can lead to a lifetime of health and fitness. Unfortunately, as the days go by, that thrill may begin to fade, so when you first feel it, concentrate on it and try to feel it to the core of your being. Write down the hopes and dreams you have for this exercise program and take that paper out and re-read all it has to say and remember how it felt to know that you had made that commitment to yourself, your family, your health, your happiness, and your future. If you continue to exercise regularly and conscientiously, slowly challenging your body to new levels of achievement, you will begin to notice not only outward changes as the exercise's actions begin to remold your body, but you will begin to feel an improvement inside as well. You will feel healthier, more cheerful, more ready to take on life's challenges and have fun with life's opportunities. Not only will you be stronger and more agile and have greater endurance, but your body will actually begin to manufacture chemicals internally which will make you feel better. Your personal confidence in your ability to face new responsibilities or to change the direction of your life will increase. You will be less prone to illness, and you will begin to realize that you are protecting yourself to some extent against future illnesses and the degenerative effects of growing older. I am 62 and can attest to that last statement. Figuring out how to NOT quit your next exercise program is one of the most rewarding, and important, lessons you can learn.
Donovan Baldwin is a freelance writer residing in Copperas Cove, Texas, and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, health, and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as health, fitness, weight lifting yoga, weight loss, the environment, global warming, happiness, self improvement, and life. You can find a collection of his articles on health, fitness, diet, and weight loss at http://nodiet4me.com/articledirectory
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