Beginning Exercise... Again?!

Mind over matter

You've heard it before. Heck, you've even done it before! But something got in the way. You've made progress, plateaued, and even started that slow decline from fit to fat. You were supposed to be going the other way... remember!?

Exercising is a long term commitment. It is something you have to factor into your lifestyle if you want to live long and be healthy doing it. There are many excuses. Work, school, wife, husband, chores, parents, life! There are so many excuses available, that you hardly even have to try to avoid the gym. It's easy to get so busy that you forget all about it. Before you know it, you are a pale version of what you used to be; and as this reality sets in it becomes harder and harder to do something about it.

What I am suggesting here is a return to your self. Yes, those are two words on purpose! "Your self" is the core of who you are. It is the angel on one shoulder or the devil on the other. It is the reason you are where you are today. Like it or not, you have your self to blame for it. The more you ignore your self, the further you get from the truth of who you are. Is this acceptable? For a while, it is tolerable; but never preferred. The longer you go on ignoring your self, the closer you get to 'self destruction'. What is this other than not listening to and acting upon what you know to be good for you?!

When you've been in 'good shape' and fallen away from your routine, the impact can hit you hard. It may seem like it's 'all of a sudden', but in reality you have been neglecting yourself. This is never more apparent than when you try to go out and be a weekend warrior, but end up getting hurt. "I never used to be like this." is what you tell your self. "How did I get like this?" is the question you ask. There is no easy answer.

The reason the answer often evades us is because the answer is, most often, simply us. This is a hard reality to face; especially when we've been making all these excuses for ourselves. Making that decision to get back to the gym is the easy part. Actually following through is the difficult one. Someone once gave me a piece of advice that catalyzed me to get back to health. He said: "It's easier to get up at 6am to go workout than it is to look at yourself every day in the mirror and hate what you see." For me, truer words had not been spoken.
When a person goes back to exercise after taking any protracted amount of time off, the primary danger is injury. The reason for this is that you remember what you could do before you stopped; and not wanting to fully admit to the progress lost, you end up pushing yourself beyond your current limits. Therefore, it is very important to work to you current condition. This means that you must re-learn what you can and can't do. In this end, you must learn to listen to your self; and when your body tells you that you're at your limit you must respect it.

This brings us to another common obstacle often faced when a person gets back to exercise. Oddly enough, getting over this one involves 'not listening' to yourself! I realize that this may seem contradictory, but you must not listen when the "I'm not good enough", "Look at what I've become!", "I'll never be back where I was", and other similar phrases work their way into your mind. In order to combat these harmful affirmations remember one thing: These are not your self. These are the reasons and justifications you have given to yourself so as not to go exercise. In fact, these affirmations are not even coming from your self. Your self always wants what is best for you. No exception. In truth, thee negative affirmations are nothing more than 'tapes' that your mind plays over and over, independent of rational thought. They came from all those times you looked at yourself and didn't like what you saw. After time, you begin to accept these things and eventually, you take them as truth. Nothing is further from the case.

You can be what you want to be. You can look how you want to look. You can be healthy. The only thing stopping you is you. It truly is a case of 'mind over matter'. All you need to do is set a goal and stick to it- no matter what. In this end, it is best to set many small, attainable goals instead of large goals. It is better to set goals like "I'm going to add 2 minutes to my cardio every other day", or "I'm going to exercise at least 2 times a week"; rather than "I'm going to lose 50 pounds". The reason for this is that you can actually achieve the small goals in a reasonable amount of time. The satisfaction gained by reaching your goals is the fuel that keeps you motivated. If you stay excited about exercise, you will keep doing it. By continuously setting small goals, you build a track record of success! Setting large goals is dangerous because they usually take a lot of time to achieve. This means you could take 6 months to reach a goal; and we all know that going 6 months without 'achieving' that goal is discouraging. It's much better to look at losing 2 pounds a week, and actually doing it than 50 pounds over 6 months.

This brings us to our last tip for the day. Write down your goals; when you make them and when you achieve them. Keep this record with you at all times. I recommend an exercise journal, if you don't already have one. In it, you would write down your goals and how you will go about reaching them. Then you will journal your exercise (not just an exercise log, but how you felt while you were exercising too!), and write down when you have actually achieved a specific goal. You can even set up a reward program, like buying a new pair of pants when you get to a certain weight; just make sure not to make food a reward! This is sending the wrong message to your body! By keeping a record of your goals, you are better able to track your progress and see how truly wonderful you are really doing- despite what those dreaded 'tapes' may be telling you!

Getting back to exercise is truly a case of 'mind over matter'. You have to listen to your self, ignore the tapes, and motivate your self to go out and do what it knows to be good for it. The body is the matter. The mind is the motivation and the promise of a healthy life. By taking these few tips and integrating them into your life, I hope that you are able to finally reach that which you dream; and deserve!