For many of my readers, high school gym class didn’t do you many favors. When you don’t feel like an athlete and when you are self-conscious about how you look, exercising in front of an audience is a special kind of nightmare. As we get older, these feelings likely remain. They may even become more pronounced, so we avoid the gym, and we may even avoid running around in the yard with our children.
These are common emotions among the people we work with and talk to on a daily basis. A bad experience early in life mixed with a social anxiety and self-worth challenges can create a nasty cocktail that keeps us from exercising for years and years.
If exercise evokes this kind of response in you, don’t worry. We have been there, and we have stood alongside thousands of people as they overcame these same kinds of obstacles.
Here are some suggestions for how you can turn exercise into its own kind of reward instead of something to be feared or dreaded:
Start small and comfortable.
Walking a few extra flights of stairs in your own home and perhaps doing something as accessible as one push-up against the wall each day can help you get moving and play a role in your journey to a healthy weight.
Try a walking program.
Where many workout programs go over the top with intensity, research shows that a simple walking program can make a big difference in the lives of most people. You don’t need to go to the gym to do it either! Add a few dozen steps each day as you feel your strength and endurance building, and it’s okay to improve at your own pace.
Pick up an active hobby.
If joining a game of pick-up basketball sounds intimidating for now, that’s okay. After you’ve done your walking for the day, give yourself 15 minutes to shoot some foul shots. You may find that a little bit of practice opens the door for joining a rec league or playing a few games with friends.
Be creative with how you exercise.
Lifting weights is a great way to get fit, but there are hundreds of exercise options to choose from. You could do a dance class or yoga or martial arts or hiking or kayaking. Find something that gets you excited to move!
Find a supportive personal trainer.
A good fitness expert who is empathetic and patient can help ease you into adding more movement to your lifestyle and help you do so safely. The key here is to find the right fit, so don’t be afraid to try a few different trainers before picking one.
Talk to your coach.
Your health coach has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, so reach out to him or her when you feel frustrated or when you have questions.
Exercise should become something you enjoy. It leads to a wealth of rewards for you and your family–being more active has been found to lead to lower rates of disease, which means more time with the people you love. At the same time, it can be fun and rewarding in its own right if you are patient with yourself and find the right activities for you.
As always, talk to your physician before beginning or changing your exercise routine.