Jump-Start Your Fitness Plan

Having trouble finding the time — or the will — to exercise? We asked three former couch potatoes how they got off their sofas and into shape.
Jump-Start Your Fitness Plan
It's no wonder we frequently skip exercise. By the time we get home, get dinner ready, and prep ourselves (and possibly the entire family) for the next day, even flossing seems like a time-consuming chore! But as tough as it can seem to fit it into your day, exercise should be a vital part of your daily routine. "It's the single best thing you can habitually do," says exercise physiologist John Acquaviva, PhD, assistant professor of physical education at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia.

Acquaviva says that the most common mistake people make when starting a fitness program is doing too much or too little. "Too much results in extreme fatigue and soreness, leading to a stop in the program," he says. "Too little or not enough intensity can lead to few results and discourage people from continuing." Acquaviva advises fitness newbies to create short- and long-term goals. "Make sure they're realistic and attainable," he notes.

Once you've started, Acquaviva says, it's easier to sustain your motivation if you try some of the following strategies:

  • Keep a diary to monitor your improvement.

  • Find a workout partner.

  • Choose exercises that you enjoy.

  • Investigate different activities by taking classes.

The best inspiration comes from those who understand how difficult it is to become an exercise convert. Consider the stories of these former couch potatoes, and use their real-life success stories to get you moving.

She found a routine she could love
Susan hated exercise, but when she reached her weight goal, she knew she needed to become more active in order to maintain her weight loss. She decided to hire a personal trainer to create a home program. "When she asked me my goal, I told her that I wanted to be able to eat a lot and not gain weight!" Susan readily admits.

But, she says, she instantly fell in love with lifting weights and even surprised herself by joining a gym. She also began searching for a cardio program she liked. She tried step, dance aerobics, a treadmill and a NordicTrack machine, but says she disliked them all. Finally she tried spinning, and enjoyed the challenge. "I'm still motivated by the fact that I can ease up on my food restriction and not gain weight," Susan says. "But the real benefit is my increased energy and mental well-being."

She worked fitness into her schedule
A layoff offered Jessica the opportunity she needed to begin exercising. "I had been meaning to exercise for quite some time," she admits. She set up a weekly walking date at the park, and that inspired her to add solo walks and bike rides to her routine. When she started a new job, she worried that it might zap her time for exercise, but she has sustained her activity level.

"I manage to fit in smaller routine walks everywhere — to the train, around town, even up and down the stairs in my building," she says. "And I still keep my walking and biking dates on the weekend."

She started slow and kept going
Bobbi was prompted to start an exercise program by "the fact that I was only 26 years old and couldn't walk a block without my back beginning to hurt." She decided to take some time for herself and her health and began an exercise program. Her advice is to take it slow and do what you can.

"In no time, you'll feel like you can increase the intensity and the duration of the activity, and from there you'll start to feel great," she says. Now, Bobbi notices how much better she feels on the days she exercises. "Some sort of physical activity every day is so important — not only physically but mentally. Even if it's only twenty minutes."

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