Years ago when fleece jogging suits of every color were the height of fashion, I decided I should take up jogging. Everyone was doing it, and wouldn’t I look good being so fit and fashionable? So I rolled out of bed and onto the street. I ran through the neighborhood of apartments and morning traffic trying to feel as good as I looked.
Sadly, this impulsive act didn’t last long enough for me to discover endorphins.
Twenty-five years later I’m a runner. I run today because I have a much better reason. Playing soccer requires a certain level of fitness and I really want to play soccer. As you may already know, I derive many benefits from my participation in the sport.
The running I’ve done for the last eight to ten years looks a lot different from my first attempts. I usually run at the civilized hour of 4 p.m. I’ve left the old neighborhood for the river valley trails, where I’m surrounded by the beauty of the changing landscape, season after season. And most importantly, I run with friends. We have much to discuss. Until we get to that last hill I sometimes forget I am running.
So let me tell you about my friend whom I will call MaryAnne, because that’s her name. The truth is, if it weren’t for MaryAnne I probably wouldn’t be a runner today. You see MaryAnne really likes running – a lot. I prefer yoga. Where inclement weather or a really sore hangnail could deter me, not MaryAnne. She is the most disciplined person I know.
MaryAnne has but one small weakness. She won’t run alone. MaryAnne needs a steady supply of running partners to fuel her passion. And she’s outrun a few. MaryAnne never stops calling and she never gives up trying to accommodate everyone’s schedule. There are days I wish she didn’t try quite so hard.
If you’re having difficulty getting active you could be making the same mistakes I did years ago. Here are four ideas to set you up for a successful fitness plan.
1. Choose what fits you. I’m not talking about the outfit. Choose activities, times and venues that suit your preferences, needs, schedules and comfort zones. For example, weight training is a great activity for losing weight because you build muscle, and muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. However, if you really dislike lifting weights, gyms and the clanking of steel, you won’t likely stick with it. Therefore weight training is not the right activity for you.
Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to find your fit. There are enough possibilities to keep you experimenting for a long time. Try to identify your preferences that will help you reach your goals. Do you prefer group activity? Do you want to be indoors or out? Keep looking until you find something you enjoy at a time and place that also works.
2. Set a reasonable schedule that you can keep. When I first started running, the intent was to run every day. This is a really bad idea because it sets you up to fail. Sometimes it takes a little time and discipline to develop the skills and to start to enjoy what you’re doing. If you’re trying too hard and the focus is all discipline, you’re quite likely to quit before you build the confidence or find enjoyment. It’s better to start slowly, build confidence and proficiency and work your way up to greater frequency and difficulty.
3. Find your reason why. It’s important to understand what’s important to you and why. That becomes your motivator when you really don’t want to move your butt. For me, sucking wind on the soccer field is way too painful. I’d rather run and make soccer fun. What is your reason that is important enough to get you moving? Is it about avoiding medication, illness or premature death? Or is it about what you want to move towards, like living well to a ripe old age, creating energy, keeping up with someone special? Now why do you want what you want? What benefits are you looking for? Keep whittling away until you have absolute clarity. The more clarity you have, the more you will be consistently motivated and your activity becomes something you actually want to do.
4. Find your “MaryAnne”. Find a partner who is more active and committed than you currently are that can help you get started and will hold you accountable. Someone who will push you and set high expectations is much better than a friend who is relieved to hear that you too have a sore hangnail.
If you don’t have a single MaryAnne in your Rolodex you can hire one. They’re called fitness trainers. Like trainers, thankfully my MaryAnne doesn’t give a hoot how I look. It’s a good thing, because four o’clock is fast approaching. Gotta run!