People seldom “fail” with their exercise program. What does happen is that they fail to achieve the success they had hoped for. Far from a failure, this is usually the result of their not really understanding what is required from them for an exercise program to be successful.
The five main reasons that most people are not successful with their exercise program are these:
1. They try to do much too soon.
2. They have inaccurate or inappropriate expectations.
3. They get bored.
4. They lose their motivation.
5. They quit too soon.
Since these are the main reasons that many exercise programs don’t seem to do the job, then addressing them may make us more successful with the exercise side of our fitness and weight loss plans. So, let’s take a look at each in turn and see if we can figure out what to do.
The dangers of overdoing exercise.
A factor that figures into all five issues is simply ignorance. I don’t mean that as an insult, it’s just that people go out and buy a piece of equipment or a Richard Simmons DVD and jump in with both feet. Even if they read the directions, those are normally written from the viewpoint of “this is what you should be doing” rather than “this is how you get to the point where you can do what you should be doing”. Since most people don’t really know much about exercise or how it works, and I was once one of those people, they tend to make a lot of mistakes, even though they have the best of intentions.
One of these mistakes is to try to do too much too soon.
Let’s say your new barbell set says, that for maximum effect, you should be able to three sets of ten reps a certain exercise with the weight set at one-fourth of your body weight. So, you figure you weigh 160 lbs, set the bar at 40 lbs, and do ten reps. You’re a little winded. It was a bit hard, but you were able to do it. You rest a minute, and try again. It’s harder, but you’re still able to get through it. You take another short rest and do the third set. Wow! You had to squeeze out the last couple of reps, but you did it! You feel good. You’ve got what it takes, and you can’t wait until the next exercise day.
What has happened is that you have produced a large amount of damage to muscle tissue that your body will now have to spend the next couple of days fixing. Since you are out of shape (even if you were able to do all three sets), your body is going to have a hard time getting that work done. This is going to impact almost every physical and mental event over the next several hours or even days.
The next day, what happens? You hurt like hell! That’s what happens. Even if you can convince yourself that this is a good sign, continuing on in this manner will eventually either produce a real injury, or will set you up mentally and physically to begin wanting to avoid your workouts, whether you are doing aerobics, lifting weights, running, swimming, bicycling, or working in your garden.
Most people simply do not realize how much is going on internally when they take an out-of-shape body and begin demanding that it perform as if it were already in shape.
So, just take it easy. Start off slow and gradually ease your way up to higher levels. Many marathoners were barely able to walk to the end of the block and back when they first started. Many a housewife has begun her “exercise program” with a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup in each hand. Start light and increase gradually. Don’t worry if you don’t see “results” at first. Good things are happening inside your body.
When it comes to expectations, get real.
As trite as it is, one of the best remarks to remember is: It took you years to get this way and you’re not going to change things in a couple of days. No matter how badly you try, you simply will not lose 20 lbs in 10 days. It happens, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Also, each of us is different. If your neighbor tries an exercise routine or diet and loses weight right away, you cannot assume that you will respond the same way. The one main thing you can say is that if you do your exercises regularly and gradually challenge yourself, your body will make the appropriate changes in outward appearance and inner capabilities.
Yes! Exercise CAN get boring.
Doing anything day after day can be boring whether it’s exercise, sex, or eating ice cream…at least for most of us. A few people can do things over and over and never get tired of it, but most of us aren’t built that way. Even if you are doing everything the right way, have good expectations, have a great program, and are seeing good results, getting up 45 minutes early for the 150th day in a row and strapping on those running shoes is going to get old eventually. Do what you can to liven it up a bit. Even if you just like to go for a walk, can’t you walk somewhere else today? Why not substitute a swim, a bicycle ride, a visit to the zoo, or an hour’s worth of yard work for your walk? If you do military press, curls, and bench presses with your weights, why not do triceps extensions, preacher curls, and dumbbell flys today? Or, you could go to the park, do some chin ups and pushups and then take a long walk yourself. Who says you have to do exactly the same thing in the same place every day?
I listen to the news or play a motivational video while I’m on my walker. Before I know it, the walk is over and I didn’t even notice it.
Your goal is to stay motivated.
How many times have you begun a program or project with a very strong motivation, only to find that after a few days, you just didn’t feel like doing it any more? The other night, you saw a documentary on the potential dangers of heart disease in sedentary people and were so affected by it that you took an oath to begin exercising regularly. Perhaps you were in Sears or Dillard’s shopping for some new clothes, or even worse, a bathing suit, and found that you needed the next size up…again! You went home and vowed that you would do whatever it took to get back to the size you were in high school (unrealistic expectation) and that afternoon you began your exercise program and felt so good about what you were doing. A few days later, you just couldn’t find the time or the motivation to do your workout. In fact, you weren’t even thinking about whatever it was that kicked you into gear in the first place.
Write it down. As you are writing it down on paper, try to relive in your heart and mind every boliling emotion…pain, fear, embarrassment, anger…whatever tripped your trigger in the first place. Make it a statement about what you feel, what you want to change, why you want to change, and how you intend to change. Put it in your purse, wallet, or pocket, and take it out and read it a few times a day. Every time you read it, try to read it out loud, and try to reconstruct in your very being the thoughts and feelings you had when you wrote it down. Paste it on your mirror, put it on the fridge, tell your best friend if you dare, but revive it in your heart several times a day, every day.
Whatever you do, don’t quit.
One of the main reasons many people feel that their exercise program has failed them is because they quit too soon. Remember that thing about how it took you years to get this way and it’s not going to change overnight? The visible results of a day’s exercise, a week’s exercise, or a month’s exercise may not give you a reason to keep on getting up at the crack of dawn or paying those gym fees. However, six month’s worth of steady, regular, moderate exercise will awaken most people to the wonders of life that await them in their newer, slimmer, physically fitter body. Oh, six month’s won’t be enough, and some people may have to wait a year or more to see the real results, but science and several million people have proven that if you are exercising regularly, challenging yourself and moving upwards, you WILL see the results you have been hoping for.
You will see results, and so will everybody else.