I’ve actually had some success getting started with exercising again, and a number of folks have mentioned how tough it is getting motivated to exercise.
I’ve got to tell you…..I whined and complained quite a bit getting going. I didn’t like exercising AT ALL. Why? Because it was really uncomfortable. For me, getting out of breath is a really scary feeling. I believed that my being out of shape was perhaps impossible to reverse, and that exercising meant that I had to put up with that awful out of breath feeling. I thought that exercise was always going to be unpleasant.
It was really embarrassing when I had to keep asking my kids to stop so I could catch my breath, especially when I was going uphill. I remember one time, I signed up for a 5K walk and I was walking with friends who had just finished running the same route. I asked them to slow down…..and they did, but I was still very uncomfortable. My knee hurt. My foot hurt. Everyone was going too fast. It was incredibly humiliating, and I had pain for days after.
I didn’t like the culture of exercise either. Exercise was never going to get me a hot body, so that just wasn’t going to work as motivation.
I started taking walks by myself. Walking by myself was less difficult, in that I could go at my own speed. It was so much more comfortable, and I didn’t have those embarrassing moments of asking a friend to take a break. Just keep telling yourself: if I can make it through the painful beginning of getting in better shape, the discomfort will gradually lessen.
There are other great things about walking by alone. When I’m on a trail with a friend and talking, the critters hear us and hide before we can see them. I see and hear so much more when I’m walking alone, and this makes it much more enjoyable for me. I get a lot of enjoyment from noticing each new flower blooming in the spring and summer, and all of the tiny changes in the plants from week to week.
You might not be interested in plants at all. You might be more motivated by keeping data on how far you walk each day and week. You might need to play around with different motivators to figure out what really floats your boat. The thing is, you can’t always know ahead of time what’s going to work for you. I didn’t know that there WERE herons, swans, eagles and hawks living so close by, that I might see.
I do get a little nervous about being alone on certain trails, especially in the summer when the underbrush is very thick. So if I am walking alone, I go at times where there are likely to be other people now and then. I rarely see other women walking alone, except on very well populated trails, or when they are walking a dog. I feel safer walking alone in the winter, as I can see far into the woods once all the leaves have fallen. Winter has it’s own special fun, as it’s much easier to see the birds. Flat trails become more challenging when there is snow. However, there are some places I just don’t walk alone. Being afraid tends to detract from the whole walk experience, and sucks away from your motivation. But I do notice that I am less afraid now that I am familiar with the trails, and alert to the usual noises.
I think that for many people, finding a walking buddy is a big motivator. If you have a job with regular hours, you could buddy up with a friend to walk before or after work, or at lunch. If the nearest walking places are boring or repetitive, it would be awesome to have someone to talk with. A sensitive friend would try to make adjustments in her pace if needed.
My work has quite varied hours, and I tend to sneak in walks when I have a free hour in between appointments. Even weekends, I often work or have family obligations….and then there’s the weather, and early nightfall. It takes a lot of motivation to work around all of these variables in the winter. In the summer, it’s easier to wait until later in the day when I am done working and it’s not so hot. If I only walked when I had a date with a friend, I wouldn’t get many walks in. In theory, walking dates with friends is a fabulous idea, but, it can be kinda limiting when you have a busy schedule.
At first, I thought I needed to go for a hike in a special place, and often drove 20–30 minutes to get there. So this took up a lot more time, and I was less likely to do it. Finding walking places on my regular travel routes made it more likely that I would take a walk. Sometimes on the weekend, when I have extra time, I explore a new potential walking spot. It takes extra time to find the trailhead and the parking, and sometimes you might worry about getting lost on the trail. This is a great use for a smart phone, as you can locate yourself on the GPS and figure out if you are going the right way. It is really amazing how many interesting walks I have found very close to home, researching on the internet and using Google maps. Once I am familiar with a trail, it is easier to go when my time is limited. During the work week, if I only have 30 minutes, I set an alarm for 15 minutes and force myself to turn around when it goes off.
So now, walking feels pleasurable and comfy, something I look forward to. The walking trails are like old friends, and I enjoy seeing the changes happening with the seasons and weather. So it’s turned from a “should” into a “want to”. Walking IS the reward now.
Everyone’s life is so different, I know that what makes it work for me is different than what might make it work for you. There’s a lot of “motivational” talk making it seem that it’s super easy — just do it. Just get out there. What could be easier than taking a walk? Well…..it’s not always so easy.