To keep going strong, keep these 8 tidbits in mind.
If you’ve recently begun or returned to exercise, then be warned: This early period will leave you susceptible to quitting. In fact, many, many Americans do not work out. According to the CDC, 53.3% of adults aged 18 and over meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity and only 23.2% meet the muscle-strengthening activity guidelines. So, if you’ve recently jumped into the mix, KUDOS! Just be aware that this marks a very important time for cementing your new habit.
Here are 8 tidbits of info that will help to keep your body, mind, and new routine going strong:
1. It will get easier.
It’s really a shame that the hardest phase of a new workout routine is the beginning phase. Not only do our bodies feel the jolt, but we have to add an activity to our schedule and possibly even master new skills (especially if we’re strength training). Rest assured, that if you stick it out, things will improve. It may require 4-6 weeks of talking yourself into persevering, but it will be well worth it. And what’s a month and a half in a bigger picture that potentially includes years ahead of exercise?
2. You will experience some immediate benefits.
Although the workout itself may feel pretty challenging (which is normal), you’ll almost surely end it with a nice mood boost, thanks to the endorphins you’ve triggered via exercise. In addition, you'll enjoy these less obvious advantages: blood pressure will drop slightly within 24-48 hours post-workout. Blood sugar drops slightly as well, since muscles draw glucose from the bloodstream to use as fuel during exercise.
3. You will experience many long-term benefits.
As you work through this potentially challenging period, think of your efforts as an investment in future health. As we place gradual physical demands on our bodies, they reward us with myriad health benefits. Regular exercise is linked with improved strength and independence; higher energy levels and less fatigue; improved balance; prevention of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and osteoporosis; better sleep; lower blood pressure; weight control; lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Whew, what an impressive mouthful!
4. You will probably be somewhat sore.
In the biz, we call it “delayed onset muscle soreness.” When our muscles face unusual demands, they often become sore & achy within 24-48 hours. This is normal and to be expected. To find some relief, try stretching, taking an anti inflammatory, applying cold for brief periods, and/or getting plenty of shut eye (as tissue repair happens during sleep). Gradually, your body will adjust, and you may experience soreness only on occasion. And despite the persistent belief that being sore means you had a “great” workout, you should actually NOT be sore following every workout.
5. You may or may not lose weight.
Many of us pursue exercise because we’re told we’ll lose lots of weight. While we MAY drop a few pounds, weight loss is an extremely complex and personalized process, which often means adjusting MANY lifestyle factors such as what we eat, how much we sleep, how stressed we are, etc. Research does show, however, that exercise helps to control weight. Regular workouts can help us stop the process of continuing to gain, which is a huge benefit, especially as we age. Also, what we SHOULD expect, especially if engaged in regular strength training, is a change in our physiques as we rebuild some muscle and sculpt our appearance.
6. Others will notice.
This often takes folks by surprise, but if you start exercising regularly, you can bet someone will ask what’s different about you and what you’ve been doing. Exercise imbues people with a sense of vibrance. Once you tell them, they may just want to know more and see you as a role model. Family members and friends may even find the inspiration to join the ranks of regular exercisers — via your example.
7. Your joints & muscles will need some extra TLC.
We’ve mentioned how to address the soreness that comes with initial workouts, but you should generally take extra special care of joints and muscles, not only during the early stage but as a regular part of your regimen. This means never skipping warm-ups and cool downs, stretching at least 2-3 times a week (if not daily), using heat and ice as needed, not taking on too much exercise too quickly, and consulting your physician or physical therapist at the first sign of a problem.
8. You will not regret it.
Of all the people I’ve worked with over the years as a trainer and group exercise instructor, I have NEVER met someone who has told me they wished they never started exercising. If anything, some have yearned to go back in time and start sooner. This is for all the reasons mentioned above. Yes, regular exercise is a huge effort and the time it takes rivals a small part-time job, BUT it’s what our bodies are designed to do, and they feel fantastic when given this chance. Add to that what exercise does for the spirit, and you’ll think twice before giving it up. Ride out these early weeks, and you’ll be riding high in the months to come.
Photo at Pexels by Julia Larson: https://www.pexels.com/photo/crop-trainer-giving-hand-to-tires-black-woman-6456295/