How to Begin an Exercise Program

You may have been an athlete in your earlier years, or are just getting back into exercise after a long time, yet beginning an exercise program of any kind requires following a few rules in order to be successful.  The biggest mistake that most of us make when we begin an exercise program is to do too much of it at once.  In fact, another mistake that we make even before that is to pattern our exercise program after the last time we did one, whether a few years or 25 years back.  If our program was vigorous, we seem to think that we should start out just like we did back then.  Doing this will almost always ensure that we will end our program within a few short weeks or, at most, a few months.  So, how do we start an exercise program that will last?

The smartest way to begin is to first ask yourself what you are willing to be committed to.  If fitness or weight loss or more muscle is what you want, and you only want it without having any conscious commitment to it, then you are just about guaranteed to not accomplish it.  If you begin a program of exercise with only a vague sense of what to do and how much to do, then you will never build the foundation within yourself that allows you to sustain the program and accomplish extraordinary results.  Find out what you want and ask yourself if you are willing to be committed to accomplishing it.  This means that, no matter what, you will do what it takes to get there.  Then look at what exercises you could do to fulfill on your goals, and how frequently you should be doing them in order to get where you want to be.  You probably should write this down.  It just won’t last in your head for very long.  The next step is to start off with baby steps.  If, for example, part of, or all of your program is working out on an elliptical trainer, then you must decide the number of days per week that you will be doing it, even the time of day that you will be doing it.  If you don’t have the time of day, you may leave it to the last minute, and then convince yourself that you didn’t have enough time and put it off.  Baby steps on an elliptical trainer would be getting on it on the day and at the time you said you would, and then doing it for one minute at the lowest resistance setting.  Do it for one minute however many times per week you have stated that you will do it, and then, when you realize that you are ready to go for more than one minute, go for one minute and thirty seconds, or at most two minutes.  Do that until your body tells you that that new time is not enough, then make it for three minutes.  By doing baby steps, even though the beginning steps may seem ridiculous and unproductive, you are accomplishing two very important things that work to sustain an exercise program.  One, you are keeping your word about doing the program and, two, you are acclimating your body very slowly towards accomplishing your goals.  By the time you get up to 20 minutes, for example, your body is ready for it and accepts it the same as it did at two minutes.  If you do too much at once, and it is not a very pleasant experience, you more than likely will not be looking forward to doing it again, hence, the very high dropout rate amongst beginning exercisers.  Knowing that you can and will keep your word is vitally important to following through on the commitment that you made to accomplish your goals.  Before you know it, you are exercising at a level that you never thought was possible and accomplishing what you set out to accomplish.

A word about not having enough time.  There are some of us who literally do not have the time to exercise.  In my estimation, that is a very small minority.  Most of us say this and don’t realize that what we are really saying is that we are not willing to make the time to exercise.  If you attempt to put exercise into a very busy schedule where it is not a priority, it may very well not fit, and it would seem like you don’t have the time.  But if you realize how being fit and strong is the foundation for success in every aspect of your life, you may begin to see that exercise deserves to be your #1 priority, and most of us, I would guess, can rearrange our priorities to make exercise happen.  The rearranging may be huge, but it is more than worth it if you are willing to understand how vital it is to your life.  A lack of exercise can and often will lead to an increase in incidence of injury and health related issues.  Take the time to think this through, for yourself and for those who love you.  It is that important.