INSPIRATION OR INTIMIDATION? Getting Started With Exercise

12 Feb

The woman in the picture is Ernestine Shepherd and she’s my hero!

How old do you think she is?

Ernestine Shepherd was the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in the world, as declared by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010 and 2011; as of 2011 she was 74 years old. She is in better shape than most people who are many decades younger. Here’s a Huffington Post article (with a video of her!) about Ms. Shepherd. She continues to inspire me.

But I know that while seeing her amazing body is inspirational to me, her success can be intimidating to others. Most of us have no plans to enter a bodybuilding content any time soon or ever for that matter. Since her results are so far removed from the typical person’s reality, there can be a multitude of emotional responses to her. While all feelings are valid, if you’re hoping to incorporate exercise into your life, not all feelings are helpful.

If you’re hoping to break through any resistance you feel towards exercise, here are a few tips to help you navigate this sometimes shaky territory.

+ FIND YOUR OWN PERSONAL HERO. Maybe Ms. Shepherd doesn’t inspire you to make exercise a daily habit. But, who could be your fitness hero? Were you inspired by someone from the last Olympics? Is there a neighbor or friend who has succeeded in their fitness goals? Don’t be surprised about finding these people. Just last week I learned that the woman next to me in yoga used to weigh 320 pounds 5 years ago. Today she weighs 160 pounds which is half her original size! I acknowledge that her situation is unusual. But there are every day folks who could be your hero. Maybe it’s the man who walks or bikes to work instead of driving. Or maybe it’s the woman who is quietly getting stronger by working consistently in her garden. Find someone about whom you can say, “If s/he can do it, so can I.”

+ DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF WITH OTHERS. This can be hard for those who are naturally competitive but if you set your fitness program up so that you are constantly competing with your personal best, you’ll always win! There is no value and no reason to compare yourself with anyone else!

+ HONOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL STYLE. Some people like to build structure into their fitness plans. That way, there is no need to debate with yourself about whether or not you’re going to the gym today. If it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday, it’s time to grab the gym bag. Done! But, if you dislike structure, there is no reason at all to think that you HAVE TO do anything at a particular time. Maybe you can find ways to get 30 minutes of exercise into each day by spending 5 minutes at a time when the opportunity presents itself. Whatever works, works!

+ Find ways to GET CONNECTED TO OTHERS WHO CARE ABOUT THEIR FITNESS. You know the significance of surrounding  yourself with a certain type of person, Here’s a good article about that. Finding a fitness partner provides lots of benefits.  If there isn’t a fitness support group in your area, maybe you could create one.  It doesn’t matter exactly how you do it, but get connected in a way that helps YOU!

+ BE REALISTIC ABOUT THE START-UP PROCESS. You’ll feel uncomfortable at first. If you let that be a surprise, you might get derailed when it happens. If you have neglected your body for some time, you can’t expect that you won’t feel anything different once you start exercising regularly. But, if you go slow and if you remember that the soreness is actually evidence of good progress, then you can more easily accept this stage. You should never exercise to the point of pain but don’t be surprised when you feel some discomfort!

+ FIND WAYS TO BUILD PHYSICALITY INTO WHAT YOU ALREADY DO. Do you value meditation? If yes, consider adding a walking meditation to your practice. Do you wish your house were cleaner? Turn zestful scrubbing and sweeping and vacuuming into part of your fitness plan. Do you value time with kids or grandkids? If yes, what activities can you do with them that are a bit more physical? Do you love gardening? Go ahead and come up with a plan to expand your garden. You know what you love. See if you can find ways to move more while doing THAT!

+ PACE YOURSELF! This advice doesn’t just apply to the getting started phase. It applies to all time. If you plan to make fitness a life-time commitment, there is no reason to push yourself. While progress is made by doing a little bit more every time, there is a balance between pushing yourself to the next level and pushing yourself too much. You’ll come to understand and appreciate that point.  Until you get there, GO SLOW BUT GO!

+ BUILD FUN INTO YOUR PLANS. What activities do you consider to be fun? Badminton? Dancing? Bowling? Hiking? Bird watching? Drama? Painting nature scenes (pick a place where you have to climb or hike to…)? Whatever it is, see if you can add some physicality to it and take the time to do it!

+ Most of all, BE KIND TO YOURSELF! Seriously, this is important. If you miss a few days or even more time slips by without exercise, just start again. It’s similar to learning to meditate. If your mind chatter takes over, let go of that and refocus on your breath. If you fall off the exercise wagon, get back on. Be kind to yourself and remember, you have your whole life to figure this out!


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