The month in between Christmas and Thanksgiving is often a sluggish one for gym-goers, as holiday malaise or simply overcrowded schedules set in. Recently, I spoke about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle both inside and outside of the gym. I focused on how one’s diet affects his or her health, but I want to speak more to how important it is to start an exercise routine, for those who have yet to begin, and to keep it up even in the sluggish months, for those who have. If you are truly looking to optimize your health and happiness, exercise is essential to life.
Now for many, time can breed complacency and few areas in life slip faster than physical health when we stop making physical activity a priority.
As children, most of us had a litany of excuses we could use to convince our parents to let us go outside and play. We couldn’t wait to go running out that door for recess and an epic game of kickball on the school playground. But years have passed, and for most of us, the luster of running outside to kick a ball and run around some bases has all but left us. Some may even be laughing at the thought of playing kickball again as an adult; I know I did before joining a kickball league in Atlanta two years ago. But I found I did not regret it for even a single day. It is amazing to be able to enjoy being a kid again.
It would have been possible If I had not taken a first step four years ago to get on a treadmill.
I left high school a three-sport varsity athlete playing football and competing in both track & field and Olympic weightlifting. It seemed like every spare moment I had was spent getting stronger or faster in a gym or on a field somewhere. Fast forward to some years later: I found myself sitting at 342 pounds, and out of breath after climbing a single flight of stairs. It is fair to say I had let myself go. There I was, knowing this was no life for me, with a desire to change, and no energy to follow through. So I said to myself, “dig deeper”.
I knew I had more energy to give, and the excuses began to melt away. I was no longer too busy to workout because I made my workouts a priority in my life. For some, that may mean the first thing they do when waking up every morning is work out. The day gets long, and the energy to work out after eight or more hours in the office may not be there at the end of the day. Working out first thing in the morning ensures that nothing else can pop up in your day and take precedence. For me, it took making and adhering to a schedule to remain consistent, along with a few 3:00 a.m. workouts during bouts of insomnia. I was so ashamed that I had reached a point where I could no longer run around a track one time without stopping to walk. So I did just that, and everyday I could run a little farther. Now I am capable of running 6 or more miles in a clip.
I started walking when I couldn’t run, and 17 months later I had dropped 120 lbs.
“You can only start where you are, son,” my father said to me on many an occasion as a young man. He reminded me that the first step is always the hardest, but it all begins with the first step. I urge you to take your first step today. If you can’t find the energy to work out, hire a personal trainer to motivate and keep you accountable, even if it is only for one day a week. If you can’t afford a trainer, or getting to a gym is an inconvenience, find some friends or family to start with in a small home or community center-based group and keep each other accountable. If the idea of working out in the gym terrifies you, start in your living room or garage at home.
No excuse formed by you shall prosper because you are singularly focused on being the healthiest person you can be. Every day you are able to get up off the couch and move is another day you have been blessed with the ability to get up off the couch and move.
If you can’t do fifty push ups, do five push ups, ten times a day. Whatever you do, get moving. The quality of your life will change dramatically for the better.
Here is a simple at home workout one can do daily. I do it first thing in the morning to get the heart pumping and wake up, but any time of day works well.
Exercise #1: 5o Body Weight Squats (Add a jump and calf raises for overall leg development)
Exercise #2: 50 Push ups (Modifiers include incline push ups, and push ups off the knees)
Exercise #3: 50 Hip bridges (Make sure to squeeze hard at the top)
Exercise #4: 50 Side Planks (25 to each side)
Exercise #5: 50 Crunches (Reverse Crunches for a little challenge)
Exercise #6: 50 Isometric Back Extensions from the floor