Just Get Started
By: Barb Brown, PT, MAHSM
As I have met with numerous clients working on weight management, I have found that the biggest hurdle is just getting started. Clients often say “I can’t walk 30 minutes because of my knees” or “I can’t bike for 30 minutes because of my back.” Of course if you have never exercised before, you are not going to be able to do this amount of activity.
The key is to pick an activity that you enjoy and to get started. That may mean three times a day you are going to walk to the mailbox or to the end of the street. Or perhaps you will use your recumbent bike for 5 minutes per day with no resistance. Start where you feel comfortable and set small goals.
To progress your activity, add one minute each day to your walking program or 2-3 minutes weekly to biking. Distance is not the important indicator; it is most important to look at time. With that being said, you first want to increase your time in small increments and then increase your intensity (speed or resistance) once you have reached thirty minutes of continuous activity. Always remember that as you increase your time, you should include 5 minutes of warm-up and 5 minutes of cool down. Also, your time in your intense work out will be the area that also increases, while also allowing for warm up and cool down.
Avoid Boredom During Exercise
To make this time more enjoyable and to stay accountable, you may want to engage a fitness buddy. Exercising with a friend increases you enjoyment, safety and motivation. To avoid boredom, it is also helpful to vary your routes or add music with a quick beat to enhance your exercise. Watching TV or listening to a book on tape can also help to pass the time, but be careful not to get so engrossed in the program that you lose your focus on your exercise.
Choose the Right Exercise Equipment
Another factor to consider when starting out that can help you be successful is to make sure your equipment is in good working condition. Treadmills should be lubricated per manufactures recommendations and bikes should have seats that can be positioned to the optimal length for performance with your leg outstretched and knee still slightly bent. If the seat is too low or close the hips and knees will have to bend too much. If the seat is too high the joints are overextend and the muscles are less efficient.
Wear the Right Shoes & Clothing
Shoes are another piece of equipment to consider in terms of the exercise program. Make sure your shoes fit appropriately, with a thick, firm, flexible sole. The closure should hold the foot snug, be made of breathable upper material, have good arch support and a large toe box. Shoes should feel comfortable right away and not require a breaking in period. Wearing sandals, flip flops or shoes with a heel are not appropriate for long distance walking so even if you are just walking to the mailbox, get in the habit of donning your walking shoes.
Clothes are also very important. Wear loose fitting cotton or moisture wicking fabric and sun protection in all seasons. The sun’s rays are still working even when the air temperature cools. Wool gloves and hats and layering are best in cold weather. And if you choose to walk in the rain, wear a raincoat or hat, but avoid umbrellas to allow your arms to swing freely.