Starting an Exercise Program: The Right Time Is Now
Walking Is a Good Choice for Many
Walking deserves special focus because it is often the easiest, most convenient and best exercise for many people. It works well because:
- No special equipment is necessary, except for a good pair of walking shoes (which you should have anyway).
- It doesn’t cost anything.
- It is noncompetitive, so old feelings of not being as good as others don’t come up.
- You can walk anytime, anywhere that is safe. You may walk on the track at the local school after school hours. I find that walking on one of the rural walking trails or abandoned roads in our area has the added benefit of communion with nature.
- You can walk in whatever you happen to be wearing.
- You don’t have to change your clothes or take a shower after walking.
- It is very unlikely that you will incur the type of overuse injuries that occur with other types of exercise.
Difficulty Beginning or Sticking to an Exercise Program
Like most people, you may have difficulty beginning or sticking to an exercise program. You may feel that you don’t have time, that it interferes with other responsibilities and that you won’t enjoy it. Perhaps one or several of the following suggestions would help you to resolve this problem:
- Consider your exercise time as fun or “play” time, not as work. Everyone needs and deserves to have time to play.
- Ask friends or family members to exercise with you.
- Reward yourself each time you exercise or after you have followed your exercise plan for a specific length of time. You could put aside a dollar each time you exercise to save for something you have been wanting like an article of clothing, a CD or a meal at a restaurant you enjoy. After a week of successful exercise, you might treat myself to a healthy lunch out with a special friend. After exercising becomes part of your routine, you won’t need to reward yourself, as you will find that the exercise itself is ample reward.
- Combine exercise with other strategies you use to keep yourself well, such as:
- Using a light box;
- Focusing on positive thoughts; and/or
- Connecting with family members and supporters.
- Schedule exercise at the same time each day to provide structure and help to insure continuation of your exercise program.
- If you find it difficult to exercise in the winter and in bad weather, you may want to get a piece of exercise equipment such as an exercise bicycle or rowing machine. You can often find these at very low prices in the bargain sections of the newspaper (being sold by people who had good intentions but never followed through), at second hand stores or at local “swap shops.”
Avoid sabotaging yourself. If you miss a day, several days or even weeks of exercise, don’t give up and stop exercising. Just start in again. If you have a long hiatus or have stopped exercising because of an injury or illness, start again gradually.
Keeping Track Can Keep You on Track
Regular exercise has many benefits. It may help you to stick to your exercise regime if you keep a record of your exercise and how it makes you feel. Each time you exercise, write a few sentences in a notebook that describe what you did, how you felt before you did it, how you felt after you did it, and any short- or longer-term benefits you are noticing. This helps to keep you on track and, if you review your writings from time to time, can be a strong motivator to continue your program.
Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D. is an author, educator and mental health recovery advocate, as well as the developer of WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). To learn more about her books, such as the popular The Depression Workbook and Wellness Recovery Action Plan, her other writings, and WRAP, please visit her website, Mental Health Recovery and WRAP. Reprinted here with permission.
Copeland, M. (2016). Starting an Exercise Program: The Right Time Is Now. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 1, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/starting-an-exercise-program-the-right-time-is-now/