Wellness Wednesday with Fil – Identify and Remove Roadblocks

How is everyone doing with their daily change? In case you’re struggling to fit it in, I’m going to start a series on ways to get those changes started. This week: exercise.

We all know that we should exercise every day, but there are many things that can get in the way. I’m going to show you how to identify the roadblocks to exercise in your life, and then remove them.

In terms of general health, a very moderate amount of exercise is all that’s needed to provide major benefits. 20 minutes once a day of elevated heart rate and breathing stimulates the body to burn calories and build muscle, improves sleep, and greatly reduces the risk of common health risks like heart disease and diabetes. But, even 20 minutes seems like a lot of time to get away, especially when you go downstairs for two minutes to put the baby down, and your toddler decides to take that moment to unroll an entire case of toilet paper.

While carrying a chunky baby around or chasing a toddler is hard work and certainly good for you, it doesn’t elevate your heart rate enough to see the substantial health benefits I described above. So, it’s very much worth finding something to do that’s a bit harder. I’m not talking about mile repeats until you puke, just something hard enough to get you a little out of breath. My general rule is this: if you could carry on a phone conversation without the person on the other end knowing you’re working out, you’re not going hard enough. You should be able to talk, but in short sentences, and with very audible heavy breathing. Don’t overdo it – if you can’t count to ten out loud in a single breath, then you’re going too hard and probably won’t make it through 20 minutes. Deep breathing is good, out of breath and heart pounding in your ears is too hard.

There are many things that stop people from getting out there and working out. Check out this list and see how many of these impact you:

  • Lack of time – you’re going all day, and can barely fit in everything you have to do as it is.
  • No energy or motivation – you just want to plop down on the couch when you have a minute alone.
  • Weather or location – there’s no gym nearby, your area is too urban, too flat, too hilly, too hot, too cold, too wet, etc.
  • You don’t have a sport – workout videos are usually boring, and running on the treadmill at the gym is always boring.

What’s stopping you from working out every day? Post up! If you’re not sure, just start working out every day. Start with the easiest thing – go for a brisk walk for 20 minutes. If you miss this on any day, write down what stopped you. After a while, you’ll have a good idea of what is keeping you from committing to fitness!

Once you have an idea of the things that keep you from getting out there, you can address them. Exercise needs to be three things:

  • Simple – the more getting ready beforehand, and cleaning up after, the less likely you are to do it.
  • Enjoyable – if you hate it, of course you won’t do it. That said, some activities are an acquired taste. Running comes to mind…
  • Achievable – if you haven’t ever been a runner, attempting to go run 2 miles is probably not going to happen. Try a walk interspersed with 30-second jogs at first.

There’s no “best workout” for everyone. We all have different preferences, schedules, and motivations. You have to find what works for you. That said, here are some ideas:

The easiest way to pick up the pace, aerobically speaking, is to fight gravity. When you head uphill, it takes a decent amount of effort just to keep moving. If you’re pushing a stroller or carrying a baby in a backpack, it’s even harder. So, don’t think you need to go to the gym or do something that obviously looks like a workout, such as running or rowing. If you live in a hilly area like most of Seattle or San Francisco, you almost can’t go for a walk pushing a stroller without getting in a good workout!

It can be tough to get outside with a little one. It’s one thing to suit up and go run in 33 degree rain yourself, but it’s hard to keep a baby warm and dry and safe in those conditions. So having at least the option of working out inside is a good backup. If you have young kids that nap, that’s a great opportunity to sneak in your workout. It’s tempting to just collapse on the couch after they finally go down, but you never know how long they will be out – exercise as soon as they fall asleep! Having a bike set up on a trainer, or some kind of exercise machine is the easiest thing for inside work. It’s pretty tough to keep that intensity up without some sort of machine. Rowing machines are affordable and a killer workout, but it can be hard to watch a screen while rowing, if that’s your jam. Treadmills are good, but large and expensive, and I personally can’t stand them. If you already have a bike of almost any kind, simple magnetic trainers can be had for as little as $50, and take up very little space. It’s also very easy to do other things while pedaling on a trainer. If you want to spend the money, connected “smart trainers” or exercise bikes will hook to the web and let you do planned workouts, group rides, or competitions. One major advantage of most purpose-built exercise bikes over a normal bike on a trainer is safety – spinning spoked wheels are very dangerous for small fingers, so don’t ride a bike on a trainer with little ones wandering loose! Setting up a simple gate or fence around the bike (even just the back half) can keep them safe while you’re on it.

It can help a lot to combine something you like to do with the workout. For instance, if there’s a podcast you like to listen to, or a show you like to watch every day, don’t let yourself take that in unless you are exercising. Having a daily media release associated with getting that workout in really helps keep you on a regular workout schedule, as well as passing the time while you exercise.

Different things work for different people. Usually we have the time to work out, it just takes dedication and motivation to make it. For some people, having something super-easy is they key. If you are strong-willed and decisive enough to deal with the variability, having a wide range of options can be perfect. One day you can push the stroller up the hill, another you can use the rowing machine in the basement, another you can go run solo while your spouse watches the kids. But for many people, too many choices results in paralysis. Having something scheduled every day like a spin class, soccer match, or club run is just the ticket to keep some people on track. Some health clubs even have babysitting or day care associated with them, so you can bring the kids!

Sorry, golf doesn’t count. Neither does bowling or slow-pitch softball. Those are great activities, but aren’t going to help your health very much. As a rule, if you can comfortable play a game while consuming a six-pack, it’s probably not a good workout. Ultimate frisbee, soccer, flag football, and other team sports that force you to run are a much better way to see changes to your body and health.

This week, find your roadblocks, pick a type of exercise that mitigates them, and get after it – just remember to keep it fun!

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