build up your exercise routine

Building Exercise Momentum

Disclaimer: I wrote this piece before I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s. I was always looking for ways to exercise more, and it helped me lose weight and was great for my mood. I overdid it, though. If you have a chronic illness, follow these suggestions as tolerated but don’t overtax yourself.

Nothing to Something

It’s always hard to get moving when you’ve been inactive for a long time.  Going from a few steps per day to an active lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight.  It will take a little buildup over time, and it doesn’t have to be a huge chore to squeeze in more movement every day.  In 2016 I started a journey to regain the “old” me – being able to move comfortably, fitting into my clothes, and feeling (relatively) energetic.  One of the things that helped me achieve that was as simple as squeezing in extra steps whenever I had a few moments.  Let me share with you what I did to get the ball rolling again.

First Steps

Go take a few steps.  Really, do it now, I’ll wait.

How did that feel?  Not too bad, I hope.  I just took a few too, just to be in on this with you.  Now, look around your home and take note of the layout.  Do you have stairs?  Any hallways?  Is the main living area closed off or can you make a loop around from one room to another and end up back in the same place?

Our house has two floors, and the downstairs provides me with a “loop” that takes 23 steps to complete.  Not huge, but it’s measurable.  I did that loop for a few minutes here and there, and it added up to miles over time.

walking to exercise more

My husband made fun of me, saying I was “orbiting” the bathroom (there’s a powder room in the center of my little loop).  Don’t laugh (ok, I guess it’s a little weird) –  it really helped!  I could orbit that bathroom several times while I was heating up something in the microwave, waiting for someone to call me back, anytime I had a few minutes that weren’t tied to some other task.  While it wasn’t instantly life-transforming, for at least those few minutes at a time, I felt in control of my life and like I was accomplishing something.  My energy level even popped up a little.  If you charted my energy level through the day, you would see a “blip” every time I took my short walk.

Exercise Momentum Will Build

Getting back to my former, more active self took less time than I expected.  As I picked up more steps, I felt a lift, and wanted to find other ways to move too.  I made a point to use the upstairs bathroom when I was downstairs, and vice versa.  I broke out the old step aerobics step, and started doing 30 minutes of stepping in front of the tv.

When the weather was nice, I mapped out a 1.8 mile route in the neighborhood.  That walk took me about 35 minutes at first, and I gradually found myself getting home faster and faster, eventually having enough time to do it twice in a day.  The more I moved, the easier it got, and the more I wanted to move. Group fitness classes were next, and before I knew it my cardio endurance was building.  With exercising more, I started noticing I could get off the floor with no hands and my balance was improving.

It Doesn’t Take Long

Overall, within two months I started really noticing a difference in how my body felt and I started seeing myself as “active” again.  In hindsight, I’m not sure how confident I was that I could feel that way again.  Seeing each small chunk of time as an opportunity to get “a little bit” of movement in brought about an inner change that I don’t think I had experienced before quite like it.

exercise rewards

Notice I’ve said “movement” rather than focus on “workouts” or “running” or “exercising”.  What’s the difference?  Scale.  I didn’t see “moving” as insurmountable, and before I knew it the little bits of “movement” were in reality, “exercise” or “workouts”.  Talk about rewarding!

What can you do today to move more than you did yesterday?

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