Whether you worked out yesterday or don’t even own sneakers, these are the strategies you need to get back into the groove and build a fitness habit.
Maybe you used to be sporty in high school and have the old uniforms stored to prove it. Perhaps you exercised fairly regularly up until a few years ago - but when your gym paused classes, you feel like you closed, too. Or maybe you've never been much of an exerciser but now that you're focusing on healthy aging, you're ready to be a late bloomer; you just don't know how to begin.
No matter what your situation, it might feel like you’re looking at a mountain ahead, but here’s the good news: The path is easier than you might think, according to Larysa DiDio, a personal trainer and fitness author who developed the 2022 Make Your Move Challenge exclusively for SilverSneakers.
"It's easy to feel overwhelmed if you're making the transition into a new fitness habit, because the tendency is to feel like you have to catch up, or that you need to do a huge amount of exercise to make a difference," DiDio says. "Fortunately, that's not true. In fact, the best way to prevent injury and see progress is the slow-and-steady approach."
Whatever your starting point, here are her best tips to help you ease into a new routine:
Start with Mini-Workouts
If you haven't moved in a while, an hourlong workout is going to feel v-e-r-y long. Thankfully, that's not where you have to start. Begin with short sequences like 5, 10, or 15 minutes, suggests DiDio, and that includes a brief warmup and cooldown period. Even just taking a walk can be your workout if you do it regularly.
“The important part when you’re getting into fitness isn’t how long you work out, it’s just creating a habit,” says DiDio. “The biggest step is just to start.”
The workouts DiDio has created for the Make Your Move Challenge all clock in at under 10 minutes. (Find the Day 1 workout here.) And you can always find a variety of 15-minute express SilverSneakers LIVE classes. From a quick-and-lively Cardio Mix to a short-and-sweet EnerChi or Gentle Stretch, there’s something for everyone at every fitness level. Check the schedule daily to see what’s coming up.
Begin from Now
For many older adults who are reviving an exercise regimen, the tendency is to compare yourself to a younger version. Stop right there, says DiDio.
"That's tough and can sabotage your efforts because it's easy to get discouraged," she says. You might have flashes of memory from when you were faster, more flexible, stronger, and had more endurance. That's normal - but it's not helpful.
"You can't begin feeling already in a deficit, and focusing on what you used to do," says DiDio. "That's what comparison does, it makes you feel like you're behind even before you begin. Be in the body you have now, and embrace what it can do today."
Rather than thinking of what you've lost, get excited about what you'll be building in the future. Every extra minute you spend on a workout is a win and you'll be stacking those minutes up slowly, over time. To do that, try looking ahead instead of in the rearview mirror.
Celebrate Your Wins
You don't need to run a 5K to feel a sense of accomplishment, and you don't have to wait for a certain point in your fitness to congratulate yourself. Did you schedule a workout and then do that exercise? That's a win!
“It’s very helpful to have big goals that give you a sense of progress, but keep in mind that it’s all the little milestones that get you there,” says DiDio. For example, maybe you set three SilverSneakers LIVE online classes as your goal. You don’t have to wait until you finish the week to reward yourself with a healthy treat like a smoothie or a new water bottle.
Choose a Fire-up Song
If you watch any professional sports or the Olympics, you might notice that many athletes have headphones on right before they compete. Swimmer Michael Phelps always blocked out time to listen to music just before competition.
Yes, those headphones are a way to block distractions. But the real power behind music is that it’s a powerful motivator, says DiDio. In fact, a study in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that listening to catchy music while you work out can motivate you to work harder and longer. That’s because your brain responds very well to rhythm, repetition, and consistency.
Plus, good tunes make working out more fun, she adds. Think of a favorite song that makes you tap your feet, play it today right before you start your workout.
Be Kind to Yourself
This is perhaps the most important tip of all, says DiDio. "Plenty of people see exercise as a chore or even a punishment for unhealthy habits that have stacked up for years," she says. "But that kind of attitude tends to sabotage your fitness efforts, and quickly."
Instead, flip your thinking and look at exercise as an opportunity or even a fun little adventure.
"When you move more, you simply feel better," says DiDio. "Research has shown that exercise can lift your mood, give you more energy, help you sleep better, and improve your health overall. See this as a gift you're giving yourself every day."
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