Excuses or Results: You Can’t Have Both

The daily routine of work, children, housekeeping and relationships lead to an increasingly crazy schedule causing the busy, overworked woman (or man) feeling as though a workout session is simply a luxury that they cannot afford. For most people, a 30 minute run on the treadmill feels as if it could be better spent answering the on slot of work email, preparing for tomorrow’s grind or spent with friends or family. And, I can’t blame people for feeling this way; take it from a woman juggling a professional career, a wonderful partner, family, and friendships, life can be an exercise by itself…

When considering (as well as making) a change in your exercise routine, you may not know where to begin. Not to worry, you are not alone. If being healthy and fit in this nation was easy, everyone would be. It may not be easy but it does not have to be overly complicated with complex workouts or hiring a personal trainer for $100 a session. However, it will take commitment on your part. It is a commitment to live a more energetic and healthier life. You can rest assured of one thing: you will not regret it. So, where to begin? Start small. Some exercise is always better than none. You may also need to overcome some common misperceptions about physical activity.

Common Physical Activity Misperceptions

1)     Let Go of Relapse and Begin Your Change with Simple Steps.

This is the most common mistake women (and men) make following a “fitness relapse.” It does not matter if your “relapse” is one week, one month, one year or a decade. Resist falling into the trap of thinking you will simply continue your sedentary lifestyle. Let go of yesterday, get back into your healthy routine and start the “new you” today. Change starts with simple steps. For example, make a commitment to do push-ups or modified push-ups until fatigue, two minutes of jumping jacks and 30 seconds of wall sits immediately in the morning when you wake as well as before you go to bed to rest after a productive day. Then, slowly increase the number of sets and reps you do or gradually add a new exercise to your routine each week.

2)     Walk and if you already walk, walk more.

You don’t have to run marathons to burn calories. Walking is one of the most underperformed exercises in our nation and can burn significant calories throughout your day. Most Americans drive everywhere – school, work, grocery store, and fitness center (just to name a few). I can personally attest to the powerful calorie burning power of walking. Two years ago I lost 20 pounds when I moved to New York City solely because I walked everywhere I went. I did not change my diet or workouts. So, while you may not make a drastic lifestyle change by walking everywhere you go, think about incorporating more steps into your day. For instance, most individuals in our culture will send an email or pick up the phone, rather than walk to provide a colleague with a message. Rethink this habit and consider walking to deliver your message.

Make a commitment to walk briskly for at least 30 minutes throughout the day. This could mean taking a brisk walk during your 15-minute break from work. In these 15 minutes, you can walk one mile and burn approximately 100 calories. Also, make a conscious effort to always take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator. On average, we should be taking 10,000 steps per day. To see if you are getting your steps in, purchase a pedometer to track your steps. By wearing a pedometer, you are bringing to attention your desire to attain 10,000 steps and may increase your motivation to acquire more steps in your daily routine. If you feel compelled to get your children and partner involved in a more physically active lifestyle as well, begin a step competition for your entire family to participate in that challenges each of you to accumulate as many steps as possible throughout the day.  The winner of the day or week could choose your next family meal or assign his or her chores or household duty to another family member.

3)     Start resistance training.

Yes, if women aspire to burn calories like men and have awesome metabolisms similar to men we must also exercise as men do. Think about the last time that you attended a fitness center. You see the cardio machines filled with women briskly jogging, stair stepping or biking attempting to burn calories. However, muscle burns fat for energy and the more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn. Do not fret that you will get big and bulky. Females have higher estrogen levels and lower testosterone levels so you won’t get “big” but you can make your body more efficient at burning fat by doing resistance training. Simple body resistance exercises such as wall, regular or modified push-ups, lunges and reverse lunges, squats in and out of your chair at work or home can be done as part of your resistance training. If you have a set of dumb bells and 3 hours throughout your week, possibly while watching your favorite DVRed shows or waiting for your dinner to get out of the oven, you have all you need to see changes in your physique. Yes, that’s right, all you need is an hour of resistance training three times a week to sculpt your body.

4)     Realize you won’t always want to exercise but don’t let that stop you.

I know this is something that you didn’t want to hear. It is the truth – there will come a day or maybe even days when you will want to quit or won’t even want to start. Even the most chipper fitness enthusiast has days when she’d rather surf the web or watch her favorite movie than complete her exercise routine. You can come up with well over a dozen reasons for why you don’t want to exercise. Believe me, I know, I too have used them. Sometimes it takes pure determination to begin and this is half the battle. For these days, come up with a meaningful saying that will help you find inspiration. For example, a mantra such as “If it was easy, everyone would do it” or “Excuses or results – I can’t have both” may increase your determination to begin and finish your workout. Own your personal statement and use it as your motivation. Also, focus on the results that you will achieve through your physical activity (i.e., increased energy, improved mood, more self-confidence, better body image, and a firmer backside or belly). While the act of working out will not always be inherently enjoyable, the results will be worth it.

Committing to being physically active along with following through on your plan can be challenging; however, like most things, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. Start the “new you” today and make a commitment to let go of the misperception that physical activity and exercise is a luxury. Rather, embrace the concept that physical activity is a necessity to a healthy life. Excuses or results, you can’t have both – choose results.

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About the Author:

Dr. Tanya Prewitt’s most vivid memories throughout her life revolve around her sport and exercise experiences and thus, continue to ignite passion and provide fulfillment for her. Moreover, Tanya has always believed in human potential and the positive effects of self-talk, leadership, communication, confidence, preparation and resilience. These are the skills she is devoted to teaching athletes, exercisers and individuals seeking peak performance. She is currently a professor in Chicago, IL at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, DePaul University, Northern Illinois University and North Park University where she teaches master’s and undergraduate level sport psychology and exercise science courses. In addition, Dr. Prewitt consults and facilitates workshops for the exercise and sport community. Prior to coming to Chicago, Tanya worked as a professor at the City University of New York – York College. She received her Ph.D. in Sport Studies with a specialization in Sport Psychology from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville (UT) where she worked as a Mental Training Graduate Assistant for UT Women’s Athletic Department as well as a Graduate Assistant for UT Athletics Academic Compliance.