Friday, November 21, 2014

Exercise - making the habit stick

Over the years I've had numerous conversations with friends about their exercise habits, the marathons they're running, the triathlons, etc. It all sounds like great fun, they train with friends, and then get together for big events. I've never been a big fan of marathons and events like that, but have felt occasional twinges of jealousy over what seem like awesome bonding experiences.

However, these big events frequently don't seem to translate into a steadily established, long-term exercise habit. I've had friends get into such awesome shape that they can run up mountains. But then they slump, not exercising for months or years, to the point that they gain lots of weight, and even going up the stairs gets them winded.

Another downer about these massive, exciting events - people seem to get injuries with great regularity. Blown knees, hip problems, problems with the feet - almost everyone I know who's trained for these big events has these issues.

Meanwhile, I've stayed in reasonable shape with a steady, unexciting program of walking on the treadmill at an incline, or a very brisk pace, and walking around my hilly neighborhood. Occasionally I'll go on longer bike rides (I love being on a bike), or go hiking in the mountains, but nothing dramatic.

The one time I had a personal trainer was about 8 weeks after I gave birth to my second child - too soon! She had me work out so intensively that I was far more sore than I'd ever been - I had a very hard time even walking down the stairs the next few days because of all the squats! A day later I came down with the worst, longest-lasting cold I'd ever had. I definitely think these two facts were related.

My take-away from all of this is the following:

  • It's far better to stay in reasonable shape by working out gently, but daily, than getting in great shape irregularly and then loosing it all.
  • If you're doing strength training, for god's sake take it slow the first few times! You're trying to establish a regular habit, right? If you work up to it more slowly, as opposed to going the "no pain, no gain" route, you'll be much better off in the long run.

At this point I do need to warn you that I can be a little bit too dogmatic with my advice. If the spasmodic, intense exercise routines work for you, then who am I to challenge that? But when the event is over - try getting in a minimal workout of a hilly walk, every day.


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