Why do some people stop exercising before they even start? This is a question that has been on my mind for some time. It’s common place for some people to enthusiastically pledge to get fit but after a few weeks give up and return to their previous lifestyle. Why is this so? In this article I’ll discuss some of the possible reasons why people give up on exercise. I will also offer suggestions to those people who have suddenly discontinued their exercise regimen.
Many people fail to fully commit themselves to exercise. They see other people going to the gym, jogging, bicycling, etc. and think it would be great to get into shape but fail to consider what it requires to get started. Becoming physically active requires work. It’s as simple as that. You have to do physical work to make your body stronger and healthier. This means that you will need to set up a regular schedule to participate in physical activity. You will have to set aside time to go for that half an hour walk, get the bike out to go cycling at the park, work out at the gym, etc. You will have to postpone watching that sit com on TV, or taking the snooze on the couch. If you are a person who has become comfortable in your old routine, developing a new habit maybe difficult, but it begins in the mind. You have to make the conscious decision to do something different. And then do that activity again and again. Eventually- and this only happens if your mind is really into it- you’ll come to accept this new routine without much thought. In other words, you’ll have undergone a lifestyle change and exercise will become part of your identity.
We have evolved to seek out that which gives us pleasure and avoid that which gives us pain. Exercise is no different. If a person has just started an exercise program after a long hiatus, the first workout is often the hardest. You’ll work muscles that are not accustomed to the sort of physical exertion you’re putting them through. So when you’ve finished the workout you’re likely to feel very sore. Most people are unprepared for this and quickly give up exercise. This soreness is actually quite normal and there’s even a scientific name for it: delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) . You can minimize soreness by stretching, or warming up before you work out (1). If you’re feeling soreness after an intense workout, take a warm shower. The warm water will soothe the muscles that have tensed up as a result of the physical stress put on them. Also, allow those sore muscles time to recover; when you next go to the gym (which, hopefully, will be within the next day or so following your first workout) work different muscle groups. For example, if you’ve worked out on the leg press machine today, work your back and shoulders tomorrow. Then the next day, instead of legs, back and shoulders, work your abdominal muscles. By performing your exercises in this way, you allow your muscles to rest and become stronger while at the same time maintaining physical activity by working different muscle groups. On the other hand, if you feel sharp or intense pain this is most likely an injury. In this case, stop what you are doing and seek medical attention. Always remember to use common sense when you’re working out.
Doing Too Much Too Soon
Some novices have a tendency to lift more weight than their body is ready for. This can lead to injury and embarrassment. The key is to start with light weights and increase the amount in regular increments ( 5 – 10 pound increase per week is recommended) thereby building strength and familiarity with the exercise. If you’re new to working out and train at a gym or fitness center, there are staff on hand who would be able to assist you with proper form and technique. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. Even those of us who train using heavy weights (lifting amounts in excess of 100 pounds or greater than our body weight) ask for help. I know this first hand because when performing some incredibly demanding strength exercises I’ve asked for spots and spotted others. It makes no sense to show off and risk serious injury, follow the motto “safety before vanity” and enjoy your workout.
It’s important to set exercise goals but make sure they’re realistic. Some people mistakenly believe that all they have to do is join a gym, workout for a week or two and magically have the body of a professional athlete or fitness model. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But there’s a major problem with this line of thought: it’s unrealistic. The truth of the matter is that strong, toned, fit bodies are not made overnight. It takes effort, dedication, hard work, time and patience to achieve lasting results. In other words, it means you must workout for the rest of your life. There is nothing wrong with desiring a well sculpted body, as a matter of fact this is great as a long term goal. In the meantime, though, take gradual steps to achieve what you want. Each person responds differently to exercise, some people develop faster than others. Don’t rush it, take the time to learn the intricacies of good form and proper training and if properly applied you’re more likely to see pronounced results in two or three months.
1. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_onset_muscle_soreness
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