For those of us who have dealt with serious obesity, the thought of trying to exercise can be intimidating. I avoided physical activity in general for a long, long time. I had a sense of anxiety about working out even before Biggest Loser started making people believe that you were a failure unless you pushed yourself in the gym until you threw up or passed out. Several of the folks I’ve worked with have experienced that sense of anxiety so we find ways to take it step by step to get started.
I believe we all deserve to learn from experience. Trying to change our lives with mindgames or inspirational sayings doesn’t really get us very far. Only through experience can we discover and determine what will or won’t work. It only makes sense—if you don’t like something or you don’t experience positive results, you won’t be doing it for long! It’s time to stop feeling like failures because we can’t do everything other people think we should!
The best approach is to focus on building a habit first. Find what you’d like to do then do it every day, even if it is 30 seconds or a minute of activity. I’ve written many times about the woman who walked to her mailbox and back then drove to a Walmart and walked from bench to bench around the outside of the store. (A doctor had told her to walk two miles!) The first exercise I attempted was using a recumbent stepper. I could go for a minute on that thing! I admit I liked it because it was exercise I could do sitting down! I realize now that I had anxiety about going out walking. At that time, my feet and knees would start to really hurt so I was scared of getting out and experiencing pain and fatigue trying to get back. I like to recommend the High Step because you can use it at home and put it anywhere so you can hold on to something if that makes you more comfortable. Start with the lowest riser if you want, that’s fine. Do whatever works for you just to get started.
I believe in letting a natural process take over. If you do something every day, you’ll start to want to do a little more and a little more. You’ll grow more comfortable and you’ll get used to it. You’ll know when you’re ready to advance a bit more.
I also highly recommend working with a heart rate strap so you’ll know what’s the hardest you can work and when you’ve reached that point. Very often I will notice that I want to stop working but I look at my heart rate and I know I’m not really as tired as I think I am! I recently had the privilege of working with a new client in person to help her learn to connect with her heart rate. She had anxiety about becoming winded because her face would turn red and she’d feel like she was choking. She was also afraid of her heart racing. When we first started working on a stepper, she was a bit distressed at how quickly her breathing and heart rate popped up. We didn’t worry about it! We watched her numbers and she stopped when she reached the point we determined to be her max at that time. She worked at her own pace and soon she was able to feel how her breathing was deeper and smoother at particular numbers on the heart rate display. That gave her the comfort level to keep going. She needed to work toward a level of high exertion and experience that it felt like hard work but not like something was wrong. With me there and keeping an eye on her heart rate, she knew she was OK! We took it slow and steady.
I have now seen many of my clients work to that point when high exertion makes that shift from feeling exhausting to feeling like a challenge and you experience a natural drive to want to push yourself harder. It’s a BIG turning point and the result of improved conditioning. It can take awhile to reach it but you’ll know when you’re there and you’ll know you’ve achieved a significant milestone! I was not able to achieve this until I’d dropped some weight but that was all part of the process my body was going through. I tell my clients not to think they have to kill themselves! Steady, consistent work will get you there in time. Let the natural process guide you. There’s no time limit on this!
After a few weeks, my client was working the stepper really well and feeling a significant difference in her breathing. Still, she felt something I continue to deal with to this day—An odd sense of workout avoidance! I will STILL procrastinate about exercising sometimes even though I know I will feel great once I get started and especially after I’m done. I can’t tell you why this happens! All any of us can do is set our schedule and do our best to stick with it, knowing that we’re doing something we’re comfortable with ourselves. If you truly dread something and you really don’t like it, STOP DOING IT!!