Get Moving from Zero

Here’s everything you need to start an exercise regime when you’re starting from scratch.
By John Platero

There are many excuses for not exercising. Wait, let me rephrase that: There are many reasons why people do not exercise. No one to go with, time, money, consistency, desire, energy, or motivation round out the most common ones. The human body thrives on  movement. Without movement, the body starts to wither. But let me be clear: Movement is not the entire solution to good health; it’s only one part.

Your health is dependent on four main components: exercise, nutrition, rest, and genetics. Today, however, we are going to talk about how you can get moving.

What if you don’t like to exercise? Be honest; is it because you’re not that good at it, you don’t have the energy, or you don’t like to exert yourself? Ask yourself these questions: Are you happy with the way you look and feel? Which do you hate more: the way you look or feel, or exercise? Which of the two evils would you rather choose? Whatever decisions about diet and exercise you’ve made thus far in your life have given you the body you have now. Is it time to change? Exercise has been proven to help with a host of ailments including obesity, sleep apnea, hypertension, high cholesterol, low self esteem, confidence, and self worth. Remember, your physical health also affects your spiritual, emotional, and mental health, too. Any new endeavor you take on will be challenging. Remember you have to stick with it for a while to get better at it.
 
A New Mindset
If you haven’t been moving at all, then the first step is to establish a new mindset. It is said that once the mind is set, the body will follow, and that your present is the window to your future. This is extremely important because your health is cumulative: each decision you make in a day affects your cumulative health. However, a misguided present, without direction or a plan to accomplish a goal, can easily go awry.

So to help you stick to your goal, I want you to write it down: I will start to include exercise or movement in my daily life. You must also announce it to the universe by stating your goal out loud. Experts agree that when you write down your goal, and put it in a place where you can see it, and repeat your goal out loud—turning it into an affirmation—your chances of success increase dramatically.
 
Opportunity Cost
For every decision there is an opportunity cost. Simply stated, if you choose to watch television for an hour, you lose the opportunity to work, study, spend time with your family, or exercise. And on the positive end of the spectrum, if you choose to exercise, you are investing in your body and your mind so you can be present for work, study, and time with your family. This is where your past decisions must change.

Keep in mind that unless you change, nothing will change. If a television program is keeping you from getting active, consider joining a gym that has televisions accessible to its members. Gyms are popping up all over the place and come in all sizes: from small DIY places, to the full-service country club varieties. And if the gym’s not your thing, dust off your VCR or set your DVR to record your shows for later viewing. Remember your priorities!
 
Support Systems
Seek out people to support you in your goal. Friends and family are a great place to start, but if they don’t support you, seek others that are like-minded who will. Sometimes, our friends and families have heard us say, over and over, that we are going to stop eating fast food, or we are going to start working out, but we never followed through. Maybe your family and friends were supportive, but now seem uninterested or completely unconvinced. At some point, you—and only you—are accountable for your decisions.   

Give off hopeful vibes and you will find support systems. The other morning, I cycled at 5:30 a.m. It was dark, and it was only 33 degrees outside. Not ideal conditions to say the least, but if I hadn’t met up with seven other lunatics on that ride, I might have gone home.

In fact, one of the biggest complaints I hear is that people have no one to exercise with. My response to that is to start exercising now at a particular place and time, and you’ll eventually meet people who are doing the same. Just remember to smile and say hello!
 
How to Start
There are many ways to integrate exercise into your lifestyle, but no matter which path you choose, you must keep your goal in mind. For example, after picking up the children up from school and arriving home, most people go off to their rooms, head to the kitchen, or get distracted with the next thing on the to-do list. Instead, hold a mandatory 10-minute activity session in your yard or living room. Better yet, get the kids involved! You don’t have to stop playing

If your kids have sporting events or practice to go to, don’t just sit and watch; walk around the field or the gymnasium as you watch. You’ll still be active and, as an added bonus, you’ll get different viewpoints of the game.
    
Another place to start is with elevators and escalators—pretend they don’t exist. Take the stairs every time. If you can’t make the whole distance, take the elevator up a couple of flights and walk the rest of the way. Plan ahead and bring a change of shoes so you’re not hurting your feet.
    
When it comes to shopping, never, ever leave a shopping cart in the parking lot again. Take the extra effort to walk it back into the store. And if you work at a desk, make a pact with yourself to stand up and stretch every hour or two. Better yet, ditch your chair and go buy a stability ball. For less than $15 you can improve your posture and strengthen your core as you work.
 
A Daily Plan
Start your plan the night before, with sleep. If you wake up at 7 a.m., then you should be asleep no later than 11 p.m. This will give you at least eight hours of sleep, which is the recommended amount for most adults.
    
Upon waking, go through your normal bathroom etiquette, then add these steps:
1. Drink a full glass of water.
2. Stand in front of a mirror and spend five minutes doing these few movements:

Reach for the sky with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and your hips back. Reach as high as you can with both hands towards the ceiling, then reverse this movement and descend as if you were chopping wood. Bend your knees, and, sticking your butt out, bring both of your hands between your legs. Inhale deeply as you rise up and exhale deeply as you descend. Repeat two more times.
 
From the same standing position, tilt your body side to side, bringing the left hand over the right side and then the right hand over the left side, keeping your knees slightly bent and hips back. Do this two more times.
 
Twist like a washing machine. Start in the same position, then extend your arms out in front of you like you were strapped to a jet pack. Twist from side to side four to six times. When you get in the shower, stretch a little more. Squat down to get the soap. It may sound silly, but do it three or four times. Our joint integrity depends almost solely on movement, so the more you use them, the stronger they will get. Remember to stretch your neck, too!
 
As you go about your day, remember to stay focused on your goal. Before you go to bed,  repeat the same few steps you started your day with. It’s not going to be easy, and you may feel awkward doing it, but it will pay dividends down the road.
    
Remember to challenge yourself, too! Once you master a couple flights of stairs, add another. If you feel like playing in the back yard for 10 minutes isn’t enough, add another 10. And if you need an extra push and motivation, talk to one of your support people about kicking it up a notch. Chances are, they’re going to encourage you or even join in.
    
Along the way you’ll probably stumble and even fail. The key is not to be too hard on yourself because we all fail—it’s a part of life. But remember to persevere: it’s how you deal with the failures and disappointments that make you exceptional. And with exercise, the results are slow to show themselves. What you may perceive as failure is really just a test of will, and your will must be challenged and exercised just like the rest of your body.
    
Do you want to be ordinary or extraordinary? Remember, extraordinary effort will bring extraordinary results!
 
John Platero is a gold-medal Olympic cyclist, fitness educator, director of education for the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT.com), and the author of Yes You Can: Fitness After 40–A New Beginning. His work can be found at johnplatero.com.