Get Exercising: Finding What's Right for You
Madison, Wisconsin - It starts with good intentions. You sign up to try that new barre class your friend raved about, but after a session, you never go back. Or maybe it was cycling. Or even - a gym membership you ended up paying for but never actually use.
Whether it was a financial commitment, or just a verbal promise, many of us have traveled that road of broken fitness promises.
And, we all have a lot of good excuses for why we never made it very far – busy schedules, kids, or work. Even the experts do, like UW Health's Fitness Center manager and exercise physiologist Jackie Kuta-Bangsberg.
"I kept telling everyone I was going to start swimming again," she said. "But I never actually made it."
Getting Started: The Question to Ask Yourself
Kuta-Bangsberg, who helps Fitness Center members figure out types of exercise programs that are right for them, acknowledges it's incredibly difficult. She says the first step is to ask, 'How well do I really know myself?'
For Kuta-Bangsberg, she knows that when she's in a class, she commits to the exercise. That's why she eventually signed up for a swimming class and ended up swimming frequently. The key, however, is to find a class that fits with your lifestyle and personality.
Choosing a Class That Works for You
When choosing a fitness class, she notes a lot of people choose based on what works for their schedule, rather than a specific interest. That can work provided individuals know what motivates them. Kuta-Bangsberg recommends trying to view a class in advance to see what it's like. Little things, like the volume of the music to the motivational style of the instructor, can make or break a class. And keep in mind, the instructors are there – and want – to help you succeed.
"People really underestimate the importance of the instructor. Most instructors are really good working with a wide variety of skill levels," she explains. "If they feel you're advancing, they'll recommend ways to increase the challenge. If it's too challenging, they'll help you work through it."
And, she cautions, "Don't be intimidated to try something new. A lot of people have this image in their head that a class will be filled with these super-fit individuals who've been doing the routine for a long time. But that's generally not true."
But, she acknowledges, classes aren't for everyone.
"Some people just don't like the group setting, and that's okay," she comments. "And lifestyles are a big component too. If your schedule is unpredictable – meetings come up frequently or you travel a lot – committing to a regular time every week may be too difficult."
Finding Alternatives to the Gym
There are a lot of options outside of fitness classes that don't even require membership at a gym. One of the best, and cheapest, is to try and incorporate fitness into your day such as biking to work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Kuta-Bangsberg uses the example of one former fitness center member who went to work a half-hour earlier and parked far enough away she'd have to walk a half-hour to work.
"She commented about how much better it made her life. She said there was less traffic to deal with on the way to and from work, so she was less stressed, in better shape and a lot happier overall," she explained.
And for those individuals who simply do not like exercise, Kuta-Bangsberg suggests finding out what really motivates them.
"We've had members who really love reading. So we ask – where do you get your books and can you walk there instead of drive? For others, we've set up a rule – you can read, but only while riding the stationary bike. It's really a matter of finding ways to keep yourself going," she says.
Taking the First Step is the Hardest
Kuta-Bangsberg also recommends setting limits so it doesn't feel insurmountable. The hardest part of any routine is just taking that first step. Tell yourself you'll exercise for 20 minutes and at the end of 20 minutes, you're done. Or, find an exercise partner and figure out what you enjoy doing together. You may find that it's a great way to reconnect with friends. The important thing is to get out, get moving, and make it a habit.
"You'll often find that some activity leads to more activity," comments Kuta-Bangsberg. "And as we get older, we appreciate how much better it feels when we are moving versus the little aches and pains that can creep in when we're sedentary."
Date Published: 02/12/2014