How to Beat Exercise Block: 5 Tips for Boomers

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Exercise. Exercise. EXERCISE. It’s all you hear these days, isn’t it? But as we get older – and seem to lose energy as quickly as we gain weight – exercise becomes more a guilt-inducing word than part of a healthy lifestyle. Here are five tips for getting past the “I hate exercise” barrier.

     

    Do you like exercise?

     

    No, me neither. Heck, what’s to love about hauling myself out of bed at 5 a.m. to stumble in darkness down to the gym, then spend 45 sweaty minutes on the treadmill, or painfully push myself through a weights workout?

     

    Yet I do it – six days a week. And you know why? 

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    Three reasons. Because (sigh…) I know it’s good for me. And because it feels so good when I’m done. And finally, because it gives me permission to enjoy a guilt-free glass of wine or slice of chocolate cake later in the day. 

     

    I didn’t used to exercise so rigorously or faithfully. When you’re young, you can mistreat your body endlessly and get away with it, right? 

     

    But let’s face it, fellow Boomers – once you’re past 50, the going gets rougher. And honestly, if you want to live long enough to actually retire and enjoy a few years of free time, you have to work to keep yourself healthy. Plus, let’s face it: exercise is work, and thus tempting to avoid. 

     

    Need some help getting started? Here are some ground rules for a successful (and long-lived) exercise program:

     

    Make exercise a part of your regular schedule.

    You get up. You eat breakfast. You go to work. Those are all constants, right? Add exercise to that list of everyday tasks, rather than hoping you can “squeeze it in.” I mean, do you “squeeze in” going to work? No. You hop in the car and just do it. Exercise should be the same.

     

    It doesn’t have to be the same time every day; nor does it have to happen every day. But a weekly schedule of exercise times should be firmly implanted in your head, so that when the 6:30 p.m. Tuesday yoga class rolls around, there’s no question about skipping it – just as there’s no way you’d skip Downton Abbey on Sunday night.

     

    Get out of the house.

    Is there a StairMaster, treadmill, or NordicTrack collecting dust down in your basement? So many of us acquire exercise machinery in a burst of good intentions, then gradually lose interest.

     

    It seems counterintuitive, but if your exercise venue is just steps away in the cellar or spare bedroom, it’s much too easy to put off your workout. “Yeah, let me just fold this laundry first. And check Facebook.” Before you know it, life gets in the way, and your exercise opportunity is lost.

     

    The solution? Join a gym. Or at least find a place to exercise that involves leaving home. 

     

    I spend $47 a month for the gym I attend. It’s not a deal-killer for the budget, and it’s definitely enough to goad me into going – to get my money’s worth, to say nothing of the health benefit.

     

    During times when I didn’t belong to a gym, I plotted a 3-mile walking route around town that got me out of the house and away from distractions. So whether you pay money for classes at the YMCA, or simply take a brisk walk – get away from the distractions of home.

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    Do something fun while you’re working out.

    I actually look forward to going to the gym most mornings. You know why? Because I do two things I don’t do anywhere else: watch ESPN, and read a murder mystery on my Kindle.

     

    I don’t have a TV at home; nor is there time in my daily schedule to sit down and enjoy a good book. So ESPN in the weight room, and James Lee Burke on the treadmill? Heaven. 

     

    Whether it’s listening to a favorite playlist, reading People magazine, or simply zoning out mentally, find something you love, something you can anticipate – and add it to your exercise routine. 

     

    Mix it up.

    Even if you find a type of exercise you (kind of) enjoy, it’s bound to get old eventually. I mean, you used to love Cherry Garcia, and now you’ve switched to Phish Food, right? 

     

    Be prepared to change up your current routine when it gets stale. Over the years I’ve moved from treadmill and Nautilus to elliptical and free weights; from Pilates to yoga; from long walks to short jogs… and then done it all again. Embrace change; it’s good for you, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. 

     

    Reward yourself for working out.

    What happens when all else fails, and you REALLY don’t feel like exercising?

     

    Well, first of all, it’s OK to break with the schedule occasionally; call it a mental health day. The key word here is OCCASIONALLY, though; if you regularly cut yourself too much slack, pretty soon you’ll be right back on the couch.

     

    But for those times when you’re wavering? “I don’t feel like walking this morning. Maybe I’ll do it later. Aw, I should just do it now. But I don’t want to…”

     

    Use the stick-and-carrot approach. Decide to reward yourself once you’re done exercising.

     

    I absolutely love iced coffee – even on a snowy January day. Typically I make my own, and keep it in a jug in the fridge. 

     

    But when I find myself teetering on the exercise cliff, my willpower waning, that little voice in my head saying, “C’mon, it’s OK to skip it just this once” – I decide to exercise, and then reward myself afterwards with a fancy iced coffee from Starbucks, something I wouldn’t ordinarily spend the money on. 

     

    A Mocha Light Frappuccino (100 calories) doesn’t kill my diet; but walking out with an ice-cold cup of mocha in my hand, anticipating that first tasty sip – it makes me glad I forced myself onto the treadmill. In fact, it’s the reason I DID force myself onto the treadmill (at least that day).

     

    Exercise. Hey, it’s not a dirty word! Once you kick yourself into gear – and feel the physical and emotional reward for your efforts – you’ll know it’s worth it.

     

Published On: August 28, 2014