I was shocked when I got my annual blood work back from my doctor and saw, that in my early 30s, I had an “At Risk” warning next to my cholesterol levels. My bad cholesterol levels were within range, but my good cholesterol wasn’t high enough. I was advised to exercise more and add more Omega oils to my diet.
I always considered myself to be a health conscious person, but deep down I knew I had let myself slip ever since I became a mom. Things had become more about convenience and about spending as much time as possible with my son. I already felt guilty about having to go back to work and being away from him for nine hours a day. So tearing myself away to go to the gym was near impossible, but I knew I had to do something, as heart disease runs in my family.
For some reason this video I came across at work really hit home for me. In it, Dr. Mark Starling, Chief Medical Officer at Banner Heart Hospital, talks about one of his patients who had risk factors for heart disease. So, along with reducing her sodium intake, she started walking just 20 minutes a day on a treadmill.
In just a few months, her weight went down, her diabetic tendencies went away and her blood pressure went down; no medication required. After watching this video I thought…that’s it? Walking 20 minutes a day? I can do that.
So what were the baby steps I finally took that made a difference for me?
Step 1 – Find what works for you
The key is trying different activities, finding one you like and making it a habit. Walking is so easy, with a minimal investment in a pair of walking shoes. Almost anyone can do it. What’s worked for me has been taking classes at a small studio that offers fitness and dance classes, I do better when I work out in a group setting.
Step 2 – Follow the buddy system
Try to pair up with one other person who’s also motivated to get back in shape, so you can keep each other focused and on track.
Step 3 – Listen to your body and don’t overdo it
If it’s been quite a while since you’ve worked out, you need to ease back into it. Don’t expect to start at the same level at which you left. If you push too hard, you can end up setting yourself back even further with an injury. Take time to stretch in the beginning and the end. If you feel like you overdid it, soak your aching muscles in a warm bath. Of course if something doesn’t seem right and you are in a lot of pain, check with your doctor. Also, be sure to check out 9 tips for the weekend warrior to stay injury free.
Step 4 – Manage expectations
I’ve been taking just two 60-minute classes a week on average, plus doing yard work on weekends, which works out to about 20 minutes of activity/exercise a day. After one year of this did I have washboard abs? No, definitely not! But when I went back for my annual blood work 10 months into my new routine, my numbers had improved (less inches on my waist, cholesterol improved, weight down).
Step 5 – Don’t Give Up
Even if you are sore, don’t stop completely. Give yourself a day to rest, and then do light exercise, even if you’re a little stiff. Light exercise helps aching muscles feel better. Fortunately the studio I joined offers a diverse selection of classes, so on days where I couldn’t bring myself to take an intense cardio class, I would take the class that focuses on stretching and toning instead (the variety also helps keep me from getting bored).
When I think back to my early days of my new exercise regimen I feel an immense amount of satisfaction knowing how far I’ve come. I used to come home feeling like I’d been put through the ringer and HAD to soak my aching body in an Epsom salt bath, but I powered through and today feel so much stronger, less stressed and more energized. Now when I come home after class and a long day of work, it’s more about quality time, because I have energy I need to play a game of tag with my son.
Whatever you do, just don’t let “tomorrow” turn into never!