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How To Achieve Enduring Health and Vitality
John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
 
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  Home  > Personal Wellness  > Guidelines for Exercising

Guidelines for Exercising

Here are eleven easy steps to keep in mind as you learn how to enjoy moving your body:

  1. If it's not fun, avoid it. Many of us begin exercise programs with vigor, only to drop them abruptly. We set ourselves up for failure and guilt when we push ourselves, demanding that we do something we do not really enjoy. There are so many different ways to exercise. Be creative in finding one that is both challenging and enjoyable for you.
  2. When pain starts, stop. Pain is the body's protective feedback system. Use it responsibly to gauge how much to do, how far to go. While it is OK to push our usual limits when we are in excellent condition, beginners should be respectful of the body's warnings and learn the difference between discomfort and pain.
  3. Whatever you're doing, dance it. Whether you are running or playing handball, all of your movements can be smooth and flowing. From the study of martial arts we learn that movement directed from the center - the place of balance below the diaphragm, in the middle of the body - intensifies strength and enhances overall form. Finding this center and moving from it makes everything you do a dance.
  4. Avoid imitation. As beginners we have much to learn from the pros. Many of them, however, became great because they tried something different, and it worked well for them. But beware of modeling yourself too closely upon someone else. What works for them may only serve to frustrate you. If it works for you, do it. If it doesn't, find your own way.
  5. Deal cautiously with competition. The challenge of competition can be a great motivation for growth and development in any discipline. It can also lead to excess stress, cheating, and bad feelings. Become your own competitor. Use opportunities of playing with others as chances to better your last performance. Lose graciously or win graciously, knowing that the only lasting reward will be your sense of accomplishment and your own integrity.
  6. Reward every effort. The more often you try, the more likely you are to succeed. Realize that it is never too late to begin, and that there are no limits to the number of times for starting over. Congratulate yourself for two minutes of exercise well done. Avoid being hard on yourself for the eighteen minutes not done. Set realistic times for yourself and give yourself lots of acknowledgment and perhaps, on occasion, a treat (a new bathing suit, a night out, an overdue massage) for accomplishing it. Remember that guilt is an enormous waste of precious energy.
  7. Follow spontaneous impulses. When the urge to move arises, use it! Head toward the door and take a walk around the block (breathing every step of the way). If you feel like dancing, get on your feet. Close your office door and jump rope. Hang up the phone and run around the house. These impulses are jewels - don't pass them by.
  8. Use every means to stay inspired. Especially in the initial stages of an exercise program, it is easy to forget why you started it in the first place. You need to create inspiration for yourself. Start by scheduling your exercise time as if it were a high-priority meeting - which it is. Mark it on your calendar. Find a partner or a group to exercise with. You will keep each other inspired. No friend? Invite your dog to be your exercise companion. Set short-term goals for yourself. Short-term" means no more than two weeks ahead. If you are walking for fifteen minutes a day, four days a week, what can you expect of yourself fourteen days from now? Be realistic, and challenge yourself, too. Keep a daily log and a weekly summary of what you did and how you felt when you did it. Reevaluate your goals often.
  9. Respect the earth you move on. If your exercise takes place outdoors, capitalize on the opportunity to breathe and celebrate the sun, the sky, the fresh air. Don't miss the flowers as you run along the path, and leave the environment unharmed in your travels.
  10. Breathe. As you move and exercise, you may notice that you are holding your breath. This is a sure sign of unnecessary straining. Inhale as your movements expand. Exhale as they contract or move back to center. Allow the breath to flow naturally.
  11. Love yourself. Acknowledge what you like about your body and what it does for you. Compose a little song or lyric for yourself and sing or recite it as you exercise. "I am moving with grace and beauty." "I love myself as I grow in strength and agility." "Look at me, I'm beautiful."



<< Previous A Regular Exercise Program | Back to Moving | Next >> Dance as Exercise
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