The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  —Lao Tzu

So I’ve been spending quite a bit of time pouring over hundreds of fitness & exercise related questions that you guys sent in last spring as part of our “Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask” webinar series. Cristin gave two awesome webinars fielding your nutrition questions back in April and May, and now it’s my turn.

“Where to start” is both a sentiment of how to fit 1000 questions into a 60 minute webinar, and also one of the more popular exercise questions I received. To answer the first question…well, you don’t fit 1000 questions into a 60 minute webinar. But I am trying to boil down some of the big, overriding themes into 60 information-packed minutes I hope will be helpful. As for the remainder, we’ll just schedule more webinars, education, videos, and blog posts based on your questions! Our Wellness Team has a ton of ammo from you guys—thanks!

On to your questions. A lot of you asked some form of the following question:

I haven’t [fill in an exercise] in a long time. How do I start back [fill in same exercise]?

The two most popular “blanks” were running and lifting weights.

This is a good question. It’s often tough to start again when we haven’t done something in a while. And the longer we lay off, the harder it is to get started again. I think this is especially true with exercise for a couple of reasons.

Reason #1:  We don’t like to regress. There are a lot of skills in life that we can more or less set aside for a while and then pick up again relatively quickly, with just a bit of knocking the dust off. However, if we’ve had a long layoff from exercise, we can expect some regression to have occurred—we can’t just jump right back in where we left off, and that can be hard psychologically. So we continue to put it off.

The old adage of “Use It or Lose It” is painfully true in the fitness world. But there is good news! If your body and mind have already been fit and adept at a certain type of exercise, then you can make your way back to and beyond any previous fitness level, and you’ll be able to do it faster than someone who’s never exercised before.

Reason #2: It’s probably going to hurt. Side stitches, shortness of breath, muscle cramps, fatigue, delayed onset muscle soreness—these are just a few of the not-so-pleasant acute side effects of exercising for the first time in a while. No wonder it’s so easy to say, “I’ll start tomorrow (or next week).”

The Solution

Start small, and progress slowly.This isn’t what we’re sold via fitness DVDs or television shows, but it’s the safest, most effective way toward sustainable, long-term fitness. You may have to swallow some pride. You may have to have some walking breaks in that run. You may start with ridiculously light weights, or even just body weight, but it’s OK. You don’t get fit in a day. You get fit slowly but surely.

Sorry, this advice isn’t sexy or flashy. It won’t be on the cover of the latest Fitness magazine, but it’s truth. And here’s some good news. If you’ve been sedentary for the past few weeks or months, then any exercise above the sedentary baseline your body has been accustomed to will carry healthy, positive adaptations along with it. Start small, progress slowly, stay consistent, and watch the results.

The “Everything you wanted to know about Exercise but were afraid to ask” webinar is Wednesday, September 16th at 12:05.  Click the link above to register! We’re excited to broadcast our webinar in front of a live audience at the MSU Billings Library! Hope to see you live or online!


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