When Thoughts of Ugly Gym Uniforms Run Through My Mind

When you contemplate moving you body does it bring up thoughts of the ugly gym uniforms you had to wear in junior high? Or running endless laps around the track?(Or how about running endless laps in those ugly uniforms?) Or how you were always the last one picked for teams? Or feeling dirty, sweaty and gross? Or how funny you felt in the showers at school…because you were fatter than the other girls, or you had bigger hips, smaller boobs, or “thunder thighs” like me?

If when you think of exercise images of gym class and running laps around the high school track fill your mind, or kids laughing at you or being disappointed because you dropped the “easy out” fly ball…then you aren’t apt to believe me when I say that ANYONE can move their bodies and achieve improved health.

The key is to start where you are.

I used to teach swimming, from water babies to competitive swimmers and the key is to group people of like skill levels. It helps neither the student nor the instructor to place a child who can’t yet float into a group of kids who are comfortably swimming in the deep water. That doesn’t mean the kid can’t learn, or shouldn’t, it just means that child will learn better and faster in an environment better suited to her current abilities.

You first need to learn some basics and build up your skills and endurance. In other words, if you can’t ride a bike, don’t sign up for a Century (100 mile ride)!

Take out another piece of paper and write down 3-5 things you don’t like about exercising…the goal isn’t to dwell on negative things, it is to help you figure out what you don’t like so you can find out what you do like. My list of things I don’t like might look like this:

  • Getting hot and sweaty
  • Team activities
  • Learning dance routines
  • Long prep time
  • Expensive Gear

Next, looking at your list, come up with a minimum of 3 different things you can do that that won’t involve at least the majority of the things you don’t like. Using my list above, my activities might include:

  • Swimming, I may get hot but I don’t feel it because of the water; I can do it by myself; no routines to learn; I can have a pool bag ready to grab at a moment’s notice; suit, goggles & towel…and access to a pool and I’m good to go.
  • Walking, in the morning or evening so I beat the heat. I may get a little hot or sweaty…but at a tolerable level for me.
  • Dancing to music in my living room, fastest option yet and I can stay cool in my air conditioned house!
  • Yoga or T’ai Chi, using my DVD player I can do this at home and not have to buy special clothes, but I don’t get the social interaction or personalized instruction of a class…both options could work for me.

If you are already somewhat to very physically active, awesome! Keep doing what you are doing…just push yourself a bit more to go faster, harder, or longer. Or branch out and try something new that uses different muscles and gives you variety. By having variety in your routine you reduce the chance of boredom and injury while you maximize your fitness level.

If you are currently a couch potato, whether from choice, habit or ill health/ injury, be sure to start off slow. Touch base with your doctor to be sure what you are planning won’t make your condition worse (in general, most doctors will be thrilled, but if you have a serious health condition they may have specific requirements for you in the beginning.) By being realistic about your current condition, you can continually improve and get stronger, healthier and more fit over time. When we try to ignore our limitations it is easy to get frustrated and cause further harm which actually sets us back.

For some folks getting tools like a pedometer makes all the difference because they can see how many steps they are walking every day. For others the key is to have a workout buddy or to join a class. Sometimes being accountable to another person or group keeps us motivated to continue even if we don’t really feel like it. On the otherhand if joining a class or exercise group won’t work for you because of where you live, your work shift, your schedule or because you are a bit of a loner, then don’t feel like it is in any way a requirement!

The idea is to find ways to get your body moving that work for you. Try something and if it doesn’t feel right, you might try it again a couple times, but don’t keep beating a dead horse—try something else instead! For example, the idea of running doesn’t interest me one bit…not running a track or on a court…but I love going for walks on trails in the country and I love swimming. So I don’t do things that include running, even though at this point I could physically because I still have no interest.

In contrast, when I started this journey several years ago it was a struggle to go for a walk…but I enjoy being in nature, so I built up my strength and my stamina and now I can really enjoy walking on a trail…and as much as I admire the folks I see running the trail I am walking, I celebrate the fact that I can walk it faster and further than ever and that I have the ability and freedom to CHOOSE to walk. Does that mean I will never choose to run? I’m not going to say never…but I’m not going to hold my breath, either!

Once you have your list of things you might do, start doing them! If you need to take a class or hire a coach to learn how, then do that. Don’t let not knowing how to do something keep you from getting fit. Remember, it is back to school time…we can always learn something new in life that will help keep us healthy and improve our lives!

I look forward to hearing back from YOU on what your 3 activities are, how you are going to support yourself in achieving them, and how we at RefuseToDiet.com can help!

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