Removing The Obstacles

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In a recent USA Today article, Harvard Professor Walter Willett told about his redesign of the Food Pyramid. As chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, Willett believes the current Food Pyramid is outdated and doesn't reflect the latest food research. Most surprisingly, the base of Willett's Pyramid is exercise and weight control. Thank you Walter.

That's the good news. The bad news is that millions and millions of us still don't do it. While new and improved exercise equipment is being sold daily on cable TV, the real reasons why people don't exercise have little to do with knowledge and more to do with mental and physical barriers. It's time we identify these barriers and begin to knock them down. We owe it to ourselves, our families and our neighbors to work for the good of all in reaching for a higher level of fitness.

Mental and Physical Obstacles

I've identified 5 obstacles that keep people from either beginning or continuing their exercise programs. There are certainly more reasons, but these are some of the more obvious.

1. Lack of Discipline

This obstacle doesn't just impede a person's ability to exercise, but also their ability to eat right, be on time, stay organized, etc. Their life is in a blender. In a case like this, small and consistent steps in the right direction is the way to start. All of us know the tortoise approach will most likely last longer than that of the hare, so begin with short amounts of exercise. Jump rope 25 times a day. Run up and down a flight of stairs 3 times. Do a hundred jumping jacks. Just do something. After a week of doing this simple task, begin to expand to walking a half-mile in addition to your jumping rope. But, don't let the chain break. If you miss a day, start right back. Don't make your lack of discipline become your identity. Become a new you.

2. No Time

President Bush runs. The busiest CEO's in the world are some of the most avid exercisers. What we learn once we get on a consistent exercise program is that exercise energizes us to do more. We sleep better at night and feel better the next morning. Treat exercise like a savings plan--don't attempt to get it in only after everything else that day is done. You must plan your exercise first, and let the day revolve around it. This doesn't mean you can't change the time or place during the day, but don't eliminate it. The return on investment is far too great, and when looked at over a 20 year period, your life will be far less gratifying if you never carve out time for controlled motion.

3. Injuries

This certainly is a legitimate concern. I believe our sportsmedicine industry is still in its fetal stages. It's still far too medical, meaning that it's only available for injured athletes, and the treatments are basically symptom oriented. We need to expand our thinking. We need to prepare more, recover better and be logical with our training. Simply put, if injured, correct the injury before beginning the program. If you've attempted to correct your injury with no good results, e-mail me and I'll get you on the right track.

4. Lack of Enthusiasm

Momentum breeds momentum. Get started, do it long enough, and you'll begin to get the bug. On the front end of an exercise program, it's like having to climb a huge mountain. Country singer Paul Overstreet sings it best, "They say a mountain looks so high when you're standing at the bottom, but once you've made it to the top, you can't see the problem". The same applies to exercising. The reason all of your exercising friends or workmates act so smug is that they finally realize it's harder not to exercise than it is to exercise. But, staying active certainly has many more rewards than being sedentary.

5. You're not a self-starter

No problem. There are many local groups at your YMCA's, health clubs, gyms, church groups and more. You can go on the internet if you want a real flashy program and hire a coach. Contact local running clubs or other organizations to see if there is a bulletin board for finding someone to train with. What many of us have learned is that the most successful way to insure a long term training regimen is to do it with someone else. Trying anything alone for a long time is difficult. You'll have no one to answer to if you decide not to exercise that day. It's too easy to quit, and quitting isn't what we want.

So, there you have it. 5 reasons why you don't exercise and 5 ways to overcome them. The biggest reason still lies in the fact that we have but one guaranteed trip to make on this planet. We know they won't come out in the next 5 years with proof that exercise isn't good for us. And we know that most of us who haven't consistently exercised don't feel good about it. In fact, you feel down right lousy. So, get over these hurdles without too much effort and get on with the fun of life. With all the "rage" out there, we need to spend more time having fun. Exercise is the answer.


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Dr. Tim Maggs

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