Creating Exercise Plans That Love You

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Creating easy to follow exercise plans is a health benefit waiting to happen.

The most important factor in a good plan is not what kind of running shoes you can buy, or even the gym that you belong to. The most important thing is your attitude towards exercise which determines your exercise behaviors. Attitudes generally fall into three camps:

  1. Never Touch the stuff
  2. These people proudly choose a “road less strenuous”. Making exercise plans never occurs to them, and their sole form of exercise occurs dashing between the TV and the refrigerator, or getting in and out of the car. There is a funny quote by Robert M. Hutchins that captures this attitude: “Whenever I feel the urge to exercise, I just lie down until it goes away”.

  3. Sunny day exercisers
  4. Alternate between long periods of exercise and inactivity. Their motivation comes from outside sources like the latest abs workout machine infomercial, and sometimes internal (like New Year’s resolutions). While they have the spirit, they exercise frequently. The problem is that they’ll eventually stop their routine for any number of reasons, and perhaps feel guilty for a while, until they become motivated to exercise again.

  5. Lifelong Exerciser
  6. Decide that exercise is as much of a part of their life as eating and breathing. The form of exercise may vary, but they become one with their exercise plan, on a mission to make their bodies strong and healthy. They will feel like they are missing out if they don’t exercise for a few days.

A quote from the Journal of Applied Physiology tells us why we should want to be more of a Lifelong Exerciser: “today’s skyrocketing levels of chronic diseases are due to the collision between the body’s total gene complement of a set of chromosomes, -- programmed 10,000 years ago to anticipate physical exertion, and the inactivity endemic to 21st century sedentary societies.” In other words, we are biologically wired to self destruct without regular exercise.

Despite countless studies of proven benefits for both mind and body, those without the Lifelong Exerciser attitude will choose to be in exercise excuse mode.

Have you heard any of these before? I’m too tired, I don’t have time, I’m traveling, I can’t afford a gym membership, it’s too hot, It’s too cold, my (fill in the blank) hurts, my biorhythms are down, etc. None of these things would really matter to a Lifelong Exerciser.

The Benefits of Exercise

Many people have a love/hate relationship with exercise plans, but learning to love them is surprisingly easy. Why? Because it makes us feel better. Or, as Cher said: “Nothing lifts me out of a bad mood better than a hard workout on my treadmill. It never fails. Exercise is nothing short of a miracle”. If we do not see it as beneficial and enjoyable, we may experience it as a sort of torture and won’t be at it for very long.

Some of the proven benefits of exercise:

  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Improved Muscle tone
  • Stress relief
  • Better digestion
  • Joint flexibility
  • Mental alertness
  • Fat burning and weight loss
  • Improved Balance
  • Longevity
  • Injury healing
  • Better mood
A good exercise plan can help you to consistently achieve these benefits.

My Favorite Exercise Plans

My favorites exercise plans are those that first, bring me measurable results. They also have to have the fun factor; otherwise I won’t stick with it. I build in multiple complementary exercise modes in the plan to achieve the broadest possible range of benefits. And finally, they should cost little or no money.

For example my current goals are to:

  • Reduce my waist to hip ratio (a specific number)
  • Create flexibility in my spine
  • Increase my overall energy levels through martial arts
  • Maintain cardio fitness – resting pulse rate (a specific number>

And here are my top 5 exercise modes:

  1. Walking and running – The simplest and most natural of all exercises. Anyone who is capable of taking a step in comfortable shoes can achieve remarkable health benefits by following a regular running or walking program, or combination of both (interval training) Walking is good for weight loss , reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and any of a number of other benefits mentioned above. Remember, in this category, there is no speed limit, and a good walk can be more beneficial than running. A heart rate monitor will help guide your routine. From Thomas Jefferson: “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very fast”.

  2. Tai Chi – Tai Chi is much more than a physical exercise. However, medical studies have shown that the physical benefits to your health by the regular practice of Tai Chi are right up there with walking. Tai Chi is perhaps the most flexible form of exercise because of the wide variety of movements. Some forms can actually be done in a wheelchair. Yet, some forms are vigorous enough to exercise the heart, and build leg strength, balance, and agility. There is benefit in spending some money on usually affordable lessons to teach proper posture and movement, since many of us grew up knowing nothing about china’s gift of health to the world.
  3. Movement and weighted movement - This includes movements like dance, stretching, and light weights. Anyone who has done ballroom dancing will tell you that you can work up a real sweat in an hour session, whether it’s at the club, or in class. Weighted movement can be done by exercising with light barbells, or wrist or ankle weights. A six foot wooden staff has enough weight that using it in exercises builds tendon strength, muscle definition, and flexibility. Yoga is the ultimate in stretching techniques.
  4. Pilates – Builds core strength and flexibility of the spine. These exercises can take a while to master, but are worth learning. With a focus on breathing, abdominal muscle development, and movement, Pilates creates long, lean, strong bodies, and helps get rid of dangerous belly fat. They can be practiced with no equipment, in any place with enough room to stretch out horizontally. Pilates is especially good for people with back problems.

    Pilates is not just for women either, although they are the predominant gender in most classes. Joseph Pilates was a cigar smoking boxer, who developed this system for men in a World War I prison camp to keep prisoners in good health.

  5. Bicycling – There is nothing like getting outside on a sunny day and bicycling for an hour or two (Sorry, but toodling around and stopping to window shop, although beneficial, does not count). To gain benefit, you must have the intent to exercise, and get your heart rate up. A heart monitor will come in very handy here. It’s a highly aerobic exercise with little impact on your joints. Be sure to wear all the protective gear – helmet, glasses, gloves, and a rear view mirror. For those who prefer indoor cycling, Spin classes or personal stationary bike time work well.

Creating exercise plans

The most important part of the plan is to make a commitment to throw out all excuses and become a Lifelong Exerciser, with the attitude that exercise is as important as anything else that you do. Start your exercise plan by defining your goals, and then pick exercise modes that you will enjoy that will help you achieve those goals.

Secondly, measure results. Some people exercise regularly without measurement, and do so just for the enjoyment. To maximize results it’s best to have a plan based on measured progress (weight, time, distance, etc.) For example, I keep track of how much time it takes me to walk and jog a mile and a half circuit every morning, and then set goals for shortening the time. There’s nothing like the motivation that comes from achieving a goal.

It’s also important thing to be consistent. Create exercise time slots on your calendar and then, defend it from all the daily time snatchers. Life being what it is, there will always be situations that alter your plan. When that happens, don’t stress about it, just get back on plan as soon as you can. Again, from Thomas Jefferson: “Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning”.

Choose at least 3 exercise modes that you like for your plan. With variety, you are more likely to stay engaged and enthusiastic about your overall program. Your top 3 can always change.

One good exercise plan can change your life. Our ancestor’s daily lives were by necessity, filled with physical activity but with our lifestyles, we need a plan to integrate exercise into our activities. The good news is once you start on a path of regular exercise; you create new enjoyment, and may even find new friends who share your same exercise interests.

Try this approach and you’ll find that you create a habit that not only keeps you healthy, but that you look forward to every day.

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