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I Want to Get Fit, but How to Start?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Exhausted from Working all Day

Exhausted from Working all Day

Dear Fun and Fit: I am 55 and want to get back into a fitness routine. I am overweight – by 50 lbs and am having such a fitness block to get started. I know all the reasons why I should exercise, but I feel paralyzed. My husband and I work full time. We have my aging, early-stage dementia parents in our home, adult care during the day; my husband and I care for them in the evening and weekends. Finding the time is challenging. We feel exhausted all the time. I welcome your ideas and suggestions.  Susan

Alexandra: If you’re working full-time AND caring for your parents, it’s easy to see why you are exhausted. If I understand correctly, you are more frustrated by motivation and time issues; not a lack of information, right? So let’s look at some ways to reframe your motivation.

Getting Started Takes Place in the Mind

From the way you word your question, I gather you don’t like exercise too much (join 75-80% of the population). So forget about exercise – focus instead on what kind of MOVEMENT you enjoy. Do you like to walk, swim, dance, mow the lawn, bike ride, bowl; what? Anything that you do that is MORE than what you’re currently doing will help you be successful.

Do Some Swimming, then some Intense Lounging!

Do Some Swimming, then some Intense Lounging!

You also talk about feeling paralyzed, which triggers all kinds of things in my counseling brain, both literally and figuratively. It tells me you know what will happen to you if you DON’T change your habits, and that it’s overwhelming. I believe you are thinking in a 1-10 way. In other words, you are at 1 (I am not exercising, I have to lose 50 pounds & I have no time), and you can only think of 10 (I will be 50 pounds lighter). But you need to map out what 2, 3, 4 …. look like. If you have stairs at home or work, can you add 2 extra trips up and down each day? That could be step 2. Can you then make your food portions smaller and do 2 trips daily? Step 3. You don’t have to even contemplate intense, sweaty movement or weight lifting (this helps you burn extra calories even when you are NOT moving) until step 8 or 9. Write down your first few steps at least!

Movement Helps Stave Off Dementia

If your parents are ambulatory, can you walk around the block with them? Not only will it help slow their rate of mental decline, it will help keep YOUR brain healthier.  (Read our post on the subject by clicking on the link). So when you are thinking, “I could get in a few minutes of exercise now, but…” remind yourself that those few minutes will not only help with your weight loss goal, but keep you alert as well.

Don’t Add Extra Time Demands to Your Day

You obviously don’t have any extra time in your day, so you might want to think of ways to change up some of your current routine. For example, how much of the day are you sitting, and when can you switch some of that out for standing or even pacing? If you spend a lot of time at work on the phone, you could be pacing while on calls. People who stay at a healthy weight tend to be fidgeters – can you add in some fidgeting? Another trick – every time you go to stand up or sit down, add in one extra sit-stand. You can add an extra 10,000 squats per year using this trick. Move stuff from convenient places to inconvenient spots. An example – I keep most of my food in a back pantry, which means I have to leave the kitchen quite a few times in order to get the ingredients I need to bake or cook. Put your phone across the room instead of near you so that you have to get up every time you need it. Anyway, you get the idea.

Activate Your Support System

Even if you and your husband cannot get away from the house at the same time to be active together, he can still be a source of encouragement and support (nagging doesn’t count as support – I know; I’ve tried it). In our post about losing weight when you’re a caregiver,  we talk about the importance of having a pal who is on your side.

Walk outside

Forget Your Cares w/ a 5 Minute Nature Walk

Kymberly: Susan – With everything you have going on, no wonder taking on another “should duty” is exhausting. I agree with my sister about reframing. If you could shift from thinking of adding a fitness routine (yikes – another task in an overloaded life!) to seeing movement as a positive time for YOU and a break from responsibilities, you will have an easier, more successful time meeting your goals. For instance, if you or your parents watch tv evenings or weekends, would you find it helpful to perform stretches, yoga, or light jogging in place during ads? Near work, is there a park, interesting street, or a mall you can go to for your lunch break – even once or twice a week – where you can walk as you eat? As few as 5 minutes in nature has a calming effect; 10 minutes of cardio activity decreases stress levels, enhances energy, and assists brain activity so you will actually feel more awake; less fatigued.

Overlooked Role of Sleep and Stress on Weight Loss

Perhaps even more impactful and surprising is that you may need to sleep more to lose weight and minimize exhaustion. Caregivers are usually sleep deprived, which leads to higher stress levels and stimulated appetite. Our post on the role sleep, stress, and sugar play in weight management offers more insight.

Again, is your lunch time and place flexible enough that you could slide in a guilt-free 20 minute nap? Can you get to bed 20 minutes earlier? While sleeping may seem counter intuitive to getting more fit, it is possibly one of your key solutions.

Here’s to slotting in a bit more movement and ZZzzzzssssss for yourself! Let us know whether any of our suggestions get you moving in the direction you want.

Readers: Hire us to speak at your next meeting or conference, or to write your blog posts.  Call us at (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

Be a winner while losing, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to access short videos that will improve your fitness level and destress you. Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.

Photo Credits: Woman relaxing at pool: Carrie1843; Man asleep at desk:  star5112

About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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17 Responses to I Want to Get Fit, but How to Start?

  1. Jody - Fit at 55 August 26, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    You two are amazing – such a great post from all angles from both of you!!! I have been there & I know many others have been there & WILL be there.. such a tough situation! I did not need to lose BUT I was caring & maintaining & trying to keep my home fine too – very tough stuff!

    Thank you for this!
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted..Comment on Gratitude Monday, Cookies, A New Adventure, Labor DayMy Profile

  2. Shira August 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    One of the things I love about your blog, besides the crackling humor and really helpful content, is how you meet people where they are in life, and come up with practical solutions to better fitness. Susan represents a majority of the population who face so many stresses and want to pursue wellness, but just aren’t sure how to make the time for it or get started. I will share this advice with others!
    Shira recently posted..Walking on SunshineMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit August 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      Thank you Shira. That is a very nice compliment. We do try, both online and in our classes, to meet people where they are. Who wants a starting line that’s far away? We think there’s so much info out there that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And a lot of that info is geared toward young die-hards with no “life experience” in their joints!!!
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Exercise Can Train Your Brain | Key Points from the IDEA World Fitness ConventionMy Profile

  3. Mary McManus August 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    When I was a social worker one of the greatest challenges was encouraging the caregivers to take care of themselves – yet if you don’t, you won’t be able to have a quality of life that you deserve none the less care for your parents. But we teach what we need to learn and I did not take care of my myself when I was caring for my veterans, their families and my own family so how wonderful you are open to taking steps to care for yourself and begin to connect to you. I have had quite a journey back from 7 years ago when my not paying attention to my body resulted in a total physical, emotional and spiritual breakdown. But I was so blessed to find my way back home to my heart and home. I chronicle my journey at http://www.healinghopepossibilty.blogspot.com and http://www.marymcmanus.com. Many blessings to you! All the best to you on your journey!

  4. Susan August 27, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Kymberly and Alexandra – thank you for your help in jump starting my fitness program. In addition to your recent post, I read the wonderful posts you referred me to and started my plan last week to set myself up for success.

    I purchased an InMotion Compact Elliptical with Resistance Bands that fits in front of a chair. I spend a good deal of time sitting with my parents and this way I can be with them and still exercise. My Mom, who is 81 and living with Parkinson’s disease, took an interest in it. I am happy to report she did 5 minutes the first few days and has worked her way up to 15 minutes yesterday. Her doctors will be very pleased as they have been encouraging her to move daily. Walking is tough for her as she has balance issues. Sitting while she exercises diminishes that problem. Dad has not bought into the idea yet – he turns 87 next week, but we’ll continue to encourage.

    Since I work in an office environment, I have incorporated your ideas to get up and pace when I am on a conference call and to put on my calendar break times to walk the several floors of our large building. I am also less tired during the earlier part of the day, so walking during the work day makes good sense. I also bought a pedometer to keep track of my steps and my goal is 10,000 steps a day. I’ve got a ways to go. I am working on the mindset to do what I can, and to do something every day. Your blog is a great motivator and I will continue to visit it for inspiration.

    So grateful that I found your site and thank you both for your encouragement and for the very reasonable, doable advice.

    • AlexandraFunFit August 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      Wow, if your mom is up to 15 minutes already, that’s pretty amazing. And since you are including them (or maybe they are including you – I say “they” on the hope your dad will come ’round), it will be that much easier to stick to a plan. Since you mention sitting at work and at home, maybe this video with the tube will be helpful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhP0N1HPhUI. Your goal of 10K steps is achievable and an appropriate goal, so keep us posted. Most somewhat active people do about 7K, while the majority of inactive people only do 2K. Thank you so much for the compliments. Even more, thanks for getting back to us, as we love to know when we’ve been helpful. We started this blog specifically for people like you!!!
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Healthy Eating – Mind and Body: Notes from the IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition ConventionMy Profile

  5. Amelia Williams August 27, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    Thank you for your great advice! I just discovered your site here at senior match, and I’ve been reading through everything. I figure that you’re used to all of these compliments by now. Breaking it down into movement rather than doing a gazillion reps has really helped me – I’m suddenly realizing that I don’t have to eat the elephant every single day.

  6. kris August 28, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Just wanted to pipe in here–I’m new to your blog. 6 years ago I lost 60 pounds and have kept it off (but it didn’t happen overnight and trust me, it’s a challenge!). At the time I had a 1- and a 3-year-old at home with me. Time and money were both tight. What I ended up doing was a mix of using a stationary bike and doing exercise videos in my basement. If I were to drive to a gym, I would spend at least 20 minutes on the road before I even started working out. I can get a decent amount of exercise in at home during that 20 minutes! I started off easy–10 or 15 minutes–and gradually built up from that. The stationary bike has been great because I can read at the same time, so I feel like I’m getting in a fun-for-me activity and getting healthier, too. At the time, I put my baby down for a nap and parked my son in front of PBS kids for 1/2 an hour–I don’t believe in excessive tv watching for kids … but it allowed me a little targeted time to myself and I was a happier (and therefore better!) mommy as a result. Sometimes my son would join me and that was a riot to watch. :)

    • AlexandraFunFit August 31, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

      All of your advice sounds right on target for losing & keeping the weight off Kris. So true about the 20 minutes’ drive being better spent working out at home. I imagine your kids have grown up thinking that exercise and a happy mommy are 2 things that go together – what could be better than that?
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Easy Abs Exercise with No Head or Neck StrainMy Profile

  7. Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana August 31, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Great tips and not ones you hear very often! Love the “start small, start with something you enjoy” approach. If it’s a horrible chore it will never get done.
    Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana recently posted..Building an Effective Abs WorkoutMy Profile

  8. Mike Luque September 1, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Hi Alexandra & Kymberly,
    I think the two best take aways you offer here are to break your fitness goals down into smaller steps so it doesn’t seem so insurmountable. When people understand they aren’t in the physical condition they want to be in or know is healthier for them, the stress they put on themselves definitely stops too many people. “Baby steps” as it could be put, is great advice. As a trainer, I’ll have to keep this in mind when I’m working with new people. Even when what we’re doing is positive we can get myopic too.
    Related to that, your advice to consider workout time to be “me” time, a positive time for yourself, instead of another obligation is right on the money, too.
    Mike Luque recently posted..The great sea salt myth. Sorry, y’all, there’s no minerals in there.My Profile

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