Meenal Patel, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

DISCLAIMER: I am not a fitness guru and do not have any education in it, so please consult with your doctor prior to engaging in any exercise.

Every year, every month, every week, I tell myself I am going to start exercising and eating healthy, but that ends up never sticking. During the last few months, and since the beginning of 2020 really, I have tried hard to stick to new lifestyle goals (I do not like to call them resolutions) and have felt that I have done a pretty decent job with it. I wanted to share with you some tips and tricks that I have done with myself to do get myself to exercise, even if it just a quick 30-minute yoga flow, or an easy 30-minute bike ride or even a slow walk while on the phone.  

Start with something small. If I am on the phone with a family member, friends, or sometimes even work meetings, I will walk around my house. I do not allow myself to just sit still while being on the phone. We now have access to have cordless headphones, so utilize them. If the weather is good, just talk while walking and, oftentimes, before you even know it, you will have been walking for about 30 minutes. If I am needing to do a run or bike ride and I am not feeling it, I will tell myself that I just need to do it for 20 minutes. Normally after 20 minutes, I feel motivated enough to keep going. Do not tell yourself that you need to work out for an hour a day, but just 20 minutes and see how you feel.

Be realistic in your expectations. Do not hold yourself to big standards, if you know they are not obtainable. If you are not a big yoga person per se, do not tell yourself that you are going to do an hour-long power yoga flow. That is probably too much for you to start with.  Start with a small 10-15-minute yoga flow and do that flow two-to-three times until you can build your stamina and feel good about what you are doing.

Get others involved. I have been doing a lot of cardio since the beginning of 2020, and realized that I need to incorporate some bodyweight exercises. I do not have the motivation to do that alone, so I will often time start with some classes. Recently, I have started a 30-day challenge with some friends so they can hold me accountable and I can encourage them to work out. Our daily exercises take maybe five minutes, and include planks, sit-ups, push-ups, and squats.  Identify what you and your friends are needing to focus on and start small with how many you will do and slowly increase as the month goes on.

Trying to get yourself in a routine of exercising can be hard, especially since in the past few months, we have been sedentary at home and not using our commute to help us. I also will walk to run errands if time permits and it’s not too far. Listening to music and just walking is always very calming and can be more of a workout than you even imagine. Allowing yourself to just go and allowing your imagination to take over is important. Do not try to overthink working out and instead, think of it as a fun activity when compared to a chore that you are doing.  

Contact any of the talented therapists at Symmetry Counseling if you feel like you are struggling with getting started with a workout routine. We offer a wide range of counseling services in Chicago for people of all ages and all walks of life.