Exercise Your Rights

You have the right to eat a large pepperoni pizza by yourself. You have the right to snack on jelly beans at your desk. You have the right to a third glass of wine with Friday night’s dinner. Of course, with rights come responsibilities, such as your responsibility for a 40-inch waist, an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and a feeling of lethargy no amount of coffee can overcome. You also have the right to join the 19 percent of us who regularly engage in “high levels of physical activity,” according to the National Center of Health Statistics. (That’s defined as three intense 20-minute workouts per week.) If you, pardon the pun, exercise this right you have the right to enjoy all the benefits, which include reducing your risk for the aforementioned problems. You can also expect to make it up the stairs at home without being out of breath, work in the yard without feeling sore the next day and invest in a new (smaller) wardrobe.

So, why do 63 percent of us, according to the NCHS, never exercise?

The problem may be a lack of motivation. You may feel you don’t have enough time, or enough energy, or you may feel selfish for taking an hour away from work and family for yourself. Whatever your reason, here are strategies to break through the excuses and discover a healthier you.

Bet on yourself. Make a friendly bet with your best friend, your ultracompetitive brother or your husband about who can lose the most weight or break an eight-minute mile or workout for the most days in a row. Make the bet, set a definite time frame and let your competitiveness do the rest.

Play the numbers. Check your cholesterol, your blood pressure and your body fat. Set a goal date to lower your LDL cholesterol and raise you HDL cholesterol through an improved diet and regular exercise. Then, watch your blood pressure and body fat drop.

Make a deal. Make a deal with your significant other (or with yourself) to have one hour a day to yourself, provided you use the time to exercise. There should be no pressure to be a chauffeur, to clean the bathroom or to play with the kids, unless you are running around with them. Of course, you can return the favor.

Turn it up! Numerous studies have shown working out with fast-paced music helps you work harder and exercise longer. So, make a workout playlist on your ipod filled with your favorite songs. No one has to know about the Barry Manilow.

Plan on it. At the beginning of each week or month, schedule all of your workouts and cross them off as you complete each one. If you miss any, tack the workouts onto the next schedule. After all, exercise is as much a part of your life as any breakfast meeting, isn’t it?

Do pushups first. If you’re having trouble finishing your workouts, do the thing you like the least, first. Once you finish the pushups or squats or planks, you will know the hardest part is over and the workout may seem easier to finish.

Follow your passion. The prior tip notwithstanding, long-term exercisers do what they enjoy. If you hate the treadmill, ride a bike instead. If you dread the weight room, swim or take a sculpt class. The point is, you are more likely to reach your fitness goals if you consistently workout, and you will consistently workout if you are engaged in an activity you enjoy.

Just show up. What did Woody Allen say? Success is 90% showing up. No matter how fit you are, some days the hardest part is showing up for your workout. When you are having a bad day or you are sore from yesterday’s workout, get started on today’s workout and you will find you are able to cross another day off your schedule.

Ask a critic. Ask someone you know will be honest, which part of your body is the least attractive. Use their negative criticism to focus your workouts for the month. Then, ask again.

Find a mentor. Whether this person is a trainer or a ripped guy at the gym, don’t be afraid to ask for advice about how he or she got to the point they are now. Most people are flattered to be asked and are glad to share their secrets of success.

Now turn off the computer and go workout!