Every year I tell myself, “This is the year: To get in shape. To become a healthier eater. To fit back into the clothes I’ve had for 20 years.” (I don’t like to shop).
I’ve tried the full gamut and never seem to make the progress I want. I feel like I’m on version 14.4. But this past year, this very tough year for many of us, I got serious and gave myself some grace to take more time and effort. I’m finally making progress. And two recent articles may help me even more.
I started 2020 by going to a gym, which is way out of my comfort zone. But Kvell, downtown, offers classes that are no longer than 45 minutes. They’re usually about 30 minutes of hard-core exercise.
Then came lockdown. Late in the summer, I decided to work with a health coach, who focuses on exercise and nutrition and becoming more aware of what I eat. For instance, I learned that, contrary to my assumptions, carbohydrates and fats need to be part of the whole picture. And after about six months, I admit, I’m feeling better, stronger, and healthier.
Then I ran across two articles that hit me in the face as ways to think about keeping the exercise going.
First, Harvard Business Review reported on research by John Beshears. He and other researchers looked at three groups: people who had no routine or habit of exercise; people who followed a strict and set routine (“I run every morning at 7 a.m.”); and people who were more flexible in their exercise programs, because meetings come up, kids get sick, or other aspects of life come into play (“I plug exercise in when I can, I do short stints during the day.”).
Bottom line: Flexible exercise approaches may make more sense, especially for people who “put everyone else first.” Beshears gives this advice: Exercise “doesn’t need to happen at the same day or time; it just needs to happen.”
The second article, by New York Times reporter Gretchen Reynolds, raises an even more interesting approach. An exercise physiologist at the University of Texas in Austin and his graduate assistant suggest that even four seconds of high intensity, fast burst exercise can produce major health benefits. Who doesn’t have four seconds a few times a day?
So, this tells me that I just need to make exercise happen, even if I do it in very small chunks.
Even I can do that.