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Conquer Your Fitness Fears

Hate exercise? Here's how you can learn to love working out

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But can an exercise-hater really change? Will you ever be able to face a daily workout without dread?

Yes, say Calabrese and Gunning, who offer these tips to help you turn "hate" into "tolerate" -- maybe even "love":

  • Find something you enjoy. Bottom line, they say, if you don't like what you're doing, you won't stick with it. If you're not sure what you like, explore: Take a dance class, learn to Rollerblade or swim, or hike in some nearby mountains. Try them all. Keep experimenting until you find the thing that moves you, mentally and physically.
  • Set goals. "Write down your goals and review them often," says Calabrese. But be realistic. If you've started out walking for 10 minutes, don't aim to run a marathon in three months. Your goals "can start really short term and lead to long term," she says. "Create specific, measurable, action-oriented goals -- and have a time frame for accomplishing them."
  • Be a morning exerciser. Statistics show that people are more likely to stick with a fitness program if they exercise first thing in the morning, Calabrese says. There's less of a chance to make excuses, and you get it over with before your day begins.
  • Schedule your workout. "Write it in your planner just like a meeting or appointment," says Calabrese. Schedule a whole month in advance, writing the day and time of your workout. "And if you have to cancel one, reschedule it immediately."
  • Have a partner. "Exercise can be very social," says Calabrese. Whether or not you're involved in a team sport, she says, "having the commitment of a friend or spouse increases your commitment."
  • Reward yourself. Gunning uses rewards to inspire people to set small goals along the way to the larger ones. When you can complete a 30-minute walk on the treadmill or do 10 push-ups, for example, reward yourself with a new CD or T-shirt. When you've stayed with the program for 12 weeks, get a new pair of sneakers. "Just make sure (the rewards aren't) food related," says Gunning.
  • Chart your progress. Start by getting a fitness assessment when you first begin a program. (If you're not a gym member, do it on your own. Write down your weight, measurements, and BMI, then record how long you're able to exercise on the first day.) In three months, you'll see how much progress you made.
  • Try a mind-body approach. Starting out with classes like yoga or Pilates, in which you focus on breathing and stretching, can give you a taste of exercise's feel-good benefits right off the bat, Calabrese says: "By breathing and oxygenating the muscles, you feel an immediate stress release, and you may feel the benefits sooner without feeling the soreness that comes with strength training or even cardio right away."
  • Abandon the all-or-nothing approach. So you don't have an hour? How about 30 minutes? It's certainly better than nothing, and if you work smart you can really reap benefits from a 30-minute workout, says Gunning. And recognize you're fallible. You'll fall off the wagon a time or two. Don't beat yourself up. Just get back into your routine and stop procrastinating.

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