Level Two: Workout Ideas and Recommendations continued...
If group activities aren't for you, start a walking routine, two or three times a week, for 15 to 20 minutes. If you feel like it, jog for a few minutes during each walk. Do a few jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups -- along with stretches -- in the morning before work. Jump rope with your kids or buy yourself a Hula Hoop. Take an in-line skating class, or start going out dancing occasionally with friends.
Dance, tai chi, and yoga classes are enjoyable, low-stress fitness activities. Also, consider buying several exercise tapes and try out fun activities including biking, swimming, horseback riding, or even a regular game of Frisbee with your dog.
Focus, above all, on giving yourself permission to enjoy your physicality. If you can, start getting regular massages. If you belong to a gym, don't feel you must do a strenuous workout every time you're there. Try going occasionally just for the enjoyment of stretching for several minutes and then taking a Jacuzzi, steam, or sauna bath. You'll learn to reconnect with your physicality and rediscover your body as a source of pleasure.
Level Three: Workout Ideas and Recommendations
By choosing the right exercise program, you can make your natural athleticism work for you. Avoid heavy-duty exercise programs that trim off inches for a little while but may not work in the long run because they can cause burnout.
For long-term results, find activities that you enjoy, instead of merely choosing those that burn calories. You probably already know some of the activities you do and don't like, so select those you prefer and drop the ones that bore or stress you.
For instance, are you starting to dread your usual five-mile run? If so, give yourself permission to take a leisurely bike ride or swim. Too tired for a 30-minute workout? Exercise for 15 minutes, and see if you feel like continuing. And if you find yourself setting harder and harder goals ("I need to run an eight-minute mile"), reconsider your priorities. Remember that getting regular, moderate exercise is smarter and more effective than forcing yourself to do grueling workouts that can lead to injury or burnout.
You might enjoy the challenge of participating in a run or bike race for charity -- a great way to get exercise while meeting new people and helping your community. You might even want to train for a half-marathon, if running is your favorite activity. Just be sure to make fun and stress reduction -- not calorie-burning -- your top priorities!