Getting Back in the Game

One lament that is shared by people of all ages is an inability to get into the kind of shape they were in a decade or two (or more) ago. Who doesn’t want to look like he or she did as a teenager or young adult? And who doesn’t wonder how it all went so wrong so fast? Why did we seem to stop exercising right at the moment our metabolism slowed to a crawl?

Being out of shape is exacerbated by the discouragement we all feel upon realizing just how long a road it is back to the shape we once enjoyed. It seems easier to just continue down the path we’re headed on than to embark upon the lifestyle changes, diet and exercise plans necessary to get back into shape.

Of course, that’s no solution at all. Nobody’s ever lost weight and built a physique to be proud of by doing nothing. So the question facing everyone looking to get back into shape is how to start exercising? A common mistake—and one that can end a fitness program almost as soon as it begins—is to try and do too much, too soon, and wind up exhausted.

When figuring out how to start exercising again, the last thing anyone should do is try and pick up where they left off way back when. If you used to run cross country, don’t roll out of bed and run five miles. The same goes for anyone who once was a star athlete on the swim team or baseball team. Don’t expect to swim a mile or play nine innings—pardon the pun—right off the bat. You’ll pay the price for days to come and will be doubly reluctant to resume exercising once you feel better.

The best advice for those looking to start exercising again is to begin slowly—very slowly. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t get in prime shape in a day either. Begin by simply walking around the block or taking the bike for a ride around the neighborhood. If you must run, make it a VERY short distance.

The most important thing anyone can do as he or she figures out how to start exercising again is to stretch. If you want a reminder of how long gone the old days are, just try exercising without trying at least a couple types of stretching beforehand! The benefits of stretching are two-fold: it helps prepare your muscles for what’s to come and prevents muscle pulls and tears while also getting your blood flowing.

Regardless of the types of stretching you choose—such as leaning against a wall and stretching hamstrings or stretching the calves and other lower leg muscles with a variety of sitting stretches—these are essential answers to the question of how to start exercising again. You can’t run before you walk and you can’t get on the road to fitness without engaging in some types of stretching. So don’t skip this crucial step!

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