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"I admit, I have an exercise addiction"
By Ed Halper, M. Ed., C.P.T.

I admit, I have an exercise addiction. One of the first thoughts of each day is, "How am I going to work out?" When am I going to work out?" and "What am I going to do for my workout?"

What I do varies on what I am training for, and how my body feels. I used to run seven days a week, and add in other things (usually lifting or swimming) about three other days. Now I do something every day, but not necessarily running. My body has aged and needs more variety to stay fresh. Injuries have played a part in incorporating other cardiovascular activities like biking and rowing. Boredom with the same thing has also played a part. Mentally, you want to mix things up, or you get burnt out.

Since I own a gym, I have no problem getting in some form of exercise every day. Other people have more challenges in making that happen. The Wall Street Journal published an article a few months back entitled "Five Secrets of Steady Exercisers," by Rachel Bachman.

The article pulled from a study by the British Journal of Health Psychology that examined the habits of 181 people who exercised an average of five hours a week (a healthy standard by most measures.) Here are the key points:

EXERCISE THE SAME TIME MOST DAYS: I think this is key. Steady exercisers plan ahead. For a morning workout, they'll set their clothes out, pack their work clothes in a bag, and make the coffee the night before. Exercising before work takes out a lot of potential workout killers like late meetings, evening traffic jams, or family commitments at the end of the day. However, pick out the most conducive time for you, and stick to it. One note for runners: if you're preparing for a half or full marathon, try to do most of your runs in the morning so your body is used to it on race day. Muscles are stiff in the morning, and particularly so if you're not used to exercising at that time!

RE-DEFINE YOUR IDEA OF EXERCISE: Yes, mowing the lawn would not be considered a "training day" in preparing for a marathon. Or goofing around on a jungle gym with my son would not be called a "strength workout." Both have their obvious benefits, though, as do other non-traditional things like hiking or a yoga class. Once, I mowed a steep berm behind our house in November, after an entire season of neglected growth (it's a long story). I had to go over it a few times to cut it completely, and the mower conked out dozens of times. My heart rate was probably in the 150's. I knew all the other training I do enabled me to do that task, and after the cursing was done, I thought to myself, "That was one hell of a workout!"

HAVE VISUAL CUES: It could be a race application hanging from a refrigerator; a pair of headphones laying out, waiting to be worn; or else a mental picture of a wedding or reunion coming up. It's helpful to have things that keep you motivated, short and long-term!

BE FLEXIBLE ABOUT YOUR WORKOUTS: The "all or nothing" school of thought does not lead to exercise adherence. If you don't have time for a six-mile run outdoors (plus taking the time to change into the proper gear), squeeze in three on your basement treadmill! Maybe make the pace a little harder too, and the benefits will be very similar!

EXERCISE FOR PLEASURE! Hate the treadmill? Many people do! The elliptical machine offers many of the same benefits, works all the major muscle groups, and is close in calorie-burn, based on an equal effort. Is it quite as intense? Not really, but if you like it better, you will do it more often, and ultimately be in better shape for it. Plus, there's something to be said for a "B-plus" workout, like the elliptical. There's not as much pounding on the body and you can do it every day. The point is, find what you like, and do it!

Ed Halper is the proprietor of Mountain Fitness and feature writer of the "Eye on Health" column for The Showcase magazine, in which this piece appears.

He holds a Master's Degree in Physical Education from Trenton State College and is a Certified Personal Trainer through SCW. Ed is also recognized as an IDEA Master Trainer.


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