And So It Begins…

The Opening Act

Wake up early [check].  Start my day with enjoyable activity [check].  Slowly work in exercise afterward with subtle, sustainable changes [got it].  But, what exercise do I do?  Recall from Mining for Success that I referred to foundational exercise as the spring from which your health flows.  This is going to be your consistent, routine exercise.  Any other activity or exercise you accomplish on any given day will be considered bonus or extra.  The beauty of this bonus activity is that it can take place when conditions are just right [recall The Goldilocks Principle from Laying Foundations (Part I)].  This could be a bike ride with the family on a beautiful afternoon, or a weekend hike on a nearby nature trail.

For foundational exercise, I focus on core strengthening [should be on everyone’s list] and any other areas I think need to be targeted [will depend on the individual].  I also balance this with early morning running or walking [see Nature’s Dance Floor for a laugh].  I don’t recommend using a gym for foundational exercise unless you live extremely close to one with very few other morning regulars.  Gyms have a tendency to function more as social venues, and the travel time and unpredictably of equipment availability can have a significantly negative impact on consistency.  The best way to eliminate these variables is to stick to a home routine and reduce equipment dependency.

The Alternatives

I realize that some may not be able to safely enjoy an early morning walk or run outdoors, and that’s okay.  My wife doesn’t do this.  She likes to use phone apps to guide her through her morning exercise.  Though I’ve borrowed some exercises from these to incorporate into my routines, I prefer to have set routines and avoid guided exercise.  Guided exercise is really not my strong suit.  I tried an aerobics class back in the aerobics heyday, and that was a disaster [Picture Richard Simmons with less coordination and sex appeal].  I was constantly several steps behind, and I don’t know if I ever did one correctly.  If you’re good at this…great!  The point is to do what works for you.

I recommend keeping equipment to a minimum for foundational exercise.  My wife uses a mat and a phone, and I use a mat and a set of 10 lb. dumbbells [you can accomplish a lot more with this than you might think].  In a pinch, we could do without any of these.  If you want to incorporate running or walking and don’t feel safe doing so outdoors before daylight [will discuss strategic positioning later], you might be able to make good use of a treadmill or elliptical machine in the home.  Of course, that is if you have the space to store it, and the noise isn’t too much for others in the home who may still be trying to sleep.  There’s a lot of other exercise gear out there, but the reality is, most of it is going to end up in next year’s garage sale.  My best advice is to forget the props.  You can do a lot without them, and you can make better use of your space.

The Architecture

As for structure, I do my foundational exercise during my five-day workweek, and I try to structure it in the most appealing way possible.  For this reason, I do my most enjoyable exercise on Monday.  Why?  Because it’s Monday.  Nobody likes those, and I use my most enjoyable exercise to ease the sting a little bit.  Conversely, I do my least enjoyable exercise on Tuesday.  I like to get this over with as early in the week as I can…just not on Monday.  I also make this my shortest workout to make it a bit more appealing.  Wednesday and Thursday I do my longer but reasonably enjoyable workouts, and I keep Friday short and easy.  Getting this part of the day right is crucial and sets the stage for sustainable health.

You’ll find yourself more compelled to engage in bonus activity once you’ve put your foundational exercise routine in place and allowed it to drive your eating habits [will discuss how this works in an upcoming post].  The two in conjunction lead to a desire for increased bonus activity.  Remember that the goal is to always follow the way of the Sun [also in Laying Foundations (Part I)], never the way of the Wind.  I take walks on my lunch break because I’m compelled to…especially after hours of working at a desk.  I mostly work from home now, but when I’m at the office, I usually hit the nearest parking garage and take a lap up the seven flights of stairs and back [the view from the top is an added bonus].

The Encore

As important as your foundational exercise is, it doesn’t have to be difficult.  As long as you’re doing something worthwhile for a few minutes every morning, everything else will fall into place.  Remember to pay yourself first.  Get up early [read Got Animals? for a quick laugh], spend time on an enjoyable activity, then spend a few minutes exercising before preparing for the rest of your day.  Try using a phone app, or dust off that Jane Fonda video in the attic and fire up the VCR.  Give the best of your morning to you, and let the rest of your day unfold.  Believe me…the best is yet to come…

Author: T. A. Fuller

I'm a 40 year old husband and father of four. I'm also an Air Force veteran with a Master's Degree in Health Administration from the University of Florida, and I am currently employed by the Veterans Health Administration. I am committed to sustainable health, and I would love for you to be as well. Please, come join me on this journey!

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