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retired several years ago, she decided that she was out of excuses. It was time
to make time to get fit and stay fit.
"I knew I needed to do
something. I felt like all my muscles were starting to atrophy. Now I feel like
I'm so much more toned. I'm not buff, but I'm toned. I can definitely feel the
She chose working out at her local YMCA gym as a way
to increase her activity level. At first she went for 45 minutes at a time and
did nothing but aerobics. Now she spends 2½ hours every weekday morning on a
variety of activities, including aerobics and fitness machines. Her workout has
become a routine part of her day.
Building that habit wasn't
easy. Kris had tried before to visit the gym every day. But she was working
then, and 5 a.m. seemed the only time she could fit it into her schedule. It
"That lasted about a year and a half," says Kris.
"And then I just kept making up excuses. I was only going a couple days a week,
and it was so hard to get up that early."
Years went by and
retirement loomed: "I knew that once I quit working, all the excuses were
Getting past her fear
Going to a gym and exercising in front of other people wasn't easy for
Kris in the beginning. "I was intimidated by the people," she says. But she
kept at it until she felt comfortable.
"Once I got a little bit
less intimidated with just being there, I would go try another machine. That
took me a long time. I bet I was there 6 or 7 months before I moved on to
another machine. I was really kind of intimidated, because the other women and
men looked so buff."
She stayed to herself at first. But the more
she went, the more familiar faces she saw. Other "regulars" began to strike up
conversations with her. Today, she enjoys the social side of her workouts as
much as the actual exercise.
"I just have fun meeting people. I
still meet people all the time."
Setting goals was—and still is—an important part of Kris’s
physical activity plan.
She remembers getting on the stationary
bike in the beginning and feeling like her legs were going to fall off after
just a few minutes. "So I would just say, 'All right, I'll do 20 minutes this
week. And if I feel a little bit stronger next week, I'll do 25.'
would just try and increase it 5 minutes or so [at a time]. I still do that.
Last week I did 98 pounds on this one exercise machine and today I thought,
'I'm going to do 100.' I did, too! From 98 to 100 is only 2 pounds, but still
you feel like, well, that’s an improvement. It may not be much more, but if you
look back to 6 months ago—Whoa! It’s quite good! I started out at 70 pounds and
now I'm at 100!
"So every time you make that goal, you do a little
bit better or you stretch a little bit farther. It makes you feel pretty good
Making physical activity a routine
Kris says that the keys to turning her workouts into a
daily habit were knowing her likes and dislikes and
figuring out what worked best for her. She already knew that going at 5 a.m. every day wouldn't work.
So she tried 8 a.m. instead.
"I have a set time that I do it,
every single day. We get up, we go walk the dog for 45 minutes, I come back
home, get in the car and go work out. So this is just something that’s part of
the day, and it gets done."
Meeting barriers head-on
Even though her workouts have become a habit, Kris
still has days when she just doesn't feel very motivated. But she goes anyway.
"There are lots of days when I probably don't put as much energy
into it. But I'm there and I'm working out. I might not be working out as hard
or push as heavy weights, but I'm there and I'm working. I just have to talk
myself into it and just say, 'You know how much better you feel when you go.
Just get up and go!'
"I find it just necessary now," she says. "I
feel like this is a lifelong thing that I'm going to have to do to stay fit and
Kris's story reflects her experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Kris, to protect her privacy.
For more information, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.
October 25, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Heather Chambliss, PhD - Exercise Science
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