Lakeside Fund Run-WalkSometimes when you want to live a healthier life, the mere thought of how far you have to go is daunting.

It’s easy to look at someone in great physical shape and say, “I could do that if I wanted to,” but the reality is that it takes a lot of time and effort.

Many people enthusiastically dive into an exercise plan and then feel like a failure when it becomes too difficult or painful when they break the routine or when they aren’t seeing results quickly enough.

Especially for those who have been leading mostly sedentary lives, drastic changes in exercise can harm your body, rather than help. Your muscles and lungs need to be trained to do what you’re asking of them and to build their strength over time.

You’ll learn to understand your limits and how to stretch them safely.  Adrenaline and energy are good! Pain and exhaustion are not!

The best way to change your habits and build an enjoyable and enduring healthy life is to start small. Like a cartoon snowball rolling down a mountainside, steadily adding a bit more to your routine can grow your fitness plan into something you may never have imagined.

Here are a few ways to help get there:

Set Small Goals
Walk around the block once a day, then twice a day. Next, add another block or two. Then, try alternating jogging and walking every other minute, gradually increasing the time of your jogging. You can also alternate days the days you take a long walk or a shorter jog.

As your heart, legs and lungs build their strength, you can keep increasing your times and distances. Don’t think about eventually running a marathon; just keep focusing on the smaller goal you set for this week.

Mix It Up
It’s easy to get bored with a fitness routine. Yes, we all should exercise every day, but we don’t have to do the same thing each time. Mix in walking, running, swimming, dancing, strength training and more.

Try different fitness DVDs or online workout videos each week, and then, add different techniques. There are endless possibilities out there – from yoga and Tae Bo to Zumba and simple calisthenics and beyond.

Grab a Friend
Are you competitive? Do you need some motivation? Add a little energy to your workouts by having a friend join. You can encourage and challenge one another, keeping each other motivated and involved.  Also, you know your lungs are getting stronger when you can carry on a conversation while exercising.

Write It Down
Start an exercise journal of your activities so you can keep track of all the changes in your routine; record your distances and times. Muse on how you liked that new fitness video. Explore how you’re feeling physically. You’ll be able to look back on all of your progress, giving you even more motivation to continue.

You may never know how far you can go until you take those first small steps. Good luck!