Worrisome situations got you feeling tense? Or maybe sitting hunched over your computer isn’t doing great things for your back? Take a break and your body will thank you!
Try taking a few deep breaths and stretching for a couple of moments. Want some hints on stretches that feel really good? Important note: don’t push yourself to stretch more than feels comfortable!
Take a walk
Walking is great on several levels. A slow, meditative walk through the Campus Trail System can be calming and relaxing. Taking regular walks can also be helpful in dealing with depressed or anxious feelings. Finally, brisk walking can get your heart rate elevated to a point where you get some benefit to your cardiovascular system.
So, when you need a break or an energy boost take a stroll around campus or out on the trails. If the weather makes outdoor exercise difficult, walk around the track at the Campus Recreation Center or watch TV or read while walking on a treadmill. Bring a friend and talk while you walk. Happy trails!
Get Yourself in Motion (Step by Step)
Currently, the Center for Disease Control recommends one of the following plans for regular exercise:
- Moderate-intensity physical activity for 30 minutes on 5 or more days per week (include walking briskly, mowing lawn, dancing, biking on level terrain, anything where breathing and heart rate are slightly increased)
- Vigorous-intensity physical activity 3 or more days/week for 20 or more minutes (ex. include continuous laps, biking uphill, jogging, aerobics)
If these numbers seem overwhelming right now, remember this very important phrase: JUST DOING SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN DOING NOTHING. If you’ve never exercised before, or if you’ve stopped in the past because you were hard on yourself for skipping some days, you need to give yourself permission to start SMALL. Start with a little something every day.
Where should you start? Well, what feels doable to you? Could you try cleaning your room as you watch TV instead of sitting in front of the tube? Walking to your friend’s room to talk instead of emailing them? Parking at the far end of the parking lot so you have longer to walk? Biking to school instead of driving? (Good for the environment too!)
If you really keep up with just that little something every day you will build the confidence to start going after bigger fitness goals. Plus, you’ll have more energy at hand to attain them!
Start an Exercise Program
The folks at Campus Recreation are eager to help you get started with an exercise program. They will introduce you to the exercise equipment for free and also offer free monthly training tips on Tuesdays. For a fee, you can get a fitness assessment, a fitness consultation (where you can get advice on reaching your goals), and get hooked up with a personal trainer, either on your own or with a buddy! Check out all the great services they offer on their website.
How do you keep going once you get started? Here are 30 tips:
1. When you think you’re too tired to go to the gym, remember the old adage “Physical activity makes more energy than it takes.” Kind of defies the law of physics, but it feels true.
2. Take the Barriers to Being Active Quiz on the Center for Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov) for help in removing your personal barriers to getting fit.
3. Adopt a new identity. Decide that you are now a person who exercises. It doesn’t matter if you miss two weeks of gym time due to illness or travel: you are a person who exercises and you will get back to it. This is a part of who you are now.
4. Give physical exercise equal weight on your calendar. I mean, this is your health here. Your brain won’t be as efficient at studying, socializing, etc. if your body is struggling.
5. Find yourself dragging by noon? Notice your unique highs and lows and try to insert some moderate activity in when you need a boost.
6. Park far away from the mall. Come on, leave those spots for the senior citizens and WALK!
7. Remember that, when making change in our lives, we all fail. We fall off the wagon multiple times- that’s the norm. So DO NOT take that as an indicator that you will NEVER be a regular exerciser. If you fall off for a week, a month, etc. there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. Just gather up your determination again and get back to it.
8. When you walk/bike places instead of driving, you’re not only keeping fit but saving gas/decreasing carbon emissions. Don’t you feel doubly good about yourself now?
9. The clearer your goals, the more likely you are to succeed. Identify exactly what you want to get out of an exercise program (Sculpted arms? Walking up the stairs in your building without wheezing?) and monitor your progress.
10. Buy exercise DVDs. If you just can’t haul yourself outside or to the gym, you can still do yoga with Rodney Yee or Kickboxing with Billy Blank. And no one will watch you (ask your roommate to scram if s/he makes you uncomfortable).
11. Did you know there are FREE exercise classes at the Recreation Center?
12. Ask your friends to support you. Ideally, ask them to keep you company on the elliptical machine. If they’re not big into exercising, ask them to at least respect your choices and not make you feel guilty when you use some of lunch time to jog.
13. If you froze when reading the words “elliptical machine” don’t worry. Many people find gym equipment intimidating. The staff at the Rec Center will show you around for free.
14. The Rec Center also has personal trainers (you have to pay, but it’s sure worth it). They can help you tailor an exercise program to your needs and help you move toward your goals.
15. Start small. If you’re a perfectionist, you may get mad at yourself for not being able to lift much/run for very long at first. Be rational here: does it make sense that your body would go from no activity to marathon-running with ease? No! Baby steps, my friend.
16. Stretch before you exercise. It reduces the chance of injury and soreness.
17. Make an awesome iPod playlist that’s just for exercise. Musical motivation!
18. If you feel terribly overloaded, bring some work with you. Choose an exercise bike or elliptical machine and place your notebook in front of you. Moderate exercise while reading is better than no exercise. Don’t make a habit of it, though. If you’re really stressed, giving your brain a rest and paying attention to your body is probably a better idea.
19. Take a walk around the Rec Center first, without even planning to exercise. Just to get your bearings and feel a bit more familiar. You can see how the machines are used, what people wear or bring, etc. This might decrease nervousness about what to expect.
20. If you do feel like a klutz/newbie while exercising, remember: you only FEEL like people are watching you. Most likely, others are just doing their own thing. Honest.
21. If you don’t like one mode of exercise, try another. There are so many choices at U-Maine. You can take a group hiking/canoeing trip with MaineBound, cross-country ski on the trails, swim in the pool, play tennis. Focus on what you like about the activities- the harder parts will likely become easier as you get into better and better shape.
22. Yoga is great for the chronically stressed. It doesn’t just give you the flexible body of Gumby, but the calm mind of a monk.
23. Do you get the winter blues? Research shows that exercise can, in many cases, be just as effective as medication in relieving depression and anxiety. If you still find yourself feeling glum, add in a couple of sessions at the Counseling Center. It’s a great place to de-stress.
24. If you have any health issues, check in with your doctor on your exercise plans and s/he can give you the green light on the activities best suited to you.
25. Reward yourself for a job well done. You’ll know you’re in love with exercise when you choose to reward yourself with cool workout gear or fancy new sneakers.
26. Don’t be a tyrant to yourself. If you’ve got a bad flu or a pulled muscle, it’s in your best interest to rest. Remember the identity thing: you are an exerciser. You will return to it.
27. Make sure you’re not overdoing it. If you’re working out multiple times a day every day, even when exhausted, check in with yourself. These behaviors are not healthy, especially if you also find yourself being frequently critical of your body and dieting excessively.
28. Get a routine going. Lay out gym clothes the night before, etc. It’ll soon be habit.
29. Don’t get hung up on the scale. For a while the muscle you’re building will make it seem, on the scale, like no weight is lost (if weight loss is your goal).
30. If you lose heart, keep this list handy and read these words: You can do it!