Doctor Strive to Thrive
Posted in Get Moving, Keep Going

Too Tired to Exercise: Try These Ideas

One of the most common reasons people don’t exercise is because they’re too tired.  Who isn’t these days? When you’re already exhausted, it seems insurmountable to get up and exert yourself.  I’ve felt that way countless times and have skipped exercise because of it more often than I’d like to admit.  Unfortunately, in case you haven’t heard, a lack of activity makes fatigue worse.  Good grief, are we doomed?  Of course not.  I’m going to share with you some ideas that can help you get over that slump, and get the energy momentum going in the right direction!

Disclosure: This website uses affiliate links, meaning if you click on one and make a purchase, I may get a commission at no additional cost to you.

High Intensity Isn’t Necessary

University of Georgia study found that among initially sedentary volunteers, engaging in regular, low-intensity exercises reduced fatigue by a whopping 65%, and moderate intensity exercises reduced it by 49%.  That means you don’t have to knock yourself out when you exercise, especially if you’re too tired.

Walk:

According to the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, aerobic exercises including regular fast walking, can significantly increase your energy.  The researchers reasoned that increasing oxygen flow to the brain and improving circulation are part of the improvement.  Also, low intensity exercise can leave you feeling more confident, in a better mood, and change your frame of mind – all of which can increase your energy.  Combine that with better sleep, and you are on the way to feeling a whole lot better.  exercises for when you're tired

When you’re too tired to exercise:  If you’re starting from a sedentary lifestyle, identify a short distance to do initially, and add a bit each day.  You can download my free graphic to help you start identifying short distances. If you’re already a walker, make an agreement with yourself to do an abbreviated route, a shorter time on the treadmill, or use an incline rather than run.  As you get moving you may find your energy is increasing and your motivation may rise with it.  

Do Yoga:

The act of connecting with your body not only is good for your health, but you might feel yourself perk up a little and want to do more.  In a study at the University of Waterloo, subjects participating in 25 minutes of yoga had a greater increase in energy levels and brain function, when compared to meditation alone and quiet reading.

When you’re tiredYoga experts have identified certain postures that are believed to increase energy.  By focusing on the breath, quieting the other “mental chatter” and connecting with our body, you can feel more grounded, and feel a bump in energy levels.  If you’re concerned you can’t do it because you’re not flexible, there are beginner poses you can try – adapting as necessary to your own tolerance/comfort level.

March in place:

You don’t have to go far to get a little exercise.  Just by marching in place you can burn calories, get more oxygen circulating, tone your muscles, improve your mood, and yes, feel less tired!

When you’re too tired: Since you don’t have to go anywhere, you can wear whatever you have on, and don’t need any equipment beyond a good pair of athletic shoes.  So, you just saved yourself the step of changing your clothes.  By telling yourself how simple it is, it’s harder to find excuses not to do it.  Pick a time frame and go (there’s no time like the present!)  If you feel better after you get going, you can bump it up a level by raising your knees higher or jog in place.

Declutter an area:

Ouch.  This one really doesn’t sound fun, does it?  Wait, hear me out!  If you stop and think about how you feel when you’re surrounded by clutter, then compare it to how you feel in a clear and organized space, don’t you notice a difference?  Decluttering an area that’s been bugging you has multiple benefits – you will be moving, and getting rid of stuff that’s probably dragging your energy down at the same time.  decluttering and energy

When you’re tired: Pick one category of items like junk mail, old magazines, expired food, or anything you can grab to make quick progress.  Get yourself going by committing to that one category.  As with all the other exercises I’ve mentioned, you just might feel a little more pep and end up doing more than you thought you would!

It Can Be Done

Exercising when you’re too tired is not only possible, but totally doable.  The most important thing that can make or break us in these moments is what we tell ourselves.  A quote commonly attributed to Henry Ford is “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right“.  By telling yourself “It’s doable, I don’t have to knock myself out“, you’re taking the first step in counteracting the fatigue that is such a problem for so many of us!

Too Tired to Read a Whole Blog Post, Let Alone Exercise?

Check out my exercise tips that take 30 seconds or less to read!

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had lots of days when I’m too tired to exercise, but I’m working on it!  I have started putting reminders up to get myself moving, after, say, I’ve been sitting at the computer for too long!

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Posted in Get Moving

Building Exercise Momentum

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Nothing to Something

It’s always hard to get moving when you’ve been inactive for a long time.  Going from a few steps per day to an active lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight.  It will take a little buildup over time, and it doesn’t have to be a huge chore to squeeze in more movement every day.  In 2016 I started a journey to regain the “old” me – being able to move comfortably, fitting into my clothes, and feeling (relatively) energetic.  One of the things that helped me achieve that was as simple as squeezing in extra steps whenever I had a few moments.  Let me share with you what I did to get the ball rolling again.

First Steps

Go take a few steps.  Really, do it now, I’ll wait.

How did that feel?  Not too bad, I hope.  I just took a few too, just to be in on this with you.  Now, look around your home and take note of the layout.  Do you have stairs?  Any hallways?  Is the main living area closed off or can you make a loop around from one room to another and end up back in the same place?

Our house has has two floors, and the downstairs provides me with a “loop” that takes 23 steps to complete.  Not huge, but it’s measurable.  I did that loop for a few minutes here and there, and it added up to miles over time.

walking in circlesMy husband made fun of me, saying I was “orbiting” the bathroom (there’s a powder room in the center of my little loop).  Don’t laugh (ok, I guess it’s a little weird) –  it really helped!  I could orbit that bathroom several times while I was heating up something in the microwave, waiting for someone to call me back, anytime I had a few minutes that weren’t tied to some other task.  While it wasn’t instantly life-transforming, for at least those few minutes at a time, I felt in control of my life and like I was accomplishing something.  My energy level even popped up a little.  If you charted my energy level through the day, you would see a “blip” every time I took my short walk.

Exercise Momentum Will Build

Getting back to my former, more active self took less time than I expected.  As I picked up more steps, I felt a lift, and wanted to find other ways to move too.  I made a point to use the upstairs bathroom when I was downstairs, and vice versa.  I broke out the old step aerobics step, and started doing 30 minutes of stepping in front of the tv.  When the weather was nice, I mapped out a 1.8 mile route in the neighborhood.  That walk took me about 35 minutes at first, and I gradually found myself getting home faster and faster, eventually having enough time to do it twice in a day.  The more I moved, the easier it got, and the more I wanted to move.  It was the blessed upward spiral of energy and I was feeling great!  Group fitness classes were next, and before I knew it my cardio endurance was building.  I started noticing I could get off the floor with no hands and my balance was improving.

Overall, within two months I started really noticing a difference in how my body felt and I started seeing myself as “active” again.  In hindsight, I’m not sure how confident I was that I could feel that way again.  Seeing each small chunk of time as an opportunity to get “a little bit” of movement in brought about an inner change that I don’t think I had experienced before quite like it.

exercise rewards

Notice I’ve said “movement” rather than focus on “workouts” or “running” or “exercising”.  What’s the difference?  Scale.  I didn’t see “moving” as insurmountable, and before I knew it the little bits of “movement” were in reality, “exercise” or “workouts”.  Talk about rewarding!

What can you do today to move more than you did yesterday?

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Posted in Keep Going

Staying Motivated: This is what happens when I slack off

Disclosure: This website uses affiliate links, meaning if you click on one and make a purchase, I may get a commission at no additional cost to you.

It’s Not Pretty

Staying motivated to be active is a hard thing, I admit it.  Completely.  There are things I need to do regularly to keep my head in the game.  One is remind myself of all the reasons I like being active.  When I get going and am tempted to give in to excuses, I have to flip it.  I also need to remind myself of what happens when I stop.

Fatigue slams me

Who isn’t tired these days? Seriously. We cram our lives with activity and stress.  Adding fatigue when not exercisingexercise seems like ONE MORE THING to do.  No wonder so many of us aren’t doing it.  I will admit, for some of us, fatigue will always be there, but we can lift it a little.  The first thing that happens when I stop moving every day, is that brain fog sets in, heavier than usual.  The vicious cycle begins – too tired to exercise – more fatigue, and so on. This doesn’t have to happen.  Research shows that exercise does lift it some, but you have to make yourself move for that to happen.

My Mood Isn’t so Light

I don’t consider myself to be overly depressed, but I definitely notice the difference when I’m exercising.  I feel significantly better.  Turns out, research backs that up too.  When I stop, I am seriously grumpy – add fatigue and, well, my poor family.

Oh the Aches and Pains

I spend way too much time at the computer, and wow, that causes some funky neck and shoulder pain.   Inactivity also lets other aches and pains kick in more too.  When I’m active, it’s not too bad, if I have it at all.

 

My Healthy Eating Starts Going Out the Window

You would think I’d be more concerned with how I’m eating when I’m NOT burning extra calories.  But no, my resolve to eat well also slips (it takes a little longer for this one to start, but it happens).  Not good.  You know what they say, eat like crap and you feel like crap.  Add another vicious cycle to the mix now.

STAYING MOTIVATED

exercise feel like a champWhat’s the point of telling you all this?  I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, I want to share the obvious relationship between how I feel and how much I’m moving.  I can’t deny it.  Ideally, I’d keep all these things in mind before I relapse into couch potato mode.  The good news is, each time I get back into the groove it gets just a little easier.  I can tell I’m a little less winded early on than I would have been years ago, since my relapse is usually limited to months, not years.  I can also go a little farther than I expected, and that’s awesome!  Each day, adding a bit more activity will knock these symptoms down and I can feel like a champ again.

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Posted in Keep Going

Exercise Alphabet Soup – Making sense of all those names

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Fitness Trends Have Some Weird Names

Lately you can’t scroll through Pinterest without seeing pins about fitness trends like “TRX” and “PiYo” and HIIT.  Do you find yourself thinking “I don’t even know what that means” – then figure it’s not for you?  When your friends who workout say how awesome “Tabata” was this morning, do you just nod along smiling, as if you know what on God’s green earth they’re talking about?  I confess, I have had those reactions.  I come to you today to translate and explain a little bit about them.  This way you can decide if you want to try any of them – and  actually mean it when you nod along with your friends.

If you’ve been inactive, before you try any of these, definitely check with your physician.  The American College of Sports Medicine has also developed a questionnaire to help you determine your readiness for physical activity that you can share with your doctor.

Here are some of the fitness trends I’ve seen the most over the last several years.  It’s by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a good sense of what’s out there.

It’s not just a bunch of letters

HIIT – Stands for High Intensity Interval Training.  It consists of short bursts of really intense training (sprinting, fast cycling) followed by less intense periods (jogging, less intense cycling).  The intensity is based on your target maximum heart rate.  It’s usually done in groups, and depending on the protocol, intervals can range from about 20-30 seconds intense training alternating with 15-20 seconds recovery training.  Workouts typically last no more than 30 minutes, about three times a week.  Research has shown that people who start out as inactive improve heart health and mood after ten weeks of training.  Since it’s based on your heart rate, you start out working as hard as you need to reach your target.  No two people will do the exact same intensity, so it really is for any fitness level.

fitness trend trx
Airmen from the 18th Force Support Squadron perform a Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX) chest during their physical training workout at Kadena Air Base, June 14. TRX Suspension Training is an innovative fitness training regimen that consists of body-weight based equipment and specified exercise programs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jarvie Wallace)

TRX – Stands for Total Body Resistance Exercise.  This uses body weight for resistance and a suspension trainer (TRX is the name of the brand of these) for stabilizing your body so you can focus on the muscles you want.  For an idea of what it looks like in action, this video  is helpful.  Studies have shown it can improve body composition and reduce cardiovascular risk, but the American Council on Exercise cautions against it if you don’t have sufficient core strength to start with.

PiYo – Stands for Pilates and Yoga Squished into one.  Some people call it “cardio yoga”.  It’s not a workout you can just go and do, it’s actually part of the Beachbody brand and consists of videos you purchase through them.  The workout has you moving continuously for cardio endurance, plus has you doing strengthening exercises using your own body weight.  They combine it with yoga moves to increase flexibility.  It’s marketed as great for beginners, but this review says it’s a little advanced if you’re just getting moving.

P90X – Stands for Power 90 Extreme.  It’s not a workout per se, it’s actually a 90-day plan  including really intense workouts and diet.  It’s marketed as a program that will whip you into shape and targets people who want to be a workout beast.  It claims to use something called muscle confusion, changing the muscles you use often, but this reviewer says that’s hogwash.  If you’re reading my blog, you may be looking for something  less intense for now.  You can always strive for something this hard-core, though!

Come back later for my explanation of the ones you can pronounce but don’t know what they mean!

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Posted in Get Moving

Exercise Benefits You Don’t Have to Wait For

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Why Move?

It turns out that the reasons people SHOULD exercise, and the reasons I WANT to exercise aren’t always the same.  Should I be active because it’s good for my heart?  Of course – especially when heart disease is in the family history, we all should make it a priority.  Because it reduces my risk of developing cancer?  You bet, especially with that in the family history too.  Because it will keep me looking slimmer?  Heck yeah.  But, exercise benefits don’t always have to be the long-term results, usually they are right there in front of you, all you have to do is tune in to the NOW.


Those tidbits of knowledge are all well and good, but they don’t get the job done for me.  Knowing all those things and feeling that urge to move are two different animals.  So what exercise benefits get me off the computer, away from the tv, off my butt?

MY Reasons

I feel alive

When I’m exercising, my senses seem to wake up.  Music sounds better when I’m moving, colors seem a little brighter.  Getting that blood flow picking up through my body and brain seems to clear my head and I just feel more alive.

I feel hopeful

I have some serious family history of chronic diseases.  So why would I say I feel hopeful?  Lifestyle, that’s why.  Research shows that while genes can contribute to developing illness, lifestyle is a much bigger contributor.  Often, our lifestyle coincides with those we spend the most time with, so it makes sense that family members would have similar lifestyles.  I have hope because maybe I will be the one who breaks that pattern by living differently.

I get a mental break

When I’m exercising, I can allow myself not to think about all the things that are creating stress in my life.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s ok not to think stress reductionabout them, it doesn’t mean I don’t care (sound familiar?).  When I choose to change the channel in my head, even for a little while, it does my mind wonders.

 

It takes the edge off my stress

When my life seems overwhelming, getting out and moving not only gives me a break, but the effects last beyond the workout.  I generally feel more even-keel and clear-headed when I’ve been exercising, and if I can’t move, I notice the difference!

I can brainstorm

Some of my best ideas for my job and volunteer activities come to me when I’m walking.  Maybe it’s because my energy picks up when I’m moving, or I feel more confident about myself when I am active, but I get a charge out of coming up with ideas when I’m walking.

Small accomplishments give big rewards

When I’m just starting out, being able to go “X” number of yards/minutes, etc. without walking (usually pretty short) makes me feel REALLY good.  I like to bump it up just a little bit each time – it doesn’t take much and my emotional reward is usually bigger than the achievement.  I’ll take it!

exercise motivationI feel more capable

When I’ve been active, I feel ready and motivated to help people with things, fix things, move things, carry things.  When my friend needed someone to get into the attic above her garage and move stuff, I volunteered because I felt agile and strong enough to do it.  It was awesome!  She thanked me, but I felt lucky to get the chance to test myself out.

I’m fighting the good fight 

-Against Father Time.  The more time I spend inactive, the more of the “inevitable” aches, pains, breakdowns occur, and the worse they are.  When I get moving regularly, I feel like I’m punching the “inevitable” in the gut.  I do feel some of those things, but man, they could be so much worse.

I recover from things faster

Like I said, “when” I’m inactive, those physical problems start creeping up on me.  But, when I’m active, it seems like it takes less time to reel those symptoms back in.   I accept that I will never be pain-free, but it’s much more bearable when I feel like I have a little bit of control over it.

I can keep up with my kid

I’m older than the mothers of the kids in my daughter’s class, so I know I need to make a point to keep myself strong to stay on par with them and the kids. In fact, my increase energydaughter sometimes has trouble keeping up with me when we jog together.  OK, I realize it’s only because my legs are longer – that won’t last much longer.

I could probably go on about my own exercise benefits, but you get the point.  It’s not just about being thin, or preventing disease way down the road.  It’s satisfaction that comes with all the little things I get in the meantime.  Those are the things that get me going.

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Posted in Get Moving

Steps Per Day – You Gotta Start Somewhere

STARTING FROM NOTHING?

You have probably read by now that a common recommendation is taking 10,000 steps per day.  Most people walk about 3,000-5,000 each day, which doesn’t give us much health benefit.  With our computer-working, tv-watching, long-commuting lifestyles, we sit way too much. It’s turning out to be just as hazardous for our health as smoking.

Studies have shown that compared to people doing nothing, doing something, even if it’s less than the recommended daily amounts, can reduce your risk of death by anywhere from 14% to 20%.

In fact, a new phrase is making the rounds these days “Sitting is the new smoking“.   Prolonged sitting puts us at risk for heart muscle shrinkage and stiffening, increasing our risk for heart failure.  So you sedentary non-smokers out there, you’re nowhere near in the clear from chronic disease and early death.

There is good news, though!  According to the American Heart Association, people who have been inactive for a long time can reverse the damage by getting moving.

Disclosure: This website uses affiliate links, meaning if you click on one and make a purchase, I may get a commission at no additional cost to you.

WHAT’S THE FIRST STEP?

Take some, that’s what! You’re probably thinking “Yeah, right, I’ll just pick right up and start going 10,000 steps per day.  Sure thing”.   Well, I, for one, can’t do that either, so I’m right there with you.  Even better news, actually, is that some of the greatest

steps per day how to get started
Photo by Bianca on Pexels.com

benefits occur when you go from NOTHING to SOMETHING.  Studies have shown that compared to people doing nothing, doing something, even if it’s less than the recommended daily amounts, can reduce your risk of death by anywhere from 14% to 20%.

So go move a little!

DON’T BE OVERWHELMED: IT’S NOT THAT BAD

Notice I didn’t just say “so go workout” or “go for a run”.  Really, just get moving in some way.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, you can get in as little as three 10-minute chunks per day to gain the long-term health benefits. If that’s more than you can do right now, that’s ok too.

Since the research says moving more, even if it’s less than recommended, is beneficial, let’s talk about how to just move more.  You don’t need to plan an elaborate workout routine, just get your body going and see how you feel.  At the start, don’t overdo it – you may feel fantastic at the time, but it might hit you the next day.  Tailor your plan from here on based on how you feel after the fact.  Be sure to figure out what you like to do, identify a small first goal once you know your baseline. Don’t know your baseline?  First you need to estimate how much you’re moving as of now, or how many steps a day you’re getting typically.  Keep reading and I’ll help you figure that out.

ACTION PLAN FOR TODAY

Click the image for free download!  steps per day starting point

Let’s start with what you can do right now.  Get up and walk around your house, apartment, dorm, wherever you live.  Count how many steps it takes from you to go from point A to point B.  Find a good little path or route you can count as your standard length.  Remember how many steps that was.  This way you can start to gage what your baseline is – you can begin to estimate how many steps per day you’re doing when you use that as  your yardstick.  (Unless you have an activity tracker, than you’re ahead of the game!)

In my house, I identified a loop that’s about 23 steps.  I also have 14 stairs.  If you really think hard about it, how many times do you walk up and down the stairs (if you have them) and how many times do you walk from, say, the couch to the fridge?  How many steps is it from your bed to the kitchen?  Start gathering up your own data so you can add it up and identify your starting point for this journey.

START GETTING MORE STEPS EACH DAY

Well, knowing your starting point needs to be for a reason, right?  You’re here because you wanted to know something about how to get more steps per day or just be more active, so let’s start making a plan.

Let’s say today you figured out you’re getting about 2,000 steps per day.  If you’ve been really sedentary, you may be getting less.  Don’t sweat it – at least not yet ;), you will get there. Did you look around your surroundings and identify distances?  Where can you add a lap or two?

I recently got a new Fitbit, and can start counting flights of stairs in my daily goals.  I figure, it doesn’t take much time out of my day to do one extra trip up and down each time I use the stairs.  If I’m not carrying loads of laundry or anything, it’s totally doable.  For me, each flight adds 28 steps and gets my heart pumping a little harder.

I just had to reboot my computer modem, so while that was happening, I did a quick walk up the street (it’s beautiful out, so I’m taking advantage!) while I waited.  When I put something in the microwave, I walk my little 23-step loop until I hear the *beep*.

Notice I haven’t talked about working out.  I’m dealing with my own health problems and chronic foot pain, so this is my strategy for the time-being too.  I can already tell my step count is increasing in the few days since I got back on track.

SET A GOAL

Tomorrow I’m shooting for five extra trips up the stairs and five-hundred more steps than today.

Today you can start by getting your baseline and moving a little.  Tomorrow bump it up by about 10%.  See how you feel and plan for the next day from that.  Then, come back again to share what you discovered and learn how to keep building up!

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increase steps per day

Posted in Get Moving

Let’s Get You Moving! Fitness Motivation for Exercise Strugglers

YOU’RE NOT INSANE

How many times has your New Year’s resolution been to exercise regularly?  If you’re like many of us, you lost count.  What about all the springtime promises to yourself that you would be swimsuit ready by summer?  These things don’t work but we keep trying them over and over, expecting a different result.  I don’t think that makes us insane (Einstein didn’t really say that, but it’s incredibly wise!), but we are extremely well-intended.  This website is dedicated to everyone who has ever said “I need to start exercising!”. Then you started, then stopped, repeatedly, year after year.

Maybe you’ve been inactive for a long time and haven’t even taken the first step.  You might be getting moving but think “I could never be one of those ‘fit’ people“.  Obstacles may keep popping up and it’s really hard to stay motivated.  I’ve been in all those places.

Who am I?

My name is Susan Masterson, and I’m here to help move you from “I’m gonna” to “I’m still doing it!”.  I’ve had a lifelong struggle with keeping myself moving regularly, so I get it.  I focused my doctoral dissertation  on how to get started, and stick with an exercise routine for the long-haul.  I will bring you research-based ideas to motivate yourself, keep at it, and thrive!

How should you use this website?

I will publish pages full of  ideas, images, experiences, and my journey as I work to keep myself  moving.  I’ll share research I find about what works, and suggestions to build activity into your life so it becomes second nature.  You will choose from posts to help you “Get Moving”, “Keep Going”, or you can read my pages about research I have found to give you some of the “why” for what’s here.

I will include supportive posts exclusively for subscribers tailored to where you are in the journey. These will help keep you focused and help you develop plans for getting yourself going and keeping at it.  Subscribe to gain access to those exclusive posts!

What’s MY motivation?

I need to keep exercise at the forefront of my mind, and I love sharing what I’ve found.  I want to partner with you  while we keep our focus on how amazing it is to have activity keep us feeling our best and looking to the future with hope and confidence!

READY TO START?

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