After my earlier post Barriers to Exercise, readers contacted me about the barriers that pop up for them from time to time. Some of those barriers are short term, and some are more difficult to jump over and can cause problems for years.
Grief and depression
When Sue pointed this one out to me, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t put it on the list. I do know that grief and depression can cause problems with motivation and getting enthusiastic about an exercise program. After all, there are many more important things to worry about at such a time. Just getting through the day can be enough of a barrier, without throwing exercise in as another potential problem.
From my experience, grief, trauma and depression can affect different people in different ways. When my son died, I went into a manic state for the first few years. I felt that I had to get out there and exercise every day, and often twice a day, without fail. No ifs, no buts, no excuses. At that time my exercise of choice was cycling. In the years before Craig died, we spent quite a bit of time, riding our road bikes together. After his death, the only time I seemed to have any peace was when I was cycling. It might sound silly, but I just felt that when I was riding my bike, he was on my shoulder, urging me on. Looking back, I was really quite crazed and manic.
In her comment on the Barriers to Exercise post, Sue wrote “I’ve always loved exercising and the buzz you feel afterwards, but for the last couple of years, I’ve ground to a halt. So I’d add grief and depression to your list. Intellectually, I know it would make me feel better, but grief seems to have stopped me in my tracks and I feel too exhausted from it, to get back to exercising”.
I have no answer at all for Sue. All I can do is send her my sympathy, hugs and best wishes., I can’t give any advice at all on how to overcome grief and depression as a barrier to exercise, as it is outside my expertise. I think I was fortunate that my grief bought on a bout of manic exercise to get me through. I do understand that this isn’t the case for everyone in the situation.
Donna from Retirement_Reflections commented: ‘A barrier to fitness can be letting distractions get in the way (eg. technology, blogging. reading etc etc) We may tell ourselves that we’ll go to the gym or for that walk, after we finish X, Y, Z….and then we get further distracted and put it off once more. Another barrier can be letting bad weather get the best of us. ”
This is so true. There are too many distractions and things we have to deal with in our lives. It’s so easy to say that you will do it later and before you know it another day is over and the exercise hasn’t been done. I’ve been there! The way I avoid the distractions is to do my gym workouts early in the morning before anything can get in the way. But I’m not perfect so the best intentions sometimes do fly out the window.
When this happens, I try to slot in whatever exercise is scheduled for the day, some time during the day. There are days that it doesn’t happen, but as I’m getting older, I’m realising that the odd skipped workout really isn’t going to have a huge effect on my fitness routine long term. The key is to get back to it the next day and keep on going. Don’t let that small glitch become a big stumbling block.
Tina commented “I find determination and being committed to yourself gets me through. As I’ve gotten older, yes, I do get tired waking up early, to go to the gym. But now, it’s such a habit, I just do it. You listen to your body and you know what days you can really push yourself and the days you take it easier”
This is really great advice from Tina. I agree that it’s really important when starting out with a new exercise program that it needs to be done for long enough without missing sessions to set a habit. Once that habit is set, it’s easier to stay committed. Tina is very committed to her fitness, and is probably the most committed person I know, making it to the gym most days at 5.30.
It can be difficult to stick to an exercise program when travelling. I find the easiest thing to do is walk everywhere. Hotel gyms are an option, but I don’t worry too much about gym workouts when I’m away. I prefer to do sightseeing on foot. Spend the day walking around the attractions in a city, and calories will be burnt up very quickly, as the kilometers walked add up. For me, this is the perfect way to combine travel and exercise.
Injury or illness
Sometimes when suffering a injury or illness, it’s best to take time out and let your body rest. Especially with illness. It really is best to give the body time to heal itself. You can always catch up, when you’re feeling better.
Often with a minor injury it’s possible to substitute an exercise to work around the injury. But this isn’t always possible. There will be times when you will need to take time out to allow your body to completely recover. You can then get back to your exercise program. There is no need to feel guilty about this at all.
It was Christie So what? Now what? who mentioned travelling and minor injury and illness as sometimes being barriers for her. Christie is a committed exerciser, but her comments show that we all face barriers at times. Christie’s advice is to mix it up to prevent boredom.
How to get started
If you’re of senior years, and thinking about getting into an exercise program, but not sure where to start, or feeling the barriers in some way, my advice would be to just go for a ten minute walk. I know that seems very minimal, but I can almost promise that after 10 minutes walking in the fresh air, you will be feeling much better and want to keep going a little while longer. If that’s not the case, just stop. You have done enough by jumping over your barriers and getting out there. It’s a start and sometimes that’s all we need.
Are you over 50 and have recently started a new exercise program? I’d love to hear about how you started