Motivated by some feedback from my mom (see, I still listen to my mom even though I am an wise old woman) and friends with moms in the same boat- I wanted to address the other side of the exercise story. See, my most recent post on avoiding gym intimidation offered what I thought was some quick advice for the person who used to go to the gym and maybe recently had a baby or lost the routine and is looking to get it back. While I write for a general new mom audience, I realize that there are others who read this blog for recipes and some other posts that don’t fit that category. Since I can speak to more than one audience- this post is for you- the I-do-not-want-plan-or-even-think-about-ever-joining-a-gym crowd. The question is- how can you get exercise if you do not belong to a gym?
1. Walk. It’s free and it is one of the cheapest modes of exercise that exist. The only costs are for a good pair of walking shoes ($70-100) and maybe an iPod if you wish to download your favorite music to keep you company. Walk on trails. Walk in your neighborhood. Walk at a brisk pace. Look for hills if you live near any and walk up and down those. Walking burns the same amount of calories as running does (per mile) so set a good brisk pace and aim to walk 4-5 days a week.
2. Swim. You can find pools through your parks and recreation department or city. You probably have access to pools you weren’t even aware of. Swimming is not only easy on the joints, it is a great calorie burner. Thirty minutes of moderate intensity swimming for a 150 pound woman burns 450 calories! That type of calorie burn is nothing to shake a stick at. Get in the water and get your swim on. Breast stroke and a quick freestyle stroke burn the most calories.
3. Sign up for classes through your parks and recreation center. Where I live, there are so many options of exercise classes to take. There are classes that focus on the older population and for those who are nursing injured joints or need a lot of modifications. Often you can work to try a trial class for free to see if it fits your needs. The commitment is small- typically 10-12 weeks and you get to know the others in your class since class sizes are small. You can find a variety of offerings from tai chi to yoga to jazzercise to zumba.
4. Find a friend. Networking sites like meetup.com offer you a chance to find other people who are your age and share a similar interest. You can find adult exercise groups that get together to walk, hike, bike, swim or do yoga. If one doesn’t exist, then start one of your own. It just takes a little organization and an open mind to find new activities once every couple weeks.
5. Join a studio fitness group. There are small fitness studios all over specializing in yoga, pilates, cycling, you name it- and the studios are often small and offer a lot of personal attention. For someone who feels that the traditional gym is too much, a small studio space can offer some level of comfort as you get to know others who attend the classes or workout there. It seems less intimidating when people know who you are and are there to help.
6. Women only gyms. Total Women Fitness and Curves are departures from your traditional big box gyms. They cater to women only and offer a place to workout with women who have injuries or joint problems and need modifications.
7. Fitness DVD’s at home. Whatever type of activity you fancy, there is someone who made a DVD to teach you in the comforts of your own home. You can rent them out of your local library and if you have Netflix or some other DVD rental system you can find them there so there is no extra out of pocket costs associated with exercising at home.
If you are really out of practice and the thought of doing any of these things seem insurmountable, then my suggestion is to start with #1 or #2- walk or swim for a month. Aim to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity (meaning, you can still talk, but you are working hard) 3-4 days a week. Those 30 minutes can be broken up into two 15 minute segments at the beginning if that is easier. You want to gradually build it up though, so that your endurance can build and your body can adjust. You may find as you get stronger and can walk or swim greater distances, your self confidence may improve and ideas #3-7 don’t seem so preposterous. All I hope that you do is MOVE. Exercise doesn’t have to look for you the same as it looks for others. It just has to get your heart rate up a bit and get you moving.