By Denise Smith, Program Manager RiseVT Franklin-Grand Isle Counties

The first time I got on a treadmill, I had a smoothie in one hand and a water bottle in the other and within 2 minutes, the smoothie was all over me. I had fallen backwards off the treadmill onto the floor and the water bottle was rolling towards the registration desk. All I wanted to do was crawl under the treadmill and hide. Let’s just say that I am not someone who ever went to the gym (I still do not know how many of those medieval looking torture contraptions work). I have started and stopped so many exercise programs I have lost track. After the arrival of my third child I even stopped my regular yoga practice. For me, life events like having children, the loss of my parents, and even a new job or a trip have thrown my best intentions for staying on a routine out the door. The hardest part about stopping something is starting again and having the courage to go back after weeks or months away. Starting over and feeling the shame of letting other people and myself down, it is easy for me to just let the weeks slip by even after I make the decision to go back. My self-talk can be very unhelpful, and I think of numerous reasons why I should not do it.
Deciding to get back into a regular exercise routine can be a complicated decision for a lot of us. I have often myself thought or heard people say a few of the following sentiments when talking about exercise:

1. I could never do that, because {insert excuse here};
2. I have no idea how to use the equipment at the gym;
3. I am too intimidated to go, people will be watching me;
4. I need to get in shape before I go to that class;
5. Will people know I haven’t been here in 2 weeks?

Finally, though, because I must exercise to keep my back healthy and my mind regulated, I go back to the yoga studio, get on a spin bike, or more recently join a weight training and cardio class (because it really is true what they say about being in your forties, everything does start to sag). Over the years I have discovered a few tips and tricks for how to talk myself into starting to exercise again whether it is after a weeks or months away (these also work if you have never exercised and want to start).

1. Schedule it – I figure out when I can exercise, and I put my workouts in my calendar and block off the time to go. I am one of those early morning exercise people because if I do not go then, I will not go, and weeks will go by and I have not exercised.
2. Just Start – The hardest thing is starting again and then again and then again. I find it important to just start. For me, Monday is a good day to launch because it sets me up for success the rest of the week.
3. Know your exercise personality – I know that I push myself much harder when I am being told what to do than when left to my own devices. I find the structure of group exercise classes a good fit for my personality. Knowing what worked for me took time to figure out, but now it is clear what works and why.
4. Call a friend – I have people who hold me accountable and know what I need to be successful and will text or call the night before to ensure I will be there. It really is a lot harder to let someone else down than yourself. My friends are also the reason I have tried new classes including yoga and spinning, which are a big part of my routine now but were both challenging to start.
5. Ask questions – I have recently started working with a trainer who is helping me figure out what those Medieval looking contraptions in the gym are, and it has been a game changer. Most gyms offer free training on their equipment and a free pass for your first time. Asking questions and admitting I was in my late-forties and still did not how-to use the exercise equipment was intimidating, but I learned that gym owners and trainers are trained and love helping you figure it out.
6. The truth is – I have found that people are just as concerned about the stories in their own minds about what I think about them as much as I am concerned about what they think about me. The truth is, no one is watching me, no one is judging me, everyone is much too concerned about themselves and their shame in their own health journey to worry about me. The health of my body is my decision and what I do about it is up to me.

I have not stepped on a treadmill since the smoothie explosion incident and I am not sure I ever will, but I have discovered how to stay engaged in my personal fitness journey and I am proud to say I am feeling pretty good about it these days. Here is to a healthy and happy 2019.