Edging Into Exercise

Edging Into Exercise By Martha Beck, PhD Author of The Four Day Win

One of my all-time favorite clients was a professional baseball player Ill call Dan, who was making the transition from athletics to civilian life. Dan was an impressive specimen in every way: smart, funny, energetic, and incredibly fit. At the time he consulted me, I was doing a lot of my usual traveling and public speaking. Between my erratic scheduling, sleep loss, lack of access to healthy food, and adrenal burnout, Id gained several pounds and fallen off all the various wagons of healthy eating and exercise habits. I kept meaning to cut back on the flan and get back to regular exercise, but I never seemed to find the time or energy. Then one day, when we were talking about his baseball career, Dan tossed out an offhand comment that would change my muscle tone forever.

Ninety percent of being in shape, he said, is getting to the gym.

For me it was, as Oprah might say, a lightbulb moment. Right then and there, I decided that I would re-establish a pattern of going to the gym -- not doing anything at the gym, just getting there. So the next day, I dropped off my kids at school and drove directly to the gym, where I parked my car, listened to a song on my favorite radio station, started the car again, and went home. The next day I did the same thing . . . and the next . . . and the next.

By the 4th day, my new daymap pattern came very easily -- my brain and body expected to drive to the gym after taking the kids to school. Then I knew I could safely up the ante -- a little. For the next 4 days, after arriving at the gym, I went in and pedaled a stationary bike for approximately 3 minutes, just long enough to listen to another favorite song on my MP3 player. My next 4-day win consisted of increasing my pedaling sessions to 7 minutes (two songs). When that felt habitual, I added one round of circuit training with light weight to my cycling routine (I bought a few new tunes from the Internet as a reward).

After the third 4-day win, something rather dramatic happened. Id been increasing my workout by tiny increments, but suddenly, my body took over and decided it loved the gym. I no longer needed a reward for showing up and exercising; in fact, I felt edgy and disappointed if I didnt get a chance to lift weights (please remember, Id previously chosen this form of exercise because I find it inherently enjoyable). Despite the chaos of my schedule, my sometimes-crippling autoimmune disease, and my utter athletic ineptitude, Im now something of a gym rat.

Whatever your preferred exercise, you can increase your own activity to healthy levels by using a similar 4-day win strategy. As your very first action on your 4-day win exercise program, Id like you to modify your daymap so that you show up in an appropriate place to exercise, at approximately the same time, for 4 consecutive days. What exercise you choose to do is less important than your arrival at the designated location.

Reprinted from: The Four Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace by Martha Beck, PhD. Copyright 2007 Martha Beck. (January 2007;$25.95US/$33.95CAN; 9781594866074) Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling at (800) 848-4735.

Author Martha Beck, PhD, is a Harvard-educated life coach and monthly columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the author of the bestsellers Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live and the memoir Expecting Adam. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her family. Her hobbies include excessive viewing of the Discovery Channel, occasional pondering, and naps.