Forget New Year’s, anytime is a good time to make a resolution to get fitter. As you’ve heard over and over (and over…), regular exercise has numerous health benefits, ranging from reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer and diabetes to better memory and overall brain function. Exercise also strengthens muscles and bones, providing better joint support, which is critical for people with bleeding disorders of any age because stronger muscles and bones help prevent bleeds and help you recover quicker from bleeds. So, good for you for getting active. The trick now is to keep yourself motivated so that exercise becomes a regular habit and you don’t backslide into inactivity. The following tips and ideas can help keep your exercise routine fun and less, well, routine:
Take it slow and steady
Even if you’re feeling super motivated in the early days of a new workout regimen, don’t jump in too quickly. As you ramp up your activity you don’t want to get injured or increase your risk of a bleed, which will force you onto the sidelines for a spell. Second, trying to do too much too early is a good way to burn yourself out mentally. Better to rein it in a little and leave yourself with plenty of physical and mental energy for the long haul.
Find a buddy or group
Making your workout a social event has a double benefit: When you intertwine exercise and socializing with friends, it’s more fun, plus you’re more likely to stick to a regular schedule when friends are relying on you to show up and sweat with them.
Don’t limit yourself
When starting out you’ve likely chosen one activity that speaks to you, be it walking, swimming, cycling or circuit training at the gym. As time goes on, sprinkling in some new activities keeps things fresh. Getting tired of the elliptical machine? Skip it occasionally and do yoga, tai chi or a Zumba class instead.
Hit 60/90/120 days of exercise? Celebrate with a dinner out, or buy some new workout clothes or gear. It may seem shallow, but if getting to don shiny new shorts, tops or sneakers is motivating, view it as a worthwhile investment in your health.
Track your progress
This is particularly helpful after the first rush of enthusiasm for regular exercise begins to wear off. Seeing how much you’ve accomplished already pushes you to want to keep adding to your list of achievements. Keep track of your workouts in an exercise app on your smartphone, wear a fitness tracker or log them in a notebook.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
If you find your motivation lags after a while of steadily working out, don’t worry. It’s OK to miss a few workouts and take a break to recharge. Same goes if you miss out on exercise due to illness, a bleed or a hectic schedule. Keep the big picture of your health in mind. A few missed days don’t diminish the overall gains you’ve made. If you fall off the exercise wagon, just jump back on when you’re ready and pick up where you left off.
Get information on the benefits and risks of dozens of sports and other physical activities in the NHF booklet Playing It Safe – Bleeding Disorders, Sports and Exercise.