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The Only Rule You Need To Follow When It Comes To Exercising

You'll thank us later.

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gif illustration of exercise trainer leading 3 women
Esther Aarts
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I’ve exercised regularly since Jane Fonda came out with hour-long VHS videos. In those days, before everyone had technology at their fingertips, I’d pour over all the magazines — Vogue, Cosmo, Just Seventeen — finding all the tips and tricks I could about health and fitness.

When I started my fitness journey, I exercised because I felt I had to. I’d quit all team sports after I hit puberty, and all I saw on television, in magazines, and in clothing catalogs were willowy women with pronounced cheekbones and flat bums. And I wanted to look like them.

As I got older, my fitness journey evolved, and exercise boosted my mental health. I started exploring other things because I got tired of slogging through the same exercise video day after day. I loved walking and running with my friends. I started lifting weights, and after taking a step aerobics class in high school, I fell in love with it and had a class of my own in college.

Now, there’s a lot of fitness information available, which can be good but also overwhelming and discouraging. It’s natural to second-guess ourselves when we aren’t experts in the field. But the truth is, you can probably Google anything you want about fitness and find information (accurate or not) to support what you’re looking for.

I’m now an avid runner, and people tell me I shouldn’t run every day. I started sprinting and have read articles about how great it is for me, but I’ve also heard sprinting will do a number on my joints.

The other day, I hit my favorite weight machines after running on the treadmill and was approached by someone who told me I should be doing cardio after I lift, not before. I get my running out of the way because it’s harder for me. It also wakes me up, and gives me more energy to lift weights. When I do it the other way around, I slog through my run and don’t enjoy it at all.

I’ve also read things like you should always eat before you exercise, morning working reaps the most benefits, and articles that dispute these two ideas. It’s enough to make my head spin.

Finding the time to add working out into your daily routine is hard enough without following all the rules about what time you should do it, the types of exercises you should or shouldn’t do, and what order you should do them in.

After exercising consistently for over 35 years, I’ve tried it all. And I can honestly say there’s only one thing you need to do if sticking to a consistent routine is your goal: Find something you love to do that fits into your lifestyle. Boom, that’s it.

Maybe you love hiking with friends. If going on long walks with your dog is something you look forward to every day, then do that. You may love attending a good cardio class a few days a week. Yoga might be the only form of movement you enjoy. You might feel better if you eat before working out, or it may be hard with something in your stomach. Protein shakes and energy drinks might enhance your workout, or you might hate the taste.

The point is that with so much out there about how to exercise, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, like you aren’t doing it right, and give up. However, if you listen to your mind and body and what it’s telling you while you’re exercising and stick to what feels best to you, there’s no way you can do it wrong.

So, shut out all the noise and find something you like to do that fits your schedule. Not only is that the best way to incorporate exercise into your life, but you’ll also look forward to it, and it won’t seem like a monumental task.

How much exercise do YOU get each week? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health