When Kris retired several years ago, she decided that she was out of excuses. It was time to make time to get fit and stay fit.
"I knew I needed to do something. I felt like all my muscles were starting to atrophy. Now I feel like I'm so much more toned. I'm not buff, but I'm toned. I can definitely feel the difference."
She chose working out at her local YMCA gym as a way to increase her activity level. At first she went for 30 minutes at a time and did nothing but aerobics. Now she spends 1 hour every weekday morning on a variety of activities.
Building that habit wasn't easy. Kris had tried before to visit the gym every day. But she was working then, and 5 a.m. seemed the only time she could fit it into her schedule. It didn't work.
"That lasted about a year and a half," says Kris. "And then I just kept making up excuses. I was only going a couple days a week, and it was so hard to get up that early."
Years went by and retirement loomed: "I knew that once I quit working, all the excuses were gone."
Getting past her fear
Going to a gym and exercising in front of other people wasn't easy for Kris in the beginning. "I was intimidated by the people," she says. But she kept at it until she felt comfortable.
"Once I got a little bit less intimidated with just being there, I would go try another machine. That took me a long time. I bet I was there 6 or 7 months before I moved on to another machine. I was really kind of intimidated, because the other women and men looked so buff."
She stayed to herself at first. But the more she went, the more familiar faces she saw. Other "regulars" began to strike up conversations with her. Today, she enjoys the social side of her workouts as much as the actual exercise.
"I just have fun meeting people. I still meet people all the time."
Setting goals was—and still is—an important part of Kris's physical activity plan.
She remembers getting on the stationary bike in the beginning and feeling like her legs were going to fall off after just a few minutes. "So I would just say, 'All right, I'll do 20 minutes this week. And if I feel a little bit stronger next week, I'll do 25.'
"I would just try and increase it 5 minutes or so [at a time]. I still do that. Last week I did 98 pounds on this one exercise machine and today I thought, 'I'm going to do 100.' I did, too! From 98 to 100 is only 2 pounds, but still you feel like, well, that's an improvement. It may not be much more, but if you look back to 6 months ago—Whoa! It's quite good! I started out at 70 pounds and now I'm at 100!
"So every time you make that goal, you do a little bit better or you stretch a little bit farther. It makes you feel pretty good about yourself."
Making physical activity a routine
Kris says that the keys to turning her workouts into a daily habit were knowing her likes and dislikes and figuring out what worked best for her. She already knew that going at 5 a.m. every day wouldn't work. So she tried 8 a.m. instead.
"I have a set time that I do it, every single day. We get up, we go walk the dog for 45 minutes, I come back home, get in the car and go work out. So this is just something that's part of the day, and it gets done."
Meeting barriers head-on
Even though her workouts have become a habit, Kris still has days when she just doesn't feel very motivated. But she goes anyway.
"There are lots of days when I probably don't put as much energy into it. But I'm there and I'm working out. I might not be working out as hard or push as heavy weights, but I'm there and I'm working. I just have to talk myself into it and just say, 'You know how much better you feel when you go. Just get up and go!'
"I find it just necessary now," she says. "I feel like this is a lifelong thing that I'm going to have to do to stay fit and healthy."
Kris's story reflects her experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Kris, to protect her privacy.
For more information, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.
Current as of: May 5, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health