If you're anything like I used to be, getting regular exercise is a chore that you have a hard time sticking to for long. Hopefully my experience slaying that dragon will help. (Plus, you can download a free script I created to help near the end of this post.)

I'd known for years that I needed to exercise more. But most days, about all the exercise I got was walking up and down the stairs to my office.

A few years ago, I'd started getting up early and jogging a little, but as soon as the weather soured, so did my motivation.

Not too long ago, I was thinking about all the reasons why it was so hard for me to keep motivated enough to exercise regularly:

  1. It takes too much time.
  2. It's too cold or too wet outside. Or at least it is some days, so I know I won't be able to establish a consistent routine.
  3. Some parts of the year, it's impossible to run outside because of snow and ice.
  4. I don't like running in my neighborhood because I'm always having to weave around cars or crooked sidewalks, cross streets (the blocks around here are very short), etc.
  5. I don't like running in the dark because my neighborhood isn't entirely safe. (I don't know that people get attacked around here, but it's certainly not a crime-free area.)
  6. I don't want to pay for a gym membership, especially since past experience suggests that I wouldn't use it often enough.
  7. I don't want to drive to a better place to exercise anyway, because that takes more time and costs more for gas.
  8. I don't want to buy expensive exercise equipment that I might not use.
  9. Exercise is tiring/no fun.

So I spent a little time thinking about how to solve those problems without moving somewhere that's right next door to a free, fun, indoor workout location (I should be so lucky!) And I finally came up with a solution that I've stuck to.

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It takes too much time

I ran across an article that said that 20 minutes of intervals (eg. alternating between 1 minute of high-intensity exercise and 1 minute of low-intensity) will give you the benefit of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

It's too cold/wet/icy/dark outside

I exercise in my basement.

Running in my neighborhood is too inconvenient/unsafe

Once again, I exercise in my basement.

I don't want to pay for an expensive gym membership or exercise equipment

All it takes is a computer and a decent pair of shoes.

Exercise is no fun

Well, I still wouldn't call what I do fun. But I've discovered that doing intervals helps in several ways:

  1. Keeping a count of how many segments I've completed helps keep me going.
  2. The shorter workout offered by intervals brings the end of the entire workout quite a bit closer.
  3. At any point in the workout, I know I'm within 1 minute of reaching a goal (completing a high-intensity segment) and getting a break (switching to low-intensity).
  4. The way I do the workout means that I'm always even closer to the end of something. Let me explain...

The workout that I settled on is, as I mentioned before, intervals. What I do is run back and forth across my basement (and walk back and forth during low-intensity minutes -- I imagine I'll speed that up a bit as I get into better shape).

So I'm always just a few steps away from turning around. That may seem like a small thing, but I really do think it helps keep my mind off of how long and tiring the entire workout is.

When I first started, I would touch the floor each time I turned around, but I quickly discovered that my lower back wasn't up to the extra strain (I've had back problems since I was a kid). So I switched to a sort of a hop-turn (to minimize any torque on my knees). My last step in each direction is followed by a hop-turn, so my foot comes down pointing the other way, and the other foot comes down behind me to complete the stop and push off to start in the other direction.

To time my workouts, I created a javascript interval timer (click to download -- unzip it and you can run it right off your computer). I just crank up the volume on the computer in my office so that I can hear the sounds telling me when to switch between high and low intensity and when I'm done.

I've kept at it for several weeks now. And it's not difficult to motivate myself to do it, so I expect I won't have any trouble sticking with it for the long haul.