One of my favorite movies of all time is What About Bob, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray. Richard Dreyfuss plays a psychologist who is about to make it big with his new book, Baby Steps. The idea, as he explains it, is that anything is achievable if you break it down into well, baby steps. If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil the rest of it for you, but I humbly suggest you give it a watch.
When I realized I really needed to get myself into better shape, the idea of getting into regular exercise seemed very intimidating. I had gone through patches of exercising like so many people do, but then my busy season at work would come along, or life would come along, and I would get out of the habit. “Do I want to spend twenty minutes working out or twenty minutes eating a cookie? Well…”
Especially at this time of year, when people are most anxious about starting the year off right, the idea seems to be that in order to build a more fit lifestyle, you need to exercise till you puke like on The Biggest Loser. Naturally that will not seem attractive. Most of us don’t have 8 hours a day to dedicate to exercising. We FEEL like we have no time to dedicate to exercising. So how can you incorporate this whole segment of activity into your already overloaded life?
A few years ago, a friend introduced me to an online fitness guru named Natalie Jill. Now, I know what you’re thinking. This article was clickbait and this is really an ad for a diet pill.” Don’t worry. Natalie Jill, at least in my opinion, is a fitness guru who actually makes sense. Her whole deal is that you can dedicate an hour to hemming and hawing on a stationary bike OR you can dedicate 10-15 minutes to a very very intense but manageable workout. Don’t bring a book to read. Don’t bring your earbuds. Just focus on your exercise for a handful of minutes—just two commercial breaks, really.
The other thing that made me trust this particular fitness guru is that she offers tips for all levels of participants in every video she does. She does not do this in a shaming kind of way. If you are just starting to exercise and activities are hard for you, she tells you ways to adjust the exercise so that you are moving, even if it’s not the full motion. Seeing the full exercise also gives you something to shoot for, and you can measure your progress not by how many pounds you’ve lost but by how much you have progressed in your ability to do the moves. I’ve been doing these videos mixed in with other stuff for three years now and there still are a lot of things I can’t do. However, I CAN now hold myself up in a wall handstand, walking my feet up and down the wall. I was definitely not able to do that at all when I started.
I think the psychology behind this kind of exercise is really smart. It’s hard work, and make no mistake about that. It’s amazing how much a 10-minute exercise can make you sweat and feel sore. However, it gets to the point where it becomes harder to rationalize NOT doing these short exercises. Everybody, and I do mean everybody, has 10 minutes. Honestly, everybody probably has a lot more time than that . Surely, dedicating some of that time to improving your overall health is worth it, right?
One final great thing about Natalie Jill is that at the start of every month she sends out a fitness calendar to the people on her email list. I’m a Virgo from start to finish, so having an organized approach to my fitness program is just fine with me. There are rest days scheduled in there, and there are also days where she offers educational material about nutrition and other issues. You can print out the calendar and cross out the exercises you finish, and feel super proud of yourself at the end of the month if you were able to cross out a lot of them.
The best place to check out the exercises I am talking about is the Natalie Jill YouTube channel. Now, I will warn you, she, like so many fitness gurus, is super chipper and kind of sappy sometimes, so just be ready for that. Watch some of her videos and see if any of them look interesting to you. You’ll see that most of her videos are about 10 minutes long, and usually about 3 minutes of that is her introducing the routine. You can do these exercises anywhere, and usually you don’t need anything except yourself. Sometimes you can use a resistance band or weights, but she gives you ways to exercise without those.
I have lost about 1/10 of my weight since I started dedicating myself to the baby step approach of exercising. Even if you don’t like Natalie Jill, there are plenty of short but intense workouts out there. Naturally, it’s important to talk to your doctor before designing your own program, especially if you have specific health concerns. Also, naturally, no exercise program will work if you reward yourself with cheesecake every time you work out. I know because I have quite often gained all of my weight back thanks to that kind of attitude. However, I am a strong believer in trying to get yourself to move in an exercise kind of way for 10-20 minutes every day. It has helped me immensely. Let me know if it helps you.