Getting out the door

Experts around the West say start slow, work up, and get fit with friends

Lisa Taggart

Regular exercise can add years to your life, largely by keeping heart disease at bay. The trick, as we all know, is simply to get moving. But on some days that seems especially hard: It's cold, you're busy, your routine is out of whack. What to do when you've got the workout blues? Here are some tips from the pros.

Take 10 minutes
"Look at incremental gains ― don't start off trying to do too much. I know you hear it's best to exercise for at least 30 minutes, but sometimes you don't have that; a 10-minute walk is good for you too. You don't have to invest a lot in workout gear. Just make sure you have comfortable shoes that provide adequate support."
― Helen Harris, hiking coach, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, San Jose

Allow yourself to be a beginner
"Part of what makes it difficult is the expectation that you have to be good, have to be flexible, have to perform as well as others around you. Let go of those expectations and let yourself make mistakes."
― Jennifer Preisler, co-owner and instructor, Yoga in the Pearl, Portland

Set goals, exercise with friends
"It's good to have an event that you're training for. For the beginning running groups I coach, we set a 5K event as a target, and train for it over 12 weeks, starting out with walking and short running intervals. I find the biggest reason my running classes are successful is group support. Have a coach, have peers looking for you to show up. The women in the classes feed off each other's energy. And it's much better to talk things over during a run than over a croissant."
― Carol Rewick, owner of Fleet Feet Vacaville and coach for Running for Women, Vacaville, CA

Make your workout portable
"Take your stretch Thera-Band on the road while traveling. (These used to be known as physical therapy rehab bands.) They are light and can fit easily into a weekend or overnight bag, and you can bring several bands of different resistances to work your upper body and lower body. The bands can be affixed to a hotel doorknob as easily as a tent stake or branch in the backcountry."
― Ashley Woods, owner and climbing school director, the Spot Bouldering Gym, Boulder, CO

Your target heart rate

Most experts agree we should exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes. More activity is even better: Dutch researchers recently found that the equivalent of a half-hour run five days a week can add nearly four years to your life. To get the most out of it, gradually increase your exertion level until you've reached your target heart rate, which is between 50 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (your age subtracted from 220). To find out if your heart rate is within target range, check your pulse by counting your heartbeats for 15 seconds, then multiplying by four.

A heart-rate monitor is a great tool if you'd rather skip the math. Held in place with a band worn around your chest, it detects your heart rate and automatically displays it on a watchlike wristband. Monitors cost from $60 for a basic model to $450 for versions with features such as satellite software that tracks your distance and pace. Before setting out on an exercise regime, consult your doctor if you're on high blood pressure medication or have other health conditions that may affect your exercise program. For more guidelines and a heart-rate chart, visit www.americanheart.org and search for "target heart rate."