Dear Maria,

I need to exercise more. I wasn’t very athletic growing up, and I never got into the habit of working out. I hate sweating. I’ve tried exercise buddies, Zumba classes, joining the Y, swimming. I go for a few days or sessions and then slack off again. Any suggestions?


Self-Conscious Couch Potato

Dear Couch Potato,

Thanks for being honest about hating exercise. What you probably haven’t told me is how often you call yourself “lazy” when you don’t do it. As Dr. Phil might say, “How’s that working for you?” Try this tactic instead: do only exercise that you like to do, for just 10 minutes every day. That’s it. Sometimes, just getting started is the biggest hurdle. Start off slowly, and notice how good you feel afterwards. At the end of the day, “lazy” doesn’t apply anymore, because you’ve done what you’ve said you’d do. Pay attention to how your body and mind feel after you exercise. For me, after I’ve walked, my breathing is clearer and stronger, my chest feels lighter, and my mind is clearer. On a good day, I even come up with new ideas for my writing, or a new perspective on a problem in my life. Affirming the good things exercise brings (with even one round of effort) will inspire you to keep at it the next day. Then, your sessions will get longer, the days will add up, and you’ll reach bigger goals of weight loss or increased strength and stamina. So, rather than forcing yourself to exercise because you should, do it because it’ll make you feel better today. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Readers: What are your favorite ways to exercise? How do you get motivated? Share your experience in the comments section!

Here’s a great playlist I put together to motivate writers. I think it will help here, too!

Dear Maria,

An old friend who is a lovely person, but has some annoying habits, has a husband who over-protects her. I’ve tried to let her know that I value her friendship, but I would like her to be a little more thoughtful of other’s time. For instance, her annual Christmas visit from her sister makes her feel like a poor housekeeper. When I suggest she plan ahead using a system like FlyLady, she calls for her husband to defend her, and he says it can’t be done. She asks for help, but all she really wants is a shoulder to cry on.

What is one to do when the holidays roll around, and her sister is coming, and she is desolate and needing consoling again?


Tired of Being a Soft Shoulder

Dear Tired,

It sounds like you’ve been around this block with your friend more than once. This couple seems to be in a comfortable rut: she, the victim; he, the enabler. Since you’ve made efforts to help them change this pattern, and they’ve consistently rejected the ideas, I’m not sure there’s much more you can do. The deeper question is whether or not you want to stay stuck with them? I sense a restlessness in your words, like you’ve grown weary of this pattern. When the holidays come around, and your friend seeks your counsel, respond with simple statements such as, “This must be hard for you,” or “The holidays can be very stressful.” Leave it at that. Accept that you cannot change the fact that she (and her husband) do not want to change. (Note how easily the word “tried” becomes “tired.”) By affirming her feelings, you may create a comfortable place for your friendship to reside. If, however, you’re still feeling agitated with your friend, you may want to spend less time letting her vent on you. True friendship doesn’t give people license to dump unlimited junk on each other. Your time and energies are better spent with friends who lift you up, and who are making positive changes in their lives.

Amy Grant may say a few things in this song that you’d like your friend to hear:

Dear Readers,

In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective? If you’d like to submit a question, click here. I look forward to hearing from you, or “for a friend.” Please add your thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section, below. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.  This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.