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Whir, whir, whir. The hypnotic rhythm of the treadmill nearly puts me to sleep as I attempt to start a new daily routine of exercise. The cold chill of the early morning thickens my mind and legs as if I am walking in honey.

I manage to put one foot in front of the other and keep on going, getting nowhere. Or so it seems. But that's what you're supposed to do, I tell myself as I tread along. The mind tells you all kinds of contrary thoughts like: "This isn't going to do any good" or "This is boring" or the worst one, "I think I'll quit now."

"Oh, no you won't," I tell myself. "You're a bright person. You really need this."

So I recount the blessings of how exercise is so good for you and that the results will be worth it. And so, having passed the first test, I continue walking. I need to shape up for spring.

Music helps. Finding some halfway upbeat music on the radio or CD eases a tough beginning. After awhile, you no longer fear treading. You are flying. But, when the music thing doesn't happen, you pump yourself up by saying, "I can do it. This is the most important part of my day."

The new routine is to increase my health and stamina. "I'm getting stronger, I'm getting healthier," I say over and over again like a mantra.

All the benefits are there for the taking -- more cardio-efficiency, increased lung capacity, fewer toxins floating around looking for trouble, a clearer brain and less chance of major diseases. This is good. But the best result is energy.

In this fast-paced world, the mind races, but the body is often left behind, getting weaker over the years from neglect. Errands, sitting at a computer, laundry, lives jam-packed with meetings, phone calls and a general insane busyness leave little room for the kind of exercise the body needs and truly craves.

Cross training is fun -- the wonderful concept of not doing the same old, dull exercise routine every day. Bicycling, jogging, dancing or yoga are great alternatives. The variety is endless.

However, there are some days where I just don't have the cardio-gumption to get up and go at it. And when it's cold and rainy out, the options do feel more limited. Not everyone can or wants to go to a gym.

Whir, whir, whir. The pace is picking up now. I'm feeling better. The strain of starting is gone and my circulation is humming. "Now, this isn't so bad," I think as the energy courses through my body. "I can do this."

Happily, I look at the dials -- 35 minutes, wow. And . . . what? Shock and horror fill my mind as I try to reread the dial -- 130 calories? That's working off only one pat of butter -- not that I eat butter anymore. You know, the new dietary guidelines and all. Besides, I'm mostly vegan. "No, this can't be," I tell myself. But then I manage to calm down, resume exercising and I feel wonderful. If I just ignore the calorie counter and the image of the small pat of butter trying to butt into my mind, I'll be OK.

I continue on the treadmill, thinking positive thoughts, humming to the music as I go until my muscles are warm and strength returns. Now I feel great. I done good today. I done good.

Rita J. Schlabach is a freelance writer who lives in Amherst.