First Steps to Fitter Life

We all have our own individual reasons for beginning an exercise program.

Now more than ever before, there is a growing emphasis on feeling good, looking good, and living a longer, healthier life.  Increasingly, scientific evidence tells us that one of the keys to achieving these ideals is fitness and exercise.  But if you spend your days at a sedentary job and pass your evening as a “couch potato,” it may require some determination and commitment to make regular activity a part of your daily routine.

You’ve surely seen enough how-to-do-anything-in-just-a-few-easy-steps lists to know they’re a bit too simplistic to be true.  The following guidelines I will be talking about are not intended to condense everything there is to know about healthy living advice into a few bite-size chunks; nor are they black-and-white rules about what you absolutely must or mustn’t do.  Instead, they are intended as guide to help you get started and achieve you goals.

I want to give you a solid, sensible, smart foundation for overhauling your attitude toward exercise.  And believe me, your attitude is everything when it comes to meeting goals of any kind.

First of all, before starting your exercise program, you should try to establish what your goals are.  Do you want to lower your blood pressure?  Lose some weight?  Be able to walk a few blocks without feeling winded?  Reduce your risk of heart disease?  These are all wonderful reasons to get moving, but wanting to exercise for these reasons doesn’t necessarily mean you will get out and do it.  You need to have the attitude that you’re ready to get started, and take it one day at a time from there.

To get started, develop your plan of attack.  You need to set realistic goals and track your progress.  I am going to offer some strategies for sticking to your plan so that your workout program is as successful as possible.

Before you embark on an exercise program, clarify why you want to get fit.  Once you do that, make sure you’re doing this for yourself-not simply to please your spouse, your doctor, or anyone else who would like to see you feeling your best.

Now it’s time to start setting your specific goals.  Research shows that goal-setting works.  In typical studies, scientists give one group of exercisers a specific goal, such as doing 50 sit-ups.  Meanwhile, they tell a second group of exercisers simply to “do your best.”  The exercisers with specific goals tend to have significantly more success than the comparison groups.

Next, you need to go out and buy yourself a nice notebook or journal.  It can be easy to set goals and rewards, but it’s even easier to forget what they are.  You can keep yourself honest – and motivated – by tracking your goals and accomplishments on paper.  Start each day by reading your exercise goals and re-affirm your reason for doing it.

Whatever your goals are, a training diary can help you get the best results.  You can look back at the end of each week and say, “I did that?”  And you may be inspired to accomplish even more.  Keeping a log shows you whether your goals are realistic and gives you insight into your exercise patterns.  If you’re losing weight, building strength, or developing stamina, you won’t have to wonder what works, because you’ll have a blow-by-blow description of everything you’ve done to reach your goals.

My recommendation for getting started is to find a friend or neighbor who shares your enthusiasm to get out and get moving.  When you commit to exercise with a buddy, your chances of sticking with it go way up.  The support you give one another will motivate you to get out for that scheduled walk even when you really don’t feel like it. If you’ve always wanted to join a gym, or attend an exercise class, it’s nice to participate with your workout buddy who shares your vision.  You can push one another, laugh and joke as you learn the ropes, and motivate one another to get out and get the job done!

When you get in from your work-outs each day, write in your journal the exercises you did, how long you worked out, and most importantly, how it made you feel when you were through. If your workouts include walking or running, don’t forget to look up at the beauty that surrounds you – feel the fresh, crisp air you’re breathing, enjoy the experience.   Each time you go out to exercise, try to go do at least as much, if not a little more than you did the last time.

Exercise doesn’t need to be painful, but if you’ve neglected your body, don’t expect to get a free ride.  Despite what you might hear on those infomercials – “just five minutes a day”, doesn’t cut it.  Exercise is a serious commitment.  You can’t get into shape without exerting some real effort and, perhaps, without experiencing some (but not a lot of) discomfort at first.

So…your “get-started” homework for this week is:
1.  Set realistic goals for the week.
2.  Buy a journal for recording your workouts.
3.  Get out for a workout with a friend or spouse 2 to 3 times this week.
4.  Write down your workout stats every day.
5.  Have a good attitude!  You’ve just made one of the best decisions of your life!