It’s one of the first things a doctor will tell anyone who wants better health: you have to exercise. While most of us know this and indeed know what exercise is, it seems to be one of the harder things to do in life. The thought of working up a sweat might sound pretty good to some people, but for the couch potato population, it just sounds like….well, work! On the flipside though, even couch potatoes can benefit from regular exercise. Whether it’s to lose weight, gain muscle, or just feel better about your overall health, finding the right program for YOU is the key to maintaining an active lifestyle for the rest of your life. If the thought of getting healthier is starting to appeal to you, but you’re just not sure how to start, check out the tips below for some ideas and a beginner’s boost towards achieving your fitness goals.
Not All Exercise is Created Equal: It’s for this reason that you need to find an exercise program that you’re going to enjoy, a feat that really isn’t as impossible as you might think. Take a look at your own personality as well as your likes and dislikes. Your social type will decide if you want to work out in a group or by yourself. If you’re easily distracted by chores and at-home responsibilities, you’ll likely want to find a way to exercise out of the house, such as joining a gym or finding a good walking route. If competition is more your style, joining a local sports team sounds like an idea for you. Making your workout routine fit your life instead of the other way around will go a long way towards keeping you on track with exercise.
Have the Right Gear: Anyone who already has an exercise program knows that injuries can and do happen when you’re not geared up for your routine. The right shoes are a must have for any exercise program. Visit a store that specializes in athletic shoes. They can help you find the perfect protection for your feet, whether you’ve decided to become a walker, a runner, or a team player. The right clothes are important too. Don’t get caught up in the sexy leotard look that many fitness instructors on TV wear. Find something loose and comfortable that will let your skin breath and won’t constrict blood flow to vital areas. If you tend to sweat a lot, a head band or ball cap will keep perspiration from getting into your eyes. Be prepared but be comfortable and have a little fun with your exercise clothing. If you feel good in your outfit, working out might even seem a bit more appealing.
Release Your Inhibitions: It’s easy to feel a little unsure of yourself when starting an exercise program, but the old adage that practice makes perfect is true even when you’re talking about working out. Going into a gym for the first time, even if you tend to be a social person, can be absolutely terrifying. Some people who start a walking regimen can’t help but wonder if they look silly taking long strides and swinging there arms. Even those working out alone in the comfort of their own home will feel a little foolish working out to a tape or even trying to get the hang of a machine. In order for your workout to be effective, you have to shed your self-consciousness. Remember if you’re in a public place that everyone else is doing the same thing you are. If you’re alone, no one can see you anyway. Even if they could, you’re taking steps to be healthier and there’s no embarrassment in that.
Athletes Aren’t Built in a Day: If you spend a lot of time watching other people, whether at the gym or on TV, you might have a tendency to jump into an exercise program thinking that you’re going to be able to run fast, lift a lot of weight, or work the elliptical machine for longer than 10 minutes. For most of us, this is a fantasy. If your body isn’t used to moving it’s going to need some time to build up to the higher levels. Start your workout routine out slowly. Set your machine on the lowest level, or opt for a 10 minute walk on your first day. If you’re going the sporting route, pick one that won’t put you through the paces right away, like softball. Don’t get discouraged though. Everyone starts at this point. Before you know it, you’ll be working out for an hour at a time and feeling like an old pro.
Set a Workout Budget: You really can’t put a price on good health. However, everyone else can. It takes some money to get in shape, though it can be a little or a lot depending on what kind of exercise routine you decide to take on. Walkers usually only have to spend money on a good pair of shoes and maybe a portable CD player to keep them company on their route. Those joining a gym will have to pay monthly fees and possibly buy a membership just to get going. Sports teams often charge a fee or make you buy your own uniform. There’s the little extras to take into account too. If you’re a fan of the energy drink, you’ll pay more than if you just drink tap water. Decide how much you can afford when it comes to getting in shape, then set aside money specifically for that purpose.
Eat for Energy: People who exercise to lose weight sometimes find themselves not only getting into an exercise routine (a good thing) but severely limiting their calorie intake as well (not such a good thing). While it’s good to cut back on junk food and large portions, even those wanting to slim down need to have enough sustenance to get them through a workout in the first place. Protein bars are a quick way to get the energy you need if you don’t have time to prepare something healthy. A better choice is a mix of good carbs and protein, like an apple with peanut butter or a half turkey sandwich. Having a big meal before you workout isn’t good for digestion, but a light snack will keep you from passing out halfway through your routine.
Sticking With the Program is Half the Battle: Give yourself a big congratulations just for taking that first step. Many say it’s the hardest one. However, if you’re like me, every step in an exercise routine is a tough one. Even after we realize how good we feel after working out, we still have those days when our bodies just seem to say “No! I don’t want to exercise today!” Unfortunately, one day off usually turns into a week, then a month, and before you know it, you’re back at square one. Make your exercise routine part of your daily schedule and stick with it. Force yourself to do it, or at least make a deal with yourself to go for a half hour. Then if you really want to quit, you can at least be satisfied knowing that you got a little activity in your day. If you fall off the wagon, just jump back on. It’s easy not to workout, but you’ll feel so much better if you do.
Days Off Are Allowed: Hardcore trainers might say that you should exercise every day without fail. But those of us not competing in any bodybuilding competitions in the future, it’s important to take a day off every now and then so that our bodies can rest and our muscles can heal. When starting out, don’t feel that you have to go every day of the week. Four or five days a week is plenty if you’re trying to lose weight or gain muscle tone. Depending on their conditions and current health, some patients are told that exercising three days a week will be effective for them. If you find that going every day works for you, great. But take a day off during the week just to relax. Or do something less strenuous, like taking a mild walk or even just doing some low impact things at home. Working out is good for your body; pushing it to a breaking point isn’t.
Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut: Even if you start out doing an exercise that you like, things get old if you do them too much. This goes equally true for a workout routine. Not only will your mind start to get bored with it after awhile, eventually your body will become adjusted and you’ll stop getting results. Once you’ve built up some stamina and most likely a good degree of self confidence, try something else. If you’ve been going solo at a gym, join a class. If you’ve been walking, go to the local YMCA and try swimming. Different seasons generally equal different sports, so change with the months. If you’ve just spent three months playing softball, go out and join a volleyball team for the winter. Once you have a few new exercises under your belt, you can mix them up and your exercise will never get boring.
Set Goals and Celebrate When You Reach Them: Having a goal keeps you focused and rewarding yourself when you reach it will motivate you to reach the next one. Set small attainable ones rather than over the top ones. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim for five pounds at first, rather than fifty. Want to run a marathon? Start out by working up to a 15 minute jog on the treadmill. Keep a journal or a chart of where you want to be and then work to get there. When you reach your goal, celebrate your accomplishment. Buy yourself a new pair of earrings, treat yourself to a movie or a night out with friends, or pick up that awesome shirt you were admiring the other day. After all, not only did you take the first step, you kept with it, which is a reason to celebrate all in itself.
No one every said working out was easy, but with a little creativity, the right gear, and the will to work toward your goals, you’ll find huge payoffs in your choice to get healthier.