When you haven’t exercised in a long time – perhaps even years – the thought of getting in shape can seem impossibly complicated. It is a lot of work, but the beneficial effects of exercise far outweigh the problems associated with beginning a fitness program. As your health improves, so do your energy levels, and you become more productive during the day and sleep better at night. Getting started is easier than you think. Some people simply read reviews of ellipticals and buy a machine to get started. To make the project a long term, all out success, there are a few steps you can take.
1. Set Specific Goals
Maybe you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve your cardiovascular capacity. Maybe you want to do all three. That’s great! Thinking big can get you motivated. But for real success, you have to break your goals down.
According to WebMD, it is best to begin by setting a specific goal. For instance, you could resolve to run a mile in ten minutes. Break it down into steps. If you haven’t actually put on your running shoes in five years, then you may have to start out walking. Resolve to walk a mile three times a week. Then start mixing in some jogging with your walking. Gradually increase the amount of running versus the amount of walking. It may require weeks, but gradually you’ll meet your goal of a ten minute mile.
2. Write it Down
WebMD also suggests that exercisers purchase a notebook in which to record fitness goals. Be specific, including your ultimate goal and the incremental steps. Also write an exercise schedule that includes when and how long you’ll exercise and what activity you’ll do. Leave some room so you can write after each session what you actually accomplished during your workout. Make a point of occasionally looking back to check your progress. AskMen provides similar advice for their readers, and also suggests keeping various copies of your goals in conspicuous places as timely reminders.
3. Work Out at a Gym
Some people get motivated just by being around others who are working up a healthy sweat. A writer at Livestrong.com explains that the variety of machines most gyms offer and the additional facilities like pools and tennis courts make gym memberships an excellent deal. Additionally, members can take advantage of the skills of the personal trainers the gym keeps on staff in order to keep their routine from getting stale. Many gyms also offer group exercise classes, which offer opportunities both for fitness and socialization.
Gym memberships can have their downside too. Overcrowding is a typical issue, with many people having to wait to use the machines they need. Also, some gyms do not easily accommodate an unusual work schedule.
4. Work Out at Home
People who find that gym memberships are not ideal often set up a home gym. The fitness experts at Fitmoves.com cite the convenience of working out at home. After all, a home gym is available for use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s no driving, no parking, and no waiting.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to having a home gym is a lack of equipment. Fitness equipment is an expensive investment and when you’ve purchased a treadmill, there often is no budget or no room to add an elliptical machine.
5. Hire a Personal Trainer
The Personal Trainer Network website suggests that although this may be a costly option, having a personal trainer customize a fitness plan specifically for you can be a great way to jump start a fitness regimen. A trainer works with you to understand your body, its limitations, and what you would like to achieve. You’ll also benefit from having another person at your side who can provide guidance and motivation just when you need them most.
6. Eat Right
Proper nutrition can help set you on the track to fitness. It can help you lose weight, boost your energy, and give you cholesterol numbers that will have your doctor cheering. Eating right, in combination with an exercise program, can transform your body and help you achieve your fitness goals.
The Mayo Clinic suggests limiting your intake of sweets. Occasional desserts are nothing to feel guilty about, however. To aid your intake of healthy meals, subscribe to a magazine that includes healthy food recipes and scatter them around the house so you can browse for new meals to try. Experiment with fresh fruits and vegetables. Most people don’t get enough fruit and vegetable servings in a day, so try to increase your intake gradually. If you take in one or two servings, bump it up to three or four, replacing junk food snacks with fresh fruits.
7. Drink Plenty of Water
Dr. Richard Weil suggests drinking 7-10 ounces of water before each workout and to continue to hydrate yourself while you exercise. He also suggests weighing yourself before and after your workout, using the weight difference, which is likely lost through sweat, to calculate ingesting 150% of the weight lost in fluids within two hours of finishing a workout. Dehydration saps the muscles’ power and puts cardiovascular functioning at risk. Keeping hydrated throughout the day improves exercise performance and overall energy.
8. Get Quality Sleep
To regularly get a great night’s sleep, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic suggest sticking to a sleep schedule in which you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. They also suggest limiting calorie and water intake for two hours prior to bedtime. Use a comfortable mattress and pillow and make the bedroom as dark and quiet as possible. It’s easy to get great sleep when you create the perfect atmosphere.
9. Find an Exercise Partner
Psychology Today suggests that a workout partner can help motivate you to more intense workouts. A partner can also get you up and get you going when you’d rather sit in front of the TV. Set at least one workout date together on a weekly basis. Even better, find a partner who can commit to keeping the same training schedule you have.
10. Make it a Family Matter
The Shapeup Foundation recommends getting the whole family involved in any fitness program. They feature suggestions like making exercise an event every weekend, with each family member choosing a different activity each week. Something as simple as a soccer or badminton game can get the whole family moving. When all family members are involved in fitness, it’s easier for everyone to stay motivated to get in shape.