Picking up the gym shoes again
Dust off those running shoes! Get the workout pants ready - it’s time to get back in shape!
Often when we have been away from the gym or stopped working out all together, we typically try to conquer the world by running a marathon or don’t do anything at all. So what to do? Here are 10 practical tips to help you “start and stick” with your new fitness routine:
1. Take fitness baby steps: One of the best ways to ease back into a regular fitness program is to “start small”. Set small realistic goals allowing you the opportunity to “fit” exercise into your daily schedule - as well as increasing your confidence. For example, instead of “promising” yourself to exercise for two hours six days per week, why not set a goal of moving your body for just 10 minutes a day. Studies have shown moving for just a few minutes at a time can make a significant difference in not only physical health, but your mental health as well!
2. Select exercises you enjoy: I get asked all the time, “What is the best exercise to help me lose weight, get in shape or improve my health?” And my answer is always the same. “The best exercise is THE ONE YOU WILL DO!” In other words, choose activities you enjoy - not exercises you find to be boring or drudgery! Begin with exercises or movements which bring a smile to your face, such as going for a hike in the bush with friends or playing football with your kids.
3. Get in touch with your “fitness personality”: Ask yourself: Do I like to exercise outside, inside, on machines, with others or by myself? Do I like to distract myself when exercising by reading, watching TV, listening to music? Do I prefer exercising at home or at a gym? Do I like to compete when I exercise (e.g. playing a sport or training for an event)? By asking yourself these questions, you’ll get a better sense of what your “fitness personality” is all about.
4. Build a solid base: Don’t start off where you want to ultimately be! If walking slowly or performing exercises with half the weight you used to train with feels like you are being a baby, who cares - in time, you’ll be able to run again! Depending upon how long you have been inactive, it could take as long as 6-8 weeks to build a solid fitness base. Begin your exercise program with regular resistance training to strengthen ligament and tendons, not to mention muscles, as well as aerobic activities to increase heart and lung capabilities.
5. Give yourself a break: When getting back into shape, avoid the “all or nothing” or “weekend warrior” mentality of trying to push yourself like you used to a few months ago. Remember your body is not in the same shape as it was a few months ago and you’ll need to adjust your intensity and duration of your workouts. When performing your new exercise routine, go slower or lift less weight (typically train at the lower heart rate intensity levels or 50% of what you normally would lift weights with). Also, allow yourself more time to rest and recover (for example, for runners, uses a 3-2-3 format when training. Walk for 3 minutes, jog for 2 minutes, walk for 3 minutes. This pacing technique will allow you to ease into your routine as well as slowly help you build up to a consistent pace). Also, if you are sore, take a light walk and stretch to decrease the pain and discomfort. In time you’ll gain the stamina, endurance and strength to perform at higher levels in the very near future.
6. Increase your training slowly: As you begin to apply the first four tips, you can then begin to slowly increase your training by 5-10% every week or every other week, based upon how you are feeling. You can increase how long you train, how many kilometres you exercised, how much weight you lifted, how many repetitions or sets you performed - but ever so slowly.
7. Plan your exercise before your week begins: Good exercise habits happen because we make them happen. Take a few minutes before your week begins and plan out your week. Schedule “non-negotiable” appointments with yourself - marking down in your calendar the exact day and time you are committing to exercising. Soon enough, your regular exercise program will be something you cherish, protect and look forward to!
8. Track your progress: Get a small notebook and keep track of your exercise duration, number of exercises, sets, repetitions and weight completed. Also, make note of how you feel before, during, and after your workouts. If you don’t like to track this much, simply check off the day you completed your exercise - and give yourself a pat on the back!
9. Get a workout buddy who is at your level: Getting back into shape is always easier with a friend who is at a similar fitness level to you. Training with someone who is an elite athlete can be inspiring but also dangerous - as you might find yourself trying to push too hard and fast. Enlist the help of friends, family members (even your dog) who you know will be consistent and faithful to exercise with you. This will help you progress together as well as feeling encouraged and accountable!
10. Check your fitness expectations regularly: Instead of expecting yourself to lose weight immediately or change overnight, begin by systematically planning experiences that you know you can achieve. For example, instead of beginning your fitness program with the idea that you will lose 5 kilos in your first week, focus on setting a daily goal to eat sensibly and exercise more than you did yesterday. Then each day you accomplish these “mini goals” reward yourself for doing the very thing that you know is best for you. By doing the things you KNOW are best for you, your health and fitness will improve - GUARANTEED!
Remember to ‘Win the day!’