How to start your fitness plan
This originally appeared as an article in the Lenawee Pulse
As winter closes in, it becomes increasingly difficult to stick with your workout routine. The people I see stick with their workout routines year round are the diehard muscle guys and the people who make it a priority because they know the consequences of not being physically fit. People tend to stay indoors and it is almost impossible to get any physical activity in during the day.
One of the things that I see as the holidays near is that people tend to gain weight from eating all those Christmas cookies, but what they don’t realize is that the weight gain process actually starts to take effect in November. Generally, in the summer you and I eat enough calories to maintain for our activity levels so we tend not to gain much weight. Come November, when it cools down, we continue with the same eating habits as we did when we were more active. The problem is we are eating more and working less. This primes us for weight gain when we scarf down all those holiday goodies.
A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get fit. The gyms are crammed with new members, but by mid-February everything has calmed down again. The people who have given up were not equipped with the tools to stick to their program.
I tell the students in my Lifetime Physical Fitness class at Jackson Community College about setting “SMART” goals. “S” stands for making your goal specific. An acceptable example would be, “I want to lose 10 pounds of fat” or “I want to gain 5 pounds of muscle mass.” “M” stands for making the goal measurable. You want to be able to measure your progress, whether it’s by a decreasing pant size or lower heart rate. “A” stands for making it an acceptable goal that can be accomplished. “R” stands for making your goal realistic. Losing 50 pounds in 3 months is not realistic, but losing weight at a rate of 2 pounds per week is healthy and realistic. Finally, “T” stands for making the goal time-specific. You will want to set a deadline for meeting your goal. You can see why “biggest loser” contests are successful in getting contestants to lose weight, because there are rewards for losing weight by a specific deadline.
Now that you’ve set you goal, it’s likely your current behaviors aren’t going to allow you to reach your goal. There will be some change in your behaviors and habits in order for you to be successful.
Chose the right foods by excluding high-fat and high-sugar foods. Your diet should be high in fruits and vegetables and you need to limit high-fat foods such as fast food while consuming sweets sparingly.
When working out or beginning a workout program, it may be necessary to hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to get you started and to show you how to push yourself. It can be considered an investment in yourself. Another tip I tell people is to workout with someone. This will allow you to have someone you can be accountable for, and they can help hold you accountable.
I encourage everyone to stay active and watch what they eat through the holiday season.
Three Common Questions
I have arthritis in my knees and it hurts to walk sometimes, but my doctor advised me that I must lose weight and begin a fitness program. How do I start?
I tell people who have ailing joints in their lower body to start off by using a bike or water for their exercise. The major issue with these people is that weight-bearing exercise is painful, but if they took their body weight out of the picture it becomes feasible. Try going to to an acqua-aerobics class or going during open lane swims and just walking back and forth in the shallow end. Using the water’s buoyancy will decrease the weight you’re putting on your joints. This will allow you to do the necessary exercise. Also, biking or cycling is a good exercise because it almost completely takes body weight out of the picture.
What is better for me, low-intensity aerobic exercise or weight lifting?
Which one you should emphasize more in your workouts mostly depends on your goals. I have most individuals perform at least a little of both. Both aerobic exercise and resistance training with machines or free weights will decrease body fat. However, lean body mass is built or maintained with resistance training, and aerobic exercise helps increase lung capacity.
What is the best time of day to work out?
It all depends on what you’re comfortable with. There are multiple theories. Some say mornings are best to do your workout because it will jumpstart your metabolism and get you ready for the day ahead. There is the notion that working out at night will relax you and help relieve the stress from a long day at work. My recommendation is that you work out whenever you can get it in, and don’t let the time of day be an excuse – just get out there and do it.