Health and fitness resolution? This time, start with a plan!
First… set the goal:
A goal creates a clear vision of the future. It must be well thought out and it must be specific. It also needs to define the smaller, supporting things that will need to be done almost daily. Those small things will spell the success or failure of your goal. EX: If the goal is weight loss, consider the specific diet and activity changes you will need to make.
Exercise information is bountiful. Books, magazines, cable TV, exercise tapes and video programs all offer inexpensive information. The problem is that general information intended for “everybody”, may not be appropriate for you because every one of us is different in hundreds of ways. If you happen to be of average ability, with no serious physical limitation, you may do well with books and magazines, provided you can translate the written word into proper exercise form. “Form” is high on the list of reasons for injury in the weight room. Be sure about your form, and all other aspects of your fitness plan by checking with a trainer or another knowledgable source.
A comprehensive exercise program should include: warm-ups, strength training, aerobic work, stretching, and cool-down.
Warm up your body before exercise by doing any slow, rhythmic movement for up to 10 minutes. Warm up shoulder girdle by moving your shoulders through their comfortable range of motion using very light hand-weights. Warm up specific body parts to be trained by doing a set of exercise at 50% of your ability.
Strength-train every muscle in your body at least once each week. Resistance can be in the form of machines, bands, bodyweight, or weights. Start by selecting one exercise for each major body part (legs, chest, back) and do two sets of 10 to 15 reps. Increase resistance when you can hit 15 reps consistently.
Raise your heart rate to train your cardiorespiratory system. Do this every other day to start. Use any mode of exercise (bike, walk, hike, swim, others). Avoid anything that causes any pain other than tired muscles. Start slowly and over several weeks, increase exercise time and intensity. Let your perception of how hard you are working be your guide to intensity level.
Cool-down after exercise by doing low-level aerobic exercise. The cool down will return heart rate and hormones to normal levels, reduce blood pooling, and may reduce muscle soreness.
Stretch your muscles while they are still warm from exercise. Post workout stretching helps restore the muscles to their rested state. Hold the stretched position for 30 seconds to a minute. Don’t bounce. Take one or two full breaths of air while stretching to signal the body to relax. If you don’t know how to stretch certain muscles, get some coaching from a trainer or knowledgeable friend.
Diet is a huge portion of any fitness goal. You can train hard and often but if your nutrition is out of whack, your success will fall short.
Avoid known problem areas. Most of us know the problem areas of our diet. They fall into several categories: portion size, sugars, salty snacks ,and the big one… unconscious eating. Countless calories are consumed while driving, watching TV, and working. That eating is being done at inappropriate times and in inappropriate places. After a short time, that eating becomes a habit and the food goes down our throat and we don’t even think about it. Alternatively; take the time to focus on your food, think about it, savor it, and truly enjoy it. When we do that we will be more careful in our food selection and the eating experience will be more enjoyable and rewarding.
Monitor what you eat by keeping a food log. Maintaining a food log is probably the most effective and least expensive tool you can use for weight control. Write the time of day and everything you eat on a sheet of paper, or try an on-line food log many of which are free. Keeping your log will increase awareness of the “what / when / where” you eat. At the end of the day, look over your food log and try to imagine everything that you ate all day sitting on your kitchen table right then. Look it over. Does it seem like a lot of food, or a little? Can you pick out the foods you ate that were good for you and that which negatively impacted your goals? GOOD! Think, learn, improve.
Motivation is the feeling that drives us to be successful. It thrives in an environment of positive reinforcement. Congratulating ourselves with positive self-talk for doing the right things boosts our confidence and ability to repeat the good behavior the next time. Two examples of positive self-talk:
“Tom, great work passing on that plate of cookies. By not giving in to them right away, you found something else to keep you busy. Nice going!”
“Man… 20 minutes on the treadmill three times this week. Not bad for a guy who says he doesn’t like aerobic work! Attaboy, Tom! Little by little does the trick.”
Another tip: try to behave the way you think a person who has already achieved your goals would behave. If the goal is to become lean and muscular, then; eat, and exercise, and live, the way you think a lean, muscular, person would. Make that imaginary person your model and slowly become him or her. “Fake it till you make it”, ya know?!
Look here! Good as we try to be, sometimes we blow it. On those occasions, don’t dwell. Give yourself a “pass” and move on. Get back on track as soon as you can. Doing that minimizes the damage and re-commits oneself to the goal.
Only you can change your fitness level. You’re thinking of it now so… do this for yourself. I believe in you. I believe you can do whatever you set out to do. I believe you have it within yourself to be successful. START believing in yourself, keep your focus on the vision you have of your future new you!