There are so many good reasons why it’s a great idea to get fit. Health, illness, a life event, social reasons, inspiration are just some of the factors that can motivate even the most reluctant to heave themselves off the couch and into their lycra. So well done. You’ve done the really hard bit by making that decision and committing to getting fit. Now all you need to work out is the how.
Get checked out before you start your fitness programme
Before you do anything it is advisable to get checked out by your doctor or health professional. It’s important to get any overall sense of your current state of health in order to help set your exercise goals. For instance are you a few pounds/kilos overweight? If you are carrying a little excess luggage in the weight department that might determine how you start your fitness challenge and what type of exercise you do initially. Alternatively you might have a pre-existing medical condition or discover that you have one. Again that will determine how you start your fitness campaign, but if you get the green light from your doctor, it certainly shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your fitness goals. And as many fitness converts will testify, getting fitter invariably means an improvement in all round health.
Set fitness goals
Be clear on what you want to achieve and why. Are you just looking to lose weight, or tone up generally or do you want to achieve a lifetime ambition, like running a marathon perhaps? When you have decided what you want, set fitness goals that are realistic. Don’t suddenly expect to be able to run the distance if you’ve never run a step previously. Again taking on a bike challenge isn’t going to happen overnight either if you are new to the sport. Be sensible about where you are at the start of your new regime and build slowly. Set distance, time or weight targets which are realistic and achievable. The feeling of hitting one of those targets is inspiring and will push you on to the next one.
Getting your heart rate up is the key to improving your fitness, so focus on exercise that boosts your cardiovascular fitness. Try to work out 3-5 times a week but also aim to be active every day. Walk to the shops/school rather than driving and cycle to the gym rather than taking the car. Incorporate as much activity into your life as possible and try to eat, drink and sleep healthily as well. A healthy diet is crucial to the success of any fitness campaign. Remember 80% of any weight loss will be determined by your diet and 20% by exercise.
Choose a workout you enjoy
Your next task is to choose an exercise programme that you enjoy. That could be anything from running to walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, exercise classes, circuit training, obstacle racing. The fitness world is now your oyster but it is still hugely important that you choose something you really like. If you don’t, it will be a struggle to stick at it.
Don’t do too much too soon
One of the most common mistakes is to do too much too soon. It’s so important that you build up your fitness levels gradually. Depending on how fit you were when you started and how much exercise you’ve done previously, your body will need time to adjust to the new routine. As a result it’s essential you don’t overload major muscle groups or you will find injury and tiredness will quickly become an issue, followed fairly swiftly by demotivation. Remember to be patient because you won’t see changes overnight. This is a lifestyle change that will take time to show the results but they are coming.
Keep your workouts varied
If you can, vary the time, location and duration of your workouts. If you’ve decided you want to run for instance it’s a great idea to have a mixed programme of sessions. If you’re aiming for a 5k race with no previous running experience then you might start your training with some walking sessions before building slowly into running. After a period of time when you’re running all the time, you will then need to vary workouts so that you incorporate a long run, some sprints, some intervals and some tempo or hard running into your training week. These workouts can take place in various places, like the park, on the way to work or in the gym. Pick a variety of different routes when you train and vary the duration of each workout. If you do the same run all the time you will get bored. By mixing it up it keeps you mentally fresh and motivated and will keep you coming back for more.
Cross training works
Cross training is another great way of mixing up your routine. If you like spinning classes for instance, then how about throwing in a different class or activity each week like a circuit training session. It will give your legs a break and work other major muscle groups which might not be used during your regular exercise. Don’t forget that you don’t even have to leave your home to get fit. Home gym equipment is reasonably priced and there are plenty of exercise DVDs and online programmes you can follow. Yoga is another home option, as is a circuit training session in the garden with improvised weights consisting of household items.
Join a fitness group
Joining a group or getting a personal trainer is a terrific way of maintaining motivation. If you join a cycling group you are much more likely to go for that bike ride than you might be if it’s only you. Other people can inspire with their experience and knowledge and if you find someone who is at the same fitness level as you, it can be hugely motivating to work out together.