Starting your Fitness Journey
So you’re thinking about starting a fitness program (and are cleared by your physician to do so). What now? I should probably join a gym, right? All these questions can be overwhelming and make you re-think your decision… don’t let them. Look at the big picture and try not to get caught up in the details. The fact that you’ve evaluated your life and have made a decision to improve your health is further than most people get, so take a minute and appreciate that. Now, lets start with the reasoning behind that decision.
Step 1: Goals, write them down.
This is the most important part of your new endeavor. Taking the time to set measurable, timely goals may seem unnecessary because it doesn’t burn calories, but it is the very foundation that your fitness program builds on. Why are you doing this? What does “fit” mean to you? Here’s how to approach this: First, set a long-term goal (1-5 years), examples of long-term goals may be “running a 5k by June 1” or “lose 30 lbs by Labor Day”. This goal will steer your short term goals (1-3 months) in the right direction, examples of short term goals include “run a half mile” or “being able to touch my toes”. Make sure every goal you make has a realistic deadline and a way to measure it.
Step 2: Pencil yourself in
Prepare yourself for time conflicts. Everyone has the same amount of hours in the day, so why can some people “find the time” to workout? It’s because they make the time. Look at your schedule a few days to a week in advance and plug in your workout times in the same manner you’d set a meeting- mandatory. You may have to make a few sacrifices, but your future self will thank you. Start with 3 days a week, aim for non-consecutive days to let your body recover between each workout.
Step 3: Move
Now that you have set goals and made time to exercise, it’s time to move. How many days should I do cardio? How many sets/reps should I do with weights? These answers are all influenced by your goal(s). In a general sense, cardiovascular exercise is beneficial no matter what your goal. This means activities like swimming, biking, jogging, and skiing. Start with 30-minute sessions and work your way up. Strength training is important to build muscle and protect your joints, but takes a little more practice than cardio. Start with 2 sessions a week. Squats, crunches and push-ups are all examples of strength exercises. These movements require proper form to prevent injury, so if you’re unsure where to start with either cardio or strength, seek out a fitness professional to help you.
If you find that you can’t get muster up the motivation to get moving, then a gym membership may not be a bad idea. If you are like everyone else in the world and get intimidated by gyms, then talk to a fitness instructor or Personal Trainer, it’s their job to introduce exercise into your life in a way that works for you. Think about it as investing in yourself, paying for a gym membership and/or Personal Trainer is money you’ll save in health care down the road.
Fitness is more than just lifting weights and running. It’s a lifestyle that requires preparation, planning and persistence. You will work hard, and in time be rewarded with physical and mental health. You’ve already done the hardest part by deciding… now take the leap.
Good resources for beginners: