Two of the more dreaded post-holiday tasks are assembling new electronics and planning your New Year’s resolution workouts – especially when you have no instruction booklet for the latter.
For beginners, getting into fitness can be intimidating and confusing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, getting fit is one of the most straightforward tasks you’ll attempt in the New Year. Fortunately, reaching your fitness goals requires only two things; discipline (I’ll leave that up to you) and a set of simple guidelines (which I’m happy to provide).
1) Arrange for a full physical examination by your physician. This is mandatory for people that have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or are obese. Once you have your doctor’s approval, you should schedule a fitness assessment with a health professional at your gym.
2) Walk, don’t run, to fitness success. If you want to pick up your university running workouts where you left them 10 years ago, that’s fine. But I guarantee you won’t last 10 days. And then it’ll be a dreary 355 days until you’re
ready to try exercise again.
3) Set goals. It’s much more effective to commit to a set of specific short-term and long-term goals than it is to routinely hope for weight loss each year. Chris Lopez, one of Toronto’s top personal trainers advises, “Make sure you have a plan. Start with a goal, then work backwards to determine the steps you need to take to obtain that goal. If you're new to the whole strength and conditioning scene or if you're starting a new program that you're not all that familiar with, consult a professional to help you get organized. The last thing you want is to injure yourself because you made an attempt at executing an exercise with improper form. You can get a listing of qualified individuals in your area from most fitness certification bodies – such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (www.nsca-lift.org).
And how does Chris structure his workouts? Lopez says, “Before we get into any type of resistance exercise, each client goes through a series of movement patterns, planks, side planks and hip stabilization exercises to get their nervous system fired up and ready for the moves that we will be doing during the body of the workout. Biceps curls are fine, but don't forgo your core exercises for aesthetic ones.”
You must remember to train within your limits. If you are currently sedentary and haven’t exercised in months (or years), don’t begin an advanced training program. Start with a conservative beginner program. Your belly wasn’t built in a day, and it won’t be lost overnight.
Limit your initial workouts to one set per muscle group. In week two, you should be ready to add another set. If you want to build up to three sets, then do so in week three. Slowly increase the weight and stay within your desired repetition range. At no time should you be too sore to function. And runners should also heed this advice. Too much running will guarantee shin splints. Avoid running on back to back days for the first two weeks and keep the distance short.
4) Build your social support team. Social support is the number-one factor for success for women in fitness programs, and is important for men as well. Support can come from your spouse, brother or sister, child, mom or dad, friend, neighbor, co-worker, personal trainer, or lifestyle coach. Don’t try to go it alone. As Dr. Eric Serrano says about his weight loss patients, "Patients respond better when they report to a person instead of a machine. No one wants to disappoint a real person."
5) Learn about nutrition. Nutrition is the second most important factor for success in fat loss programs. That’s why you don’t need to train like a world-class athlete when you are starting to lose fat. Most of the fat you’ll lose in the early stages results from making better nutritional choices. If you don’t make better nutritional choices, even the best exercise program in the world isn’t going to help you achieve your fat loss goals.
Nutrition is a lot simpler than you think. Don't over think things. See a nutritionist or listen to what your mother told you as a kid. Food choices should contain a large nutrient-to-calorie ratio. Dr. Phil (yes that Dr. Phil) calls this “High-Response Cost, High-Yield Nutrition”. And follow this rule: “Don't eat foods with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or fruit syrup,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD. Try logging your nutritional intake on www.fitday.com. This is a free website that allows you to track your calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
The consistent use of these 5 guidelines will help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions. Make this year’s fitness plan a strategic investment in your future health.
By Craig Ballantyne
This article first appeared in Get Out There Magazine. www.getouttheremag.com
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