Beginning a fitness programme is one of the best things you can do for your health. Not only does it improve your overall mood, but it can also help reduce the risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and help you to lose weight. For most people, however, beginning a fitness programme is the most difficult part, which often leads to lack of motivation followed by an abandonment of the programme altogether. Here are a few guidelines to follow when beginning a new fitness programme that will help you stay motivated and enthusiastic about your new lifestyle choice. The first thing you want to do is to make sure you are healthy enough to begin a fitness programme. If you have been inactive for a long time, if you’re over 40, or have any existing health conditions (high blood pressure, asthma, etc.) you need medical clearance before starting one. Consulting your doctor will allow you to identify areas of concern that will help prevent injury during your workouts. Most personal trainers would (and should) request such medical clearance before starting you on a workout routine. Next, set specific, manageable goals. Setting goals will help keep you focused. Initially it may seem like a chore to workout, so make every effort not to let it become another inconvenience to you. For example, if you have a busy lifestyle it might be overly ambitious to commit to working out four days a week at first. Instead, affirm to yourself ‘I will work out three times this week for 20 minutes each.’ Always set realistic goals for yourself to prevent disappointment.
Invest in a good pair of workout shoes. Commonly overlooked, a good ‘footing’ can help prevent unnecessary orthopaedic stress on your knees, ankles and feet. Ensure your shoe has proper cushioning and arch support. Stay away from high top shoes because too much ankle support over time can make the ankle joint weaker. Most importantly, be comfortable in your shoes. Start slowly and be patient. Most people try to do too much too soon when beginning a fitness programme. Don’t expect immediate or dramatic changes in your body shape or weight. Getting fit and healthy is not an overnight proposition, it’s a lifestyle commitment. Focus on your own progress and don’t be intimidated by other seemingly fit people around you. Everyone started somewhere. Use multiple muscle groups. Working more than one muscle at a time and doing full body movements helps to reduce workout time. Also, full body movements tend to burn more calories in a short amount of time. For example, try doing squats (lower body) combined with shoulder press (upper body). Also, try sticking to the basics. Walking into a gym and seeing all those bulky pieces of equipment and machines can be intimidating. When starting off, stick to the basics of free weights and full body movements. As you become more acquainted with the exercises and the gym facility, you’ll feel more comfortable using some of the machines there. Track your progress. Keeping a record of your progress will help you to see where you have improved and in which areas you need to perk up. At the end of your workout, make note of the date, exercise, number of sets and reps as well as the amount of weight used per set. For cardio, record the exercise, intensity level and duration. You may also make some personal notes regarding how you felt about your workout, energy level and so on. Try it for 21 days. Many experts on human behaviour have noted that it usually takes 21 days of practice for something to become a habit. Such an important and valuable lifestyle choice deserves the chance to become a habit. Stick with your programme and pretty soon, as the results come and you notice changes in your body and health, you will be more motivated to adhere to your fitness programme. Some final points – Keep hydrated during your workouts; pay a little more attention to maintaining a balanced diet (we will discuss diet in another article); and seek the advice and assistance of a personal trainer if you need to.