Don’t forget to stretch
Stretching is important for everyone, but it is particularly important for beginners. Gently warm up and stretch the muscles you will be using before you begin any kind of activity.
If you’re a beginner
If the last time you did a jumping jack was in high school gym class, start slowly. Your body is not used to working hard. Your muscles are probably quite weak and your ligaments fairly stiff. You may not know how to breathe effectively. All of these things will improve in time, but give yourself a chance to get used to being more active.
Walking is a good way for beginners to begin. It is second nature to most of us. It’s really just a matter of doing it more and more often. Walking for as little as 30 minutes a day can make a big difference to your health and fitness.
when I say “walking,” don’t think walking up to the corner to buy a loaf of bread or ambling through the park. I am talking about setting off deliberately to cover some ground.
Begin by setting a time limit. Walk for 15 minutes or a half hour. Keep up an even pace. Try to take a route that has both flat ground and some gentle inclines. Move your arms as well as your legs. And breathe!
One of the nicest things about walking is that you can vary your route. That keeps it from being boring. You may also find it easier if you do it with a friend or clamp on some headphones and listen to music while you walk.
If you’re somewhat to moderately active.
People who are somewhat to moderately active have many more choices than card-carrying couch potatoes. Your challenge is to move to the next level. You can do that by adding minutes of activity to each day or adding days of activity to your week. You can up the intensity or try something new. The important thing is to be sure you push yourself a bit, or involve yourself in exercise groups or settings that will do the pushing for you.
One way to challenge yourself is to focus on your THR, aiming for several weekly sessions in which you push yourself into the upper range for 20 to 30 minutes.
Aerobic exercise is the key here. Running, dancing, step aerobics, and kick boxing are among the many possible choices.
Interval training is another way to give yourself a push. Punctuate an aerobics session with short “power bursts”- 1 minute of greater speed a intensity every 3 to 5 minutes.
Still another way to challenge yourself is to work on building your strength. Lifting progressively heavier weights or increasing the number of reps or sets will payoff in firmer and stronger muscles. Whatever you do, drink lots of water.
Keep a plastic bottle half filled with water in your freezer. Top it off and take it with you whenever you set off for an activity. If you don’t like the icy feel of it, slip the bottle into a gym sock.
Even if you don’t think you’re sweating, you’ll need extra water when you exercise. Working your muscles produces lactic acid, a toxin that causes muscle fatigue. The only way to flush it out is with water.
If you have special needs
If you are extremely overweight, over 65, pregnant, disabled, or have a chronic disease, choosing a more active lifestyle is more complicated than simply deciding what you like to do and just doing it.
That does not mean you shouldn’t even think about exercise. It does mean you should get advice before you make any changes.
If there are medical restrictions on how active you can be, talk to your doctor about what you can and cannot do.
You may be surprised to discover that some of these restrictions are imaginary. you may have to take it slowly. You will certainly have to choose activities that are possible for you and do not add stress to the parts of your body affected by your condition. There may be special strategies or precautions you will have to take. But be assured that even baby steps will get you closer to your goals. And don’t forget to give yourself a big pat on the back, every day, for trying the best you can.
Are you a gum fan or a homebody?
Some people like to exercise alone and others would rather do it with a friend or even a crowd. There is no particular advantage to either. What’s important is that you know what you prefer. If turning up at an exercise class in a pair of shorts makes you want to crawl back under the covers, wear those shorts and exercise at home. If, on the other hand, a regular date to go for a run with a friend is what gets you up and moving, that’s the choice for you.
Join the crowd
If you like to exercise with others, join a gym or health club, sign up for classes, make an ironclad appointment with a friend or family member.
Committing time and/or money especially when someone else is involved, may be the key to making sure you actually get up and do it.
Team and competitive sports are also ways to make physical activity fun. This works best for people who are motivated by competition. A weekly volleyball or softball game may be just the ticket.
If there’s a running club in your vicinity, you might want to give it a try. Many such clubs have sections. for beginners, so you won’t find yourself panting behind the world-class sprinters.
There are many ways to be active that aren’t “athletic.” Do you feel like dancing? From ballroom to disco, ballet to jazz, you’ll get a good aerobic workout and have fun while you’re doing it. Combining an evening’s entertainment with your daily dose of exercise may be the smartest thing you do all weekend.
If you prefer to exercise alone
There’s nothing wrong with exercising alone, as long as you really do it. Set aside a specific time each day and keep your appointment with yourself. If you work out a home, put on your exercise garb, clear enough space on the floor, and unplug the phone. This is your time, so don’t let yourself be interrupted. You might want to pop an exercise video into your VCR or tune into one of the many exercise programs on cable television. If you do your own routine, be sure to play some music to help you keep up a lively pace.
Should you invest in home exercise equipment? In my opinion, treadmills, steppers, ski trackers, weight machines, and ab conditioners are notorious dust collectors. The good ones are expensive and the bargain ones are flimsy. Most are single-purpose gadgets, which will bore you before they earn their keep.
If you like exercising with machines, joining a gym is a better bet. Most gyms have a wide variety of heavy-duty machines, and you don’t have to worry about keeping them dust-free and in working condition.
Just because you like to exercise alone doesn’t mean you have to stay home. Swimming is basically a solitary pursuit, but an excellent workout for those who like it. Running can be done solo as well as with one or more partners.