Get Started Exercising Now
By: Karen Peralta
You may have it all figured out by now, after checking with your friends, the media and finally that fickle fiend known as the bathroom mirror, that a regular exercise program is the only way to fly when it comes to permanent weight loss. That entails working out or otherwise flexing your physical and psychological muscles on a regular basis, perhaps three times a week, or maybe even once per day.
But therein lies the rub. How do you get started? How often do you exercise? Most importantly, if you've been very sedate or at least somewhat off your feet for awhile, what's the safest way to begin an effective, weight-loss centered exercise program?
Beginning a Righteous Program--Realistically
First of all, follow the old saw about consulting with your doctor. Don't start thinking you can just begin running around the block. That's why the medical profession exists, to advise and keep you safe. Your doctor will recommend specific types of exercise tailored to fit your own individual lifestyle, personal health needs and concerns. But you don't need to make it entirely clinical when you begin an exercise program.
Most importantly, you need to pick something you're going to stick with. What do you like in the way of sports? If you're people-oriented, you should look into joining a team sports program of some kind in your area, one created for adult participation. You can look for a local softball league, take a beginning aerobics class at a fitness center, or play regular games of basketball at a gym with your buddies. And then there's golf, the perennial favorite of people who want to perform fun and interesting mild exercise. All you have to do is motivate yourself and perhaps some friends to get started. Or if you're a loner, you can take up an individualized sport such as bicycle touring, which can also be done in small groups, or laps swimming at your community pool.
And if you like to be around a humungous amount of people, how about mall-walking, one of the latest in adult and family mild fitness trends, or the more traditional act of partner dancing, which you can do at all kinds of gathering places such as local taverns, senior centers, community halls and social clubs. There's an almost infinite number of places you can go and groups you can join. Just pick one, and remember to start out with a breezy, fun and easygoing attitude. You're not punishing yourself; you're picking up on a lifelong habit of moving your body for health purposes. You'll feel better, look fitter and maybe meet new people while you're dropping those needless extra pounds.
But be realistic, and work with your doctor. You want to aim for something fun that you'll keep committing to doing regularly. If it's something you hate, perhaps such as running on a track, climbing stairs or using what seems to you to be boring exercise equipment, forget it! Don't spend all your money on something you can't keep doing because you feel guilty, or think you have to punish yourself into exercising. Be sure you like what you're going to do before you get started. Simply walking around the block is a very inexpensive and potentially fun way to go from a sedentary state to a beginning new level of much better health and fitness. You must start with something easy and simple if you haven't been exercising for decades, and you should gradually increase your level of activity as you feel comfortable with it. Move by inches, not by miles.
Are you a morning or an evening person? If you're the former, plan to work out in the morning, and if you wake up later in the day, do your routine more near twilight. Also, as your doctor will tell you, start with a small window of time, perhaps only fifteen minutes at first, and slowly increase it every other day or so. In order to achieve a higher level of fitness and to lose weight, you must perform whatever exercise you choose at least three to four times a week. This is better at first than every day, as a rest may be needed between workouts to give your aching muscles a chance to soothe themselves and heal before you bravely saunter forth again or head back merrily to the gym.
Eventually, you can try exercising every single day, anywhere from twenty minutes to a full hour. But especially at first--and that may be for several months--don't push yourself too hard. Don't go all out, and get frustrated because you can't keep it up. You don't have to be a college athlete, and you can seriously hurt your heart by pushing too hard or overdoing it. Remember, you're doing this for fun, for health reasons and to feel good about yourself. Don't try to become an "athlete" unless you think that will be something you'll want to commit to on a much more rigorous schedule. Later!
Easy Exercise Comes--Naturally
Americans tend to think of exercise as more their duty than as a part of their culture, or "way of life." But it's a true lifestyle preference. Throughout the world, many forms of regular exercise are taking hold of whole general populations. Take walking, for example. In Europe, people are flocking to their local well-developed public hiking trails, and there's quite a few of those spread across the USA as well. Walking of a moderate type is called Volkssport in Europe, and it's really been around for many centuries.
Easy-going exercise such as walking continues to stave off heart disease, osteoporosis, high cholesterol and many types of cancer, as well as taking care of most of your belly flab. It doesn't sound like much, but it will really tighten your whole body up. Your legs will especially benefit, and your buns will automatically grow firmer as you stroll. Not to mention that the worst investment you need to make is a pair of comfy, sturdy sensible shoes, preferably made of leather or canvas with rubber soles.
You may think that yoga is some uncomfortable form of Eastern self-punishment and mysticism, but it's not. Yoga is great for toning your body, as it's extremely gentle when done correctly. It combines traditional breathing and relaxation techniques with simple stretching. It's good to use yoga during a weight-loss program when you're sedentary, as it's very easy on your body, you don't have to repeat the same exercises every day, and it requires a minimal time commitment.
Yoga can be used in conjunction with a more rigorous exercise program to help maintain your overall state of fitness. "Yoga doesn't take over your life, it enhances it," says Alice Cristensen, founder and executive director of the American Yoga Association.
Continuing Your Program--Goals and Motivation
Okay, so you've gotten started, but what does all this have to do with watching your weight? To keep on schedule with this as your original goal, you also have to keep that commitment to lose enough poundage to be a healthy, happy and physically fit person.
First of all, you have to figure out exactly what you're expecting to accomplish. Are you looking for optimal health, or do you really want to fit into slinky clothes better? Either way, you're going to have to set goals and try to attain them as you go. It helps to clearly keep in mind what you're aiming for, and it helps to visualize yourself at your ideal weight several times a day. This image impresses itself upon your subconscious and inwardly motivates you to continue your program with a bulldog's sheer tenacity and motivation. You want that; whatever happens, you don't want to stress out and quit. Try looking at old photographs of yourself at your ideal weight and picturing realistically what you'll look like when you're back there again. Don't expect the Fountain of Youth, but you'd be shocked how close you can get to your mental picture, and how good you're going to feel as you move your body, eat less liberally and become fit and not fat.
Also, you should make a brief list of the five major reasons you're embarking on an exercise and weight-loss program. Do you want to bring down your blood pressure? Does being fat make you feel too old? Do you want to attract someone new in your life? When you sit in your car, does your stomach practically turn the steering wheel? Make it a point to carry this list with you wherever you go, and when you get in the mood to quit and give up, whip it out and read it aloud, saying to yourself that this is what you really want.
You must also remember to keep it simple when you're losing weight. In most cases, burning more calories than you ingest is the biggest concern. You have to expend approximately 3,500 calories to lose one pound of adipose fat tissue. Water weight doesn't count, and that's what a lot of people lose at first. Also, the important thing about exercise is that you can eat almost normally and still lose the weight at a healthy and reasonable pace. If you don't exercise and try to lose weight, you'll be tempted to embark on a starvation diet. This has been shown to make you lose lean muscle mass instead of fat in most cases, and although you'll drop some pounds, they may be the wrongest ones. Chances are that if you're unfit while you're losing weight, you'll get physically tired, sleep less, become overly emotional, and stress out and become extremely irritable. It simply isn't healthy to do it that way, so you need at least a moderate exercise program.
Try keeping a journal of your progress every day, and consult with it when you want to know how far along you've come. You can also use it to gauge how you're doing, and whether or not you're losing weight at a reasonable pace. Congratulate yourself every time you ate the right thing, kept to your walking schedule, or didn't give in to temptation that day by making a brief note about it. Read the journal to inspire you about what you're doing whenever you feel the urge to let go.
Meanwhile, as you chart your progress, take the time to reward yourself for everything you're doing right. Ignore occasional slipups, and don't let them bother you. Move on and motivate yourself by going to a movie, taking a break from work, going to the beach or whatever floats your boat. Don't reward yourself with food, ever! Find other methods of loving life and use them. Treating yourself manifests your brain's reward system and keeps you striving toward your goals.
Don't forget to share any successes or failures with your friends and family. Tell them all about how proud you are of the new lifestyle choices you're making, and share in their enthusiasm. They want you to be healthy and go on living, and so do you. But some of them may worry that you're starving yourself or are in a state of denial. Reassure them, and proceed carefully with your healthy diet and exercise plans, while always knowing that it's exactly what you need to do to look better, feel stronger and live longer.
Easy Dieting Tips to Live By--Starting Now
- Never eat after 7 pm. Studies prove that your body's metabolism begins to shut down in the early evening. It needed fuel to function earlier, but at night you're getting yourself ready to fall asleep. Eat the bulk of your daily food intake around noon--that's when you're burning the most calories. But if you work nights, do it the other way around, of course. It's not the time of day that's important; it's the fact that your body is well-adjusted to a cycle where it doesn't burn many calories before and during bedtime.
- Americans are used to eating super-sized meals, so learn to limit your portion size. Eat smaller meals five or six times a day instead of the standard three huge ones, and grab healthy snacks like vegetables, fruits and yogurt in-between. You want to prevent any binging or "pigging out" that could occur. Eat modestly, but often, and be sure to drink plenty of healthy fluids--mostly, pure cool water.
- Limit your intake of saturated fats, sugars and any other substances in food proven to add empty calories to your daily diet. Don't drink any pop or sodas at all as they're very bad for you generally, being full of chemicals. Diet sodas tempt you into drinking the sugary ones, and all soda pop robs water from your system and makes you thirstier. That can lead to eating more food.
- Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. You might want to go easy on some of the higher-calorie fruits such as starchy bananas, and don't eat lots of high-fat avocados. But in general veggies are a dieter's best friend. You might want to always eat your veggies with some meat protein to curb any histamines that might ravage your system and make it harder for you to breathe. Also, eating plenty of veggies kills the hunger signals from your brain, due to their sheer bulk and fiber. And the nutrients in fruits and veggies will increase your physical strength. Eat your spinach!
- Also eat lots of whole grains, which provide antioxidants that fight cancer and help you feel satisfied in a manner similar to that of eating veggies. But whole grains are even more filling, and help you digest your food. You want to eat plenty of fibrous foods, plus drinking lots of water, to flush toxins left over in your body from the dieting completely out of your system.
- Take a healthy multivitamin. Don't go overboard and try to take everything, because some of the substances we need interact non-positively and can cause chemical imbalances. Consult with your doctor and see what's recommended nowadays. One good wholistic multivitamin and mineral supplement--not a megadose of potentially harmful chemicals--can improve your skin, hair, overall appearance in general, and also your chances of managing on a little bit less food.
Please remain consistently aware of one thing: these are radical, life-changing choices that you're making each day and night, and you've got to stick with them. Not everyone else in the world is going to live this way, but many people are and it's a sensational start! Think that you really have no choice, if you want to go on living for many long years and be vibrant, strong and healthy. Realize that your loved ones truly need you, and that the right thing to do is to take the best possible care of yourself. Tell yourself that with honest compassion, every single waking moment of your entire life.
About the Author
Executive Director and President of Rainbow Writing, Inc., Karen Cole-Peralta writes. RWI at http://www.rainbowriting.com/ is a world renowned freelance writing, copyediting, ghostwriting, graphics and CAD, search engine optimization, publishing helpers, internet marketing, xml code authoring, free professional services, and supercheap dedicated web host and website development corporation.
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