Fitness can be so intimidating — so much so that by the end of January, many hopeful and aspiring athletes have already thrown in the towel.
Don’t give up.
Never give up.
My advice to you is threefold:
1. Find something you ENJOY doing.
If you enjoy your activity, you will stick with it longer. The possibilities are endless: hiking, biking, walking, swimming, group classes, karate, yoga … the list goes on forever.
The only way to find what you enjoy is to try all the things you think might check that box.
For me, it is group fitness classes. They are so much fun, and they run the gamut from mind-body classes to high intensity training and everything in between.
The recommendation is to exercise moderately for about 150 minutes per week. Studies have shown that the weekend warrior can cram a good amount of exercise into the weekend if the work week gets too crowded. You will still get the benefits from those cram sessions.
2. Quit sitting so much.
We are not designed to sit. Our ancestors would be blown away if they saw most of us. We sit way too much. Sitting is your enemy. Our bodies are designed to work.
I know what you are saying: "My job makes me sit." Well, hopefully, your job doesn’t last 24 hours a day.
Use the hours when you are not working to be as active as possible. Throw away the excuses and get up and go.
3. Set achievable goals.
Do not set your sights so darn high that you fail. Small achievable goals will set you up for success. One step at a time is best, then grow from there. By summer, fitness will be a full-fledged habit!
Luckily for me, I am surrounded by other fitness fanatics every day at work, and I decided to ask my YMCA instructor friends what advice they would give newcomers.
D said it’s helpful to understand that change does not happen overnight. Also understand that the number on the scale is not the end-all be-all to fitness. It can be used as a guide, but we should not live and die by the scale. A more accurate gauge is how our clothes fit and any improvements to our blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
T said her best advice is to find someone who is willing to start with you. Having a friend/partner can make it more fun and less intimidating. Plus, having a friend with you helps keep you committed to your goals. T also tells people to do something that they enjoy. Look at the gym class schedule and try different things. Classes are the best place to meet new people and try new things. You might be surprised at how great your kickboxing skills really are.
J and S kept their advice real simple: Be consistent and progress slowly. But always listen to your body.
Last but not least, M said break your goals into small, obtainable chunks. With trying to set large, long-term goals, you can get overwhelmed and easily discouraged. The goals need to be attainable enough so you know you can achieve them if you put in the effort.
For example, make smaller weekly goals such as, "I’m going to walk for 30 minutes three times this week," or "I am going to add more vegetables into my menu this week."
Don’t wait until you reach your end goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal.
If you can identify the immediate rewards, you have a better chance of keeping up the behaviors that got you there.
Be your own cheerleader. It’s OK to pat yourself on the back. After all, if you are out doing the work, you are beating all those folks on the couch.
Usually at the end of all my classes, I tell my class to pat themselves on the back. They showed up, they did the work, they held themselves accountable. They deserve that pat on the back.
Now go out and do something to earn your pat on the back.
Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.