I am going to highlight some steps to take, tips to try, and the do's and don'ts of starting an exercise program.
Check with your physician. Before starting any new exercise regime, you should talk with your doctor about what you are planning and/or what he/she would recommend. I feel that this is a good idea even if you are already active. If you are taking medications of any kind these may affect your heart rate when exercising.
Pick an activity you enjoy (or will enjoy). I am qualifying the enjoyment factor a bit, because if you have been inactive, you may find that beginning any activity may not be "enjoyable" at the start. I remember the great speaker, Zig Ziglar, telling about when he first started running, how hard it was to even make it down to his mail box and back. Now, he runs every morning and loves it - and he is in his 70s!
When picking an activity consider whether or not you are a group person. I enjoy group activities and classes, so to get fit, I joined a club and went to aerobics classes on a regular basis. I loved the movement, the camaraderie, the energy generated by the group - and I still do. Even though I enjoy fast walking, skating, hiking, and biking, I am more likely to pursue each if I have others along. If you start an exercise regime, no matter how good it is for you, if you don't have fun doing it you will drop it after a short time.
Start slowly and work at your own pace. I can't stress this point enough. If we are "out of shape" and try to keep up with others who have been working out for a time period already, we are asking for pain and possible injury. I tell the students in my classes over and over to "do what you can." You should challenge your body, but not punish it.
I also tell newcomers to my classes who are concerned about not "keeping up" that everyone (except the instructor) is looking at him or herself, not at you. They don't care whether you are keeping up or not. The first weekend I went to the club I joined, I did so much abdominal work on Friday and Saturday that by Sunday I told my children not to even make me smile, I hurt so much. (note: I would have been tempted to give up at that point, but I had committed the money already. Great incentive!)
If you are going to join a club or fitness center, check out several. Most clubs and fitness centers will give you a free trial pass for at least one session. There are many criteria you should consider. First of all, is it in a location that is convenient to where you live and/or work? If it is going to take a long time to get there, you will find yourself starting to avoid the trip - especially in bad weather.
Visit at the time of day or evening that you would normally attend. How crowded is it? Is it difficult to find a parking space? How polite and pleasant is the staff? Are they willing to answer questions without pressuring you to join? Do others in your age range work out there? What's happening at that time - if you are planning to attend classes, are there classes given that you would enjoy?
How about the physical condition? Is the club clean? Do you like the layout? If you plan to swim, is there a pool to your liking? How are the locker rooms? What machines do they offer and are there enough of the ones you prefer to use available? Once you've decided on a facility, be sure to ask about membership "deals." Many clubs will negotiate prices, but you need to ask if you plan to bargain.
Be discerning when picking a fitness instructor and/or a personal trainer. Remember that it is your body and fitness we are talking about, so it is important to make sure that you pick the "best of the best." Unfortunately, not all instructors and/or personal trainers are created equal.
First and foremost, find out if he/she is certified and with whom. The top organizations are the American Council on Exercise and the Aerobic and Fitness Association of the Americas.
There are others that are excellent too, but I am astonished by how many instructors and/or personal trainers have no certification.
An excellent instructor or trainer keeps up with the latest fitness news and studies and will share it with students and clients. They teach safe classes and coach safely with proper warm ups, stretches, cool downs, and heart rate checks.
A professional fitness instructor and/or trainer shows up on time, is willing and able to answer questions, has commitment and enthusiasm, and sincerely cares about you and your progress. (note: I also take a good look at an instructor's or trainer's body to see how fit he/she is. If what they do is not working for them, I question whether or not it would work for me.)
Find an exercise buddy. Oftentimes, it is easier to maintain and commit to a program of exercise if you have someone else that is working out with you, or at least checking up on your progress. If we tell others that we are going to do something like exercise regularly and get fit, it will give us that extra push of incentive to keep with it, even if the going gets tough. It is also more fun to share your time working out or going to the club with a friend. Just make sure that you pick someone who will stick with it and is as committed as you are.
Get started - you will be glad you did! It is amazing how quickly you will start feeling better physically and mentally and start seeing the difference in your body. And then others will start noticing and asking, "Are you working out? You look wonderful!" Yes!
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