Easing Into a New Routine
Okay, now that you are motivated (Read Part I)… where do you start?
First, you need to realize that this is a marathon and not a sprint. People who lose weight quickly will gain it back quickly. Think about how long it has taken you to become unhealthy. It’s been years of bad habits such as poor nutrition, reduced physical activity, and maybe a few vices such as drinking and/or smoking. While it’s not going to happen overnight, you actually CAN turn it around and improve your health faster than it took you to get into your current condition. Don’t expect “The Biggest Loser”-type results and think you’ll lose 10 or 20 pounds a week. That’s just not realistic without being under the supervision of doctors, dietitians and personal trainers who all have you watching your nutrition and making sure you are exercising up to eight hours a day and strictly limiting your caloric intake. And, there are no magic pills or exercise widgets that are going to help you shed pounds of fat or reduce your tummy, hips, thighs and butt overnight. Losing one to two pounds a week while adding about 10 lbs. of lean muscle over 10-14 months is a realistic goal and fantastic accomplishment. That’s a loss of 50 to 100 lbs over the next year!
To reach your fitness goals, you need to commit to a long-term, goal-oriented program that includes good nutrition, resistance training and cardiovascular training (see Three-Legged Table post). Without all three, you are setting yourself up for failure. You’ll be disappointed in the results and you’ll quit. It’s that simple.
You need to learn how to fuel your body, burn fat, add muscle, increase your metabolism and create a calorie deficit. When you burn more calories that you consume, you will lose weight. A comprehensive fitness program designed by a personal trainer with help from a dietitian or nutritional expert will give you the tools and motivation you need to succeed.
When you start your program, build a foundation. You may be surprised to know that your body starts to change during your very first workout and will continue to improve as long as you don’t stop. You don’t need to set strength records or try to relive your high school or college sports days. Your body is not the same as it once was. You aren’t as strong, mobile, or flexible. Your muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments are weaker. And your pulmonary and circulatory systems are more than a little rusty. If you push it too hard, too fast, you may injure yourself.
My advice, hire a personal trainer. At least work with a trainer once or twice a week for the first three to six months. A certified personal trainer will be able to help evaluate your readiness to take on a fitness program. Based on assessments, they’ll be able to plan your routines, help you with techniques and maximize the time spent in your workouts. Too many people waste time in the gym doing exercises that don’t work either because of improper form or because they don’t have a plan in place that works the proper muscle groups or improves their cardio fitness. They don’t push themselves. A good personal trainer will motivate you and keep your workouts fresh, fun and effective. If you can’t afford a personal trainer, at least try to find a workout buddy who knows their way around the gym. By the way, I still use a personal trainer for new ideas, motivation and to help me move off of plateaus.
Before you start a program, you should complete a fitness assessment and a health questionnaire. These are usually required by personal trainers and fitness facilities. You may also need to have your physician provide a medical release form. Don’t start a program until you have been cleared to do so.
The initial workouts for a person cleared for exercise should include some exercises to improve mobility and stability. This might also include some resistance training with exercise bands/tubing or lightweight dumbbells or machines that are low resistance. One or two sets of 12-15 reps is adequate. For my clients, I would recommend three days of resistance training, usually one day for back & biceps, one day for chest & triceps, and one day for legs, abs and core. I do like to include core exercises into every workout.
I also recommend three days of cardio training for about 15-20 minutes to begin with and progress up to 30 or 45 minutes over the next couple of months. Cardio training will help to burn calories. The goal is to be able to achieve a level where fat is burned for fuel.
Over the first few weeks and months, you must adopt healthy eating habits. While a personal trainer can’t plan meals or design nutritional programs unless the hold the appropriate certifications, we can help you understand nutrition basics such as how fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are used by your body. You also need to watch portion sizes and calories while still consuming enough calories to fuel your workouts. There is a wealth of nutritional information available at http://mypyramid.gov.
Remember, you don’t want to come out of the gate so fast and furious that you burn yourself out. Yes, you’ll have some muscle soreness but you don’t want to be physically impaired to the point you can’t walk or not be able to move your arms. Your workouts should be enjoyable and rewarding. A personal trainer can help you mix up your routines, set short term goals, provide motivation, and educate you on proper form and technique. Being fit and healthy takes time and needs to be a way of life for life. Remember, it takes time!
To Your Health!
Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.