Thursday, February 9, 2012

Work It Out!

I LOVE a good workout.  For me, there's no better feeling than the sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing you just had your butt kicked.  Additionally, I find that working out that way is extra motivation to make better choices with food too.  After working as hard as I do, I don't want to ruin it by eating tons of junk.  Plus, it's the healthy stuff that gives me more energy and helps fuel me for a better workout. 

It's taken me a couple of years to really find my balance of what works for me and what I like to do.  Based on my experience, I give a few pieces of advice for regular people like me who want to start a workout routine.

**ONE NOTE:  Please make sure you talk to your doctor and/or a fitness professional before starting ANY fitness routine.  Safety first!

1.) Start slow.  When I first decided to get into the habit of working out, I tried to go full throttle and do something 5 days a week.  That lasted about a week and a half.  The truth is, if you don't consistently work out, that goal is not feasible right away.  Your mind, your body and your schedule will turn on you VERY quickly.  Instead, set a goal to workout 3 times per week for 30-40 minutes.  Try that for about 2-3 weeks.  As your fitness level increases, you can work out longer (start at 30 minutes, then go 45, then go an hour) and/or add days.  Pretty soon, your body starts to crave that activity and it becomes much easier to prioritize your workout.  My personal goal is 4 days per week for an hour or more (when I have time I will go longer).  If I can, I'll do 5 days--but I don't stress about it.  I commit to my four days and put in the maximum effort.  Anything else is a bonus--but it takes time.  Allow yourself to work up to it.   

2.) Find what works for you.  I love to mix it up.  I do muscle endurance and muscle definition, step aerobics, cardio kickboxing, water workouts, running, the elliptical, yoga--I've even tried boxing and the occasional dance class.  I usually take classes because the gym I go to has fabulous instructors and their classes push me harder than I would push myself.  Plus, you get the added benefit of form cues and variety to keep you from getting bored.  But remember--not every workout is for every person.  I know a lot of people who LOVE Zumba, but I personally don't care for it.  I feel awkward and stiff and a little silly trying to pretend I have rhythm.  Conversely, my favorite format, Turbo Kick, isn't enjoyable for other friends who prefer simply running on the treadmill.  The most important thing is to find what you ENJOY doing.  If you don't enjoy it, you won't do it.  It's that simple.   

3.) Get your heart rate up.  I know it's easy to take a stroll to the bus stop and count it as "exercise."  But the reality is if you're looking to improve your health or lose weight, that most likely won't be enough.  It's important to do something physical that makes your heart beat a little faster and break a sweat.  If you DO go walking, don't stroll.  Walk as fast as you can to the point where it should be a little difficult to hold a conversation (not impossible.  Just tougher). 

4.) Build some muscle.  An important component of getting in shape is your muscle mass.  The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate (meaning your body naturally burns more calories when you're sitting around watching TV).  And don't worry about bulking up.  If you're a female lifting 3-5 pound weights, you aren't going to look like a bodybuilder.  You'll just look more toned.  And if you're not sure what to do, check out fitness magazines for exercises, take a class, or buy a workout dvd and a pair of weights from Target.   

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