Whatever your age or your athletic experience, with a little planning, you can make exercise a part of each day and improve your fitness level. These suggestions will help you get on track — even if you’ve strayed from your once healthier self.
- Follow a program. It’s easier to achieve your optimal fitness level if you have a plan. It also helps prevent you from doing too much too soon. Take some time before you get started to find a program that will work for you. Possible sources include DVDs, podcasts, books, classes offered by your gym or community centre, or a personal trainer. Be sure to keep records to track your progress.
- Take it slow and steady. Remember, it can take six weeks or more to re-establish a solid fitness base. Start your program with slow, steady aerobic sessions. Try to exercise throughout the week — every other day, or three or four days spread across the week — instead of just on weekends.
- Break it up. If you don’t have time to block off a longer exercise session, or if you don’t have the stamina at first, do shorter amounts of activity throughout the day. For example, go for three 10-minute walks instead of one longer, 30-minute walk.
- Turn everyday tasks into a workout. Don’t miss workouts because of bad weather or a busy schedule. Housework, gardening, yard work, washing windows, lifting groceries and walking the dog are all forms of exercise. You can also create opportunities for activity, such as parking your car farther away, getting off the bus a stop early, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking down the hall to a see co-worker instead of sending an email.
- Vary your routine. Many people stop exercising because they become bored. Try adding some variety in your program: include a mix of activities each week; use different jogging, walking or biking paths; change the music you play during your workout.
- Keep it challenging. Eventually, you could add interval training (alternating one minute of slow exercise with one minute of fast, all-out exertion) to your aerobics plan. Make sure you allow enough rest and recovery — at least 48 hours.
- Involve others. Use exercise as an opportunity to spend time with people you care about. Play outside with your kids. Invite a relative to go for a weekly walk. Go hiking or biking with your partner on weekends. Set up a weekly gym date with a friend and enjoy a healthy dinner together afterward.
- Cut yourself some slack. Take your program slowly. It’s okay if you take a day off — just be sure to exercise the following day. Or, if you’re feeling tired and sluggish on an exercise day, try a more gentle activity like hatha yoga or stretching instead.
- Make it fun. The “no pain, no gain” philosophy is old news. Remember that the goal is to improve your fitness level, not to become an Olympic athlete. Choose activities you enjoy, and stop if you feel pain or fatigue.