When it comes to fitness people often ask; “Where do I begin?” The short answer to that question is it depends on where you are. How fit are you now? Can you comfortably run a mile or lift weights? Have you worked out recently or has it been awhile? The New Year is almost upon us and I have no doubt that the usual promises of health and exercise will be high on the list of resolution toasts making the rounds this year. My best advice to those seeking a healthier life and habits next year is to first flush your head of all the advice you’ve received previously. Turn off the TV and the infomercials. Ignore the experts at the water cooler and go find the people who do this every day.
If you are serious about changing your life and habits for the better; then seek out those who have already done the same. There is a lot that goes into being healthy today. It must be a total lifestyle change, not a gimmick or routine that you are only serious about for an hour a day three days a week. Health is something you have to dedicate yourself to and change your life to accommodate. This includes what you eat and how you eat. It can include who you decide to hang out with, what you read, and even what you watch on TV. Everything that you do in your day contributes to your health and wellness and chances are your life right now is filled with bad-habits that have served only to sabotage your fitness goals in the past and enable failure and quitting. In short it’s time to get serious folks and drop the excuses.
Let’s talk about a serious problem to fitness; the television. Turn the damn thing off. Chances are you watch far too much of the mindless depressing garbage anyway. Go read a book, specifically one about fitness and exercise. Go for a walk, it’s both engaging to your brain and muscles. Walking is too underrated today. If you think it’s not real exercise go find a hill to walk up, a really long one. Now instead of strolling along at the speed of a snail put some effort into it, swing your arms and move your legs. Think speed, how fast can you go before you have to break into a jog? Find this speed and use it often. Walking is a great way to begin an exercise program. It elevates your heart rate and forces your legs, gluteus, abs, and back extenders to work together to hold you upright and propel you forward. Walking is a natural movement and part of being human. Not too long ago it was the number one mode of transportation for Homo sapiens. We could do it all day and with a load. Get back in touch with your roots and save some money on gas too while you’re at it.
On weight training, less is more. Don’t be a hero and don’t try to compete with the gorillas in the gym. Chances are if you watch closely they’re not doing it right anyway. If you’re new to weight lifting or have been away for a while then start out with light weights or none at all. Your body is the best resistance there is. Too many people focus on lifting big numbers when they can’t even move their own bodies around with control and skill. Some of the strongest athletes in the world are gymnasts, whose goal it is to control their bodies and manipulate them through a range of movements that would seem impossible for most of us. Learn to do bodyweight exercises first. Focus on keeping good form and contracting your muscles. Pause during the squeeze part of your movement then release. When you can do one hundred bench presses, squats, and pull-ups without killing yourself then you’re ready to add weight. This may not be the most glorious exercise method out there but it is practical and can be done anywhere regardless of what equipment you own. While we’re at it, get up off the floor. Sit-ups and crunches don’t build chiseled abs. The sharp six-pack you see on the cover of magazines is more the product of a healthy diet and low body fat than anything else. If you want to build up your core, focus on exercises like planks and jackknifes to begin with. Once you have cut enough body fat to reveal the six-pack hiding beneath then you can focus on exercises to tone those muscles.
As with anything there are many ways to achieve a goal. The methods I prescribe are built from training in the military and a life usually devoid of the luxury of a gym. There are many resources out there available to the beginning fitness junkie. Do yourself a favor; research and ask questions of those who know and most of all be patient and never give up. In the beginning your body may respond with aches and pain in places you never knew you had but that’s okay. Just keep going and be consistent. Combine exercise with a common sense diet low in sugar and processed food. Avoid vegging out in front of the TV. Most of all just stay active, stand when you can sit walk when you can ride and move around. Look around at the people who are fit. What do they do? What habits of theirs could you adopt? It doesn’t have to be complicated so make it so.