Fitness

Ah, exercise. 🙂 (You can see my exercise schedule here.)

I’m going to assume you are familiar with the benefits of exercise. (If not, look here, here, here, or here.) But the truth is, most of us know those benefits, yet only 3 in 10 adults get the recommended amount of activity. So here are my top four tips to get you to exercise.

  1. Make it fun. The very best way to form an exercise habit that you will stick to (no more going to the gym from January 1-January 14) is to make it an enjoyable experience. Stop thinking of the gym as some place that you have to go five times a week. Change your perspective. Think of the gym as “me time” to read a magazine, watch trashy TV, or listen to new music. Think of your run as a time to be alone with your thoughts. Think of your group exercise class as a time to hang out with your friends (or meet new ones!). Whatever you need to do to make the gym fun for you, do it.
  2. Don’t go overboard. You do not have to run five miles a day or spend 90 minutes in the gym every day. Going out too hard or too fast on a workout plan is a sure way to burn out, quickly. Start slow, and realize that every little bit counts. If you did not exercise at all last week, and this week you went to the gym once or you went walking twice for 20 minutes, congratulations. You made progress!
  3. Variety is the spice of life. Don’t stick with the same type of exercise every day! Reason number one: you will get bored. Reason number two: your body will get bored, and you will quickly plateau. Switch up your exercise routine regularly among cardio, strength training, and flexibility. There are so many different possibilities! Any time you feel like you’re getting frustrated with the gym or feel like you’re not seeing progress, try something new. It works wonders.
  4. Visualization! At the beginning, it will be difficult to see down the long exercise road. If you start by running a quarter of a mile, running a half marathon can seem daunting. If you start by going to the gym once a week, going five times a week can seem impossible. It will be difficult at first, of course. You are forming a new habit or increasing the intensity of what you are already doing. But when the going gets tough, visualize all the benefits of exercise. A while ago, I saw an orange juice commercial that zoomed in on someone exercising and showed the inside of the body as a giant gym, where all the red blood cells had sweatsuits on and were running on treadmills. I know it’s silly, but that image has always stuck with me and has gotten me through many workouts. Sure, this is hard, but my body sure appreciates it! Don’t forget to think about the mental benefits of exercise, too. Those endorphins sure are nice—there is nothing like the feeling after you have worked out and know that you’re doing something good for your body. People ask me often why I’m so (annoyingly) happy. I tell them that I work out! (Plus I sleep, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

So…what type of exercise should you be doing?

Cardio

Cardio is what most people think of when they think “exercise.” But I bet there are more types of cardio than you think. There is running, walking, elliptical-ing, biking, the StairMaster, aerobics, dance classes, spinning, other group exercise classes, swimming, kickboxing, rowing, jump-roping, and the list goes on and on. The general recommendation is to move your body for at least 30 minutes five times a week, with varying intensities. So switch it up and get out there!

Strength Training

Work with weights is often neglected, especially when it comes to women. But weight training is essential to building muscle, strengthening bones, and changing the composition of your body. Plus, it’s a fun to do something other than cardio! Try to lift weights two to three times per week. You can either do a full body workout each time, or—as I do—split up the major muscle groups. For example, I usually do shoulders/chest/triceps one day, back/biceps one day, and legs (quads/hamstrings/calves) another day. Or switch it up!

Simply using Google and looking in magazines are great ways to find different exercises. (Also, I list all my workouts on this page.) Use new exercises often to work your body in different ways. Also, change what equipment you use. You can strength train with machines, dumbbells, body weight, and various other equipment such as resistance bands, medicine balls, exercise balls, body bars, and kettlebells.

Flexibility

Flexibility is the most ignored component of fitness. But it’s important! Regular stretching helps keep your muscles loose and strong. Try to fit it in a couple times during the week, or try yoga! Yoga Download has tons of free yoga classes that you can download. And if you want ideas for stretching, check out here and here (stretches for runners).

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