Chances are you’ve found the motivation to start looking at exercise programs for yourself – millions of Americans do every day – whether it be health, that upcoming high-school reunion, or those jeans that didn’t quite fit this morning. So here are some ways to start a successful program and develop a sensible workout routine:
1. Select appropriate activities. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I prefer the solitude of exercising alone, or is companionship more motivating?
- Am I more attracted to rhythmic endurance activities or activities which require greater mental alertness and quick bursts of energy?
- Do I thrive on competition, or am I more attracted to workouts that promote tranquility?
- Would I rather be indoors or outside?
- And finally, would my previous experiences with exercise programs lead me to believe that I will like or dislike the activities I’m considering?Your responses should offer insight to both your exercise personality and your psychological makeup, helping you to make an appropriate choice about exercise programs. Most individuals are attracted to fitness activities that “feel good” or accommodate both their physical and emotional preferences.
- Finding your exercise niche will greatly increase your odds of success.
2. Set a simple fitness goal. Success breeds success! Begin with a very achievable goal.
Commit to walking three times a week for 20 minutes. That can easily lead into beginning a jogging program, attending a dance-fitness class or starting a weight training program! All of these can be part of good exercise programs.
3. Get a health screening. If you’ve been inactive for an extended period of time, it is important to assess your current physical condition and review your health history. Not only will it reduce your risk of injury by revealing any physical or medical limitations, it will provide you with a basis for comparison as your fitness level begins to improve.
4. Choose a qualified fitness coach. Proper guidance with exercise programs can be very helpful. Find out if the coach has been certified by a professional organization, such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), or the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). Also ask about their educational background.
5. Carefully review a club before joining. Do the workouts, amenities and equipment suit your needs? Does the facility have adequate space and ventilation? Is it clean? Do you feel comfortable with the staff and other members?
6. Start out slowly. Don’t be afraid to hold back! Exercise at a level that is comfortable, yet effective. “No pain, no gain”, is NOT the way to a successful fitness program.
- Complete, Basic Exercise Programs Should Include . . .Warming Up – Preparing the body for exercise is important for people at any age and all fitness levels. A warm-up period should begin with slow, rhythmic activities such as walking or jogging in place. It is advisable to do some easy stretching exercises before moving on to strength and endurance activities.Aerobic exercises – The most important part of regular exercise programs, aerobic exercise, is anything that causes an increase in the overall activity of your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) for a sustained period, such as walking, biking, or swimming. Over time, aerobic activity conditions your body in general, and your heart and lungs in particular, to be able to perform a greater amount of work with less effort.Strengthening exercises – In addition to toning your body and making all movement less strenuous and energy consuming, muscle strengthening and conditioning will help support your joints, thus preventing arthritic problems and reducing the chance of injuries caused by falls. Exercise programs that include muscle strengthening can be accomplished by using weight machines, free weights, or just your own body weight.Balance Exercises – It is important that exercise programs include exercises to improve and maintain balance throughout our lives. Some of the lower body strengthening exercises will help you to improve your balance.Core Strengthening Exercises – Your body’s “core” — the area around your trunk and pelvis — is where your center of gravity is located. When you have good core stability, the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen work in harmony. They provide support to your spine for just about any activity. Over time, a weak core can make you susceptible to poor posture and injury.Flexibility (stretching) exercises – Stretching exercises serve a number of purposes, including maintaining full motion in your joints, keeping muscles from shortening and tightening, preventing or lessening the effects of arthritis, and preventing injuries by increasing agility and mobility.Cool Down – If you have been participating in vigorous physical activity, it is extremely important not to stop suddenly. Abrupt stopping interferes with the return of the blood to the heart and may result in dizziness or fainting. You need to reduce the intensity of the exercise gradually and end with a few slow stretches.Intensity, Duration and Frequency
The intensity of exercise refers to the amount of effort put into an exercise. Intensity in exercise programs is usually measured by assessing the heart rate during exercise. As a general rule, the intensity of exercise should not exceed certain limits.
Duration of Your Exercise Programs
The duration of exercise refers to the actual time spent performing an activity. This is most important in aerobic exercise.
The frequency of exercise refers to the number of occasions per week that the activity should be undertaken. The accepted frequency for aerobic fitness is 3 to 5 sessions per week, while strength training is 2 to 3 times per week.
Seven Ways to Improve Your Exercise Programs
1. Change the mode or intensity of your training. Altering your routine will help your body to adapt to new movements and levels of intensity. Cross training is a good way to vary things. Get creative and challenge yourself. A good coach can help you modify your routine on a regular basis. They will keep your workouts fresh and always progressing.
2. Eat properly and stay hydrated. Without proper nutrition and fluid intake, there is no way you can have a great workout. Your body needs these fuels to build muscle and repair damaged tissue.
3. Exercise at the right time for your body. Work with your body’s natural energy level — not against it. Exercise when you usually have the most energy, rather than putting your workout off until a time when you might not feel your best.
4. Get a workout partner. Exercising with a partner makes you accountable to someone else for each workout and can improve adherence to a program. A partner can inspire you to push yourself a little bit harder when your energy level is not at its peak.
5. Emphasize breathing. When strength training, take full breaths during each exercise, exhaling on the exertion and inhaling as you release. During cardiovascular exercise, full breaths will deliver as much oxygen as possible to the working muscles, making them more efficient.
6. Use a heart-rate monitor. A heart-rate monitor is a great tool to gauge how hard your body is working and can help you stay within your target heart-rate training zone.
7. Listen to music. Music can make a workout more fun and give you that extra burst of energy you need to work your hardest.