OK in the last column, I yelled at all the fat girls out there to get motivated; though it may have been a mean tactic, sometimes it takes someone else’s brutal honesty to really be honest with ourselves. This time around, I am writing for anyone interested in exercising to become a healthier person, and because starting to excise can be somewhat overwhelming, I’ll be a little nicer this time and just share a few pointers to get you started.
The first thing you need to do is set a goal or two. Unless you’re a nut, you don’t set out on a cross-country road trip without a map; likewise, you can’t start an effective exercise program if you don’t know where you’d like to wind up. We all have different goals, and they change with time. I started out as the chubby chick that used asthma as an excuse to get out of gym class; my first goal was just to get moving and to lose the excess weight. That was quite a while ago and my goals have changed quite a bit; I’m still aiming to slim down, but my overall goal is to build lean muscle mass and to burn off fat to create more definition. My goal has become more specific as I have worked out more, and I have modified my regimen to reflect that. My goals aren’t exactly important here, but I am trying to give you an idea of what I mean. Have something set in your mind that you want to achieve; that way you will be able to remind yourself of how far you’ve come, and where you are going to end up after all of your hard work.
I know all of this goal talk sounds cheesy, but it really is an invaluable motivational tool. As you begin to see changes taking place, you will be excited and inspired to work even harder to meet your goal. And once you do, be sure to reward yourself. Even if it is with a big ol’ chocolaty sundae, one treat is not going to undo all of your work, so indulge. Then set your next goal and get back to work.
So now you know what you’re aiming to do, and you need a means to do it. For any woman who cannot or does not want to go to a gym, I have two words for you- exercise videos. Don’t think of Richard Simmons in hot pants leading fat old ladies, because that’s not what I mean. You can get a good, solid workout in your own home without a lot of expensive equipment. I redden in the face when I admit, even in writing, that I started with workout videos that I ordered from an infomercial. I was reeled in by the ad, and I’ll admit it. I’ll admit it, because it was really one of the best buys I ever made, I still use what I bought now, and I recommend it to other people all the time. I am not going to name brand/instructor names in this article, but if anyone wants to contact me personally for video recommendations, I will be more than happy to help.
Anyway, I suggest you visit www.videofitness.com and www.collagevideo.com and read through the reviews and previews of videos to find something that appeals to you. You’ll probably need to pick up a few pairs of dumbbells, which you can get for pretty cheap at a sporting goods store or even big retail box store. If you are interested in step aerobics, you’ll need a step (check a used sporting goods place first!). Certain videos require specific pieces of equipment, so you’ll need to check that out first before you get started. You can also rent videos and preview them, sometimes through your local library, or if you rent DVDs online, they have fitness selections as well. It’s hard to recommend anything without actually recommending anything, so like I said, please email me with questions or pick through the aforementioned sites.
A good program is going to require including at least cardio and weight workouts. The cardio will help burn calories (read=lose weight) and will increase your cardiovascular health. Weight workouts will build lean muscle mass, creating a shapely and toned body. Plus adding muscle increases your metabolism, which means that your body will burn more calories during your regular daily activities. Don’t worry about bulking up; building up the body-builder look doesn’t happen without lots of extra effort, so just working out moderately with weights and no supplements isn’t going to make you huge. Cardio and weights can be combined in workouts together, done back to back, alternating days, etc; it depends on your personal preference and which videos you choose. A good starter schedule could be something like: Monday, cardio; Tuesday, weights (either upper or lower body, or total body); Wednesday, rest (or add in a yoga or stretch tape); Thursday, cardio; Friday, weights. You don’t want to take on too much too quickly, because you will burn out mentally and physically. You also need to have at least one day of rest for a muscle group before working it again with heavy weights. Shoot for what you can do to start; 20 minutes of cardio is a good beginner goal, and work your way up to 60 minute cardio sessions. I mentioned yoga and stretch; I incorporate these at least once a week into my routine to give my muscles a good stretch and to improve flexibility; you also need to add in core work if it is not included in your videos. With your goal in mind, decide how often you need cardio, which body parts you’d like to work with weights and how often weekly, and how much time per day you can dedicate to working out. Naptime was my workout time for a long time, and I started out 4 days a week, 30-45 minutes; now I usually shoot for 50-80 minutes 5 days a week plus 30-60 minutes on an optional 6th day. Decide what works for you and just go for it!
Like I said, don’t take on too much at once, and keep in mind that when you begin, anything is more than what you were doing before. So if you can’t finish that entire step tape, that’s alright. Just stick it out for five more minutes next time, until you can get all the way through it. If you have to use lighter weights than an instructor on a video, no big deal; I have to do that all the time when the Amazon of an instructor I prefer goes for the 20 lb bicep curls. Design a program, give it a whirl, and modify as needed. You need to find types of exercises that you enjoy, that way you will stick with it and have a good time while improving your life. Of course there are other ways of exercising, such cardio and weight machines at home or the gym, jogging and biking outdoors, but exercise videos are my forte, so that’s where I can give advice until I’m blue in the face. But anything that gets you physically active is going to do the trick, even if it’s just walking the dog after dinner every night. Just remember that you get out of it what you put in, so the harder you work out, the greater the rewards will be.
Good luck with your program, and I’m a know-it-all always willing to help, so please feel free to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org!