So, I’m back. Or at least I’m going to give it another go. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get back to some regular posting to my blog. When I get going on it, I really enjoy it…but I have been away so long, that I am feeling very rusty. I am going to set a more modest posting goal of one to two times a week for 2012. I appreciate all the nice comments I have gotten from those of you telling me you enjoyed my blog (and when was I going to post again!). Your support is why I’m back!
So given that this is the time of year when everyone decides to make resolutions, which most of the time involve some kind of weight loss or diet improvement goals, I thought I would give my tips for how to get where you want to be in 2012. I don’t know what the statistics are, but it sure seems like half the population decides to show up at the gym in the month of January. For regular gym goers this can be really annoying, because for the next 4-6 weeks you can’t find a parking spot and you can’t get into your regular classes. Fortunately (or rather, unfortunately), by early February things will be “back to normal,” which means that a majority of those who jump on the exercise bandwagon will have fallen off by then. Sad, but true. So for those of you who are looking to make some changes that stick, here are my suggestions.
- Baby Steps. This is my single, biggest piece of advice to anyone either looking to start a new fitness regimen or to those looking to step it up a bit. Don’t do it all at once. I know it seems wrong to discourage someone from hitting the gym 5 or 6 days a week, but I have actually done this in the past. If you don’t ever exercise, then suddenly going everyday is going to lead to fatigue & burnout, and possibly injury. It might be fun and exciting for a week or two and then it becomes drudgery. Instead, I would recommend exercising 2-3 times a week to start. Your starting fitness level will determine what you do and how long you do it…but for someone who has no real fitness, your beginning fitness goals might look something like 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times a week. Let this new part of your routine settle into habit before adding more. You can slowly add time to your workouts, before adding another day. Gradually up the ante…it might take months to get to the point where you are exercising 5 times a week for 45-60 minutes. That is okay…this is meant to be a life change, not something that fizzles after 4 or 5 weeks. I really think people are much more successful long-term with taking tiny steps towards their eventual goal.
- Set small, achievable fitness goals. In the same vein as above, when setting your fitness goals, make them achievable. Small incremental goals that eventually lead to your ultimate goal will leave you less frustrated and more likely to succeed. Your goal might be to exercise 5-6 days a week for 60 minutes…but you need to set smaller goals to help you get there. Set new goals each week, even if the goal is just to “do the same as last week.” You want to feel successful. You can even give yourself small rewards along the way. When I first got back to exercising about 10 years ago I set weekly goals for myself for swimming, biking and running. Actually, at first I didn’t have a bike, so I was just running and swimming (and my first running goal was to run for 10 minutes…we all started somewhere!). I gave myself small rewards, weekly or biweekly ~ mostly involving buying new fitness gear, which was fun for me, rewarding, and helped keep me interested in exercise (who doesn’t want awesome workout clothes). Eventually I didn’t need these rewards/incentives, but they sure helped at the beginning.
- You must get your diet in check. Understand that if your goal is weight loss the single most important thing you need to do is get your diet in check. I cannot tell you how many times I have had people who are overweight tell me they have a good diet, that they “eat healthy.” Sorry, but that is just plain BS. While I do think nutrition is more complicated than “calories in vs. calories out” (do you really think that 100 calories from a Twinkie is the same as 100 calories from vegetables?), the reality is that if you are overweight, there is something wrong with your diet. It might be the foods you eat, or it might be the amount you eat (very, very common in this country…I think most people do not have a very good concept of correct portion sizes or what 1500 calories looks like), but your first order of business is to get your diet under control. You cannot out-exercise a crappy diet.
- Strength Train! If you are a reader of my blog, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. 🙂 Instead of being frustrated because you are shut out of the spinning class, or you arrive at the gym and all the treadmills are being used, get yourself into the weight room. Seriously, if you are looking to lose weight and/or transform your body, you should start strength training before you worry about doing any cardio (yes, I said any). That goal you set above of getting to the gym 2-3 days a week…should be strength training. I know that the classes can be fun and motivating…so if you get in two strength sessions a week and use your 3rd day for a fun class, I can live with that. But you have to lift weights. Strength training will add muscle to your body (I am not even going to go into the whole “but I don’t want to look bulky” thing today…I have talked about this before, and will continue to work hard to dispel this misconception…but in a nutshell, women’s bodies are not capable of adding big, huge muscles…those “he-women” you sometimes see pictures of are on drugs…feeling “big and bulky” has more to do with excess fat covering your muscles…but that is a post for another day). More muscle not only looks better (that’s what leads to a “tight, toned” look…muscle looks way better than fat), but it will rev up your body’s metabolism (burning more calories all the time…your body has to work harder to maintain muscle than it does fat). I could go on and on here, and I obviously have some strong opinions on how you should strength train ~ but I will expound on that another day. Just get yourself in the weight room, hire a trainer to get you started if your don’t know what to do.
- Incorporate HIIT into your exercise routine. This is the kind of “cardio” that you should be doing…but not if you are a beginner. HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. High-intensity is actually relative to each individual. What is high-intensity for one person might not be high-intensity for another…so this type of training can be incorporated into your fitness routine sooner than you might think…it’s just relative to your heart-rate. However, if you do not exercise at all, I would first develop a base level of fitness, first by walking, then by adding hills to your walking, before attempting a HIIT session. This, however, should be your goal. The great thing about HIIT is that is doesn’t take a lot of time. Instead of slogging away on the treadmill or in a spinning class for an hour you can be done with a HIIT session in 15-20 minutes (plus some warm-up and cool-down). It will be hard, but it’s over quickly and far, far more effective in burning calories than steady-state cardio. I will talk more about this in the coming weeks, as I am incorporating more of this into my workout routine.
So there you have it, my tips for how to achieve your weight loss goals in 2012! While I have been away from blogging, I have still been reading, so I have lots and lots to share with you in the upcoming weeks and months! It’s nice to be back, wishing you all a fit New Year!