This blog post comes from Carla Birnberg who is a writer, community builder, personal trainer and fitness blogger and Fila’s “People’s Choice” winner for the 2011 Body Toning System casting contest. She launched www.mizfitonline.com in 2007 to share her health and fitness knowledge with those who might not have access to one-on-one training. Carla was voted Austin’s “Fittest Mom,” and her workouts mainly consist of “play-outs” with her daughter in order to send the message that fitness is fun and not work.
“You need to start an exercise program.”
A seven word sentence which, when uttered by a health care provider, strikes panic in the hearts of most of us.
For me it wasn’t so much shock at her words (the extra 30 extra pounds around my waist hadn’t escaped my notice) I just had no clue where to begin.
Weight training or workout DVDs?
Cardio or yoga?
Pilates or power-walking?
On top of all the choices every expert seemed to point me in a different direction.
With hindsight I’ve realized what felt overwhelming to me at the time can be summed up using the acronym START.
Start slowly and set yourself up for success. The biggest mistake I made was exercising full tilt right from the outset. I ended up so sore it’s no surprise I quickly quit. If I could give one piece of advice to every new exerciser it would be do less than you think your body is capable of for the first week or two. Yes, it seems counterintuitive. You’ll find, however, by leaving your body wanting more you will quickly create an exercise habit you look forward to and enjoy. In addition, nothing feels better than setting goals and achieving them. Save the lofty, crazy stuff for after exercise is an ingrained habit.
Try new things! Beginning an exercise program is not the time to cling to old notions about yourself. Seize this opportunity to soften your attachment to your self-definition. Ignore the voice in your head which says things like “Hip-hop cardio class is not for me.” or “I’m just not a woman who lifts weights.” This is your opportunity to create a new you both inside and out. A great (and inexpensive) way to try new workouts is by renting exercise dvds, searching for free online videos, or recording free on-demand workout shows on television.
Add in movement everywhere. View your entire day through the lens of how can I fit in some extra exercise? Park far away from the store entrance and walk. You can even count lugging packages back to the car as resistance training. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Pace around the house as you return that long list of phone calls. Skip the coffee-break in favor of a fitness-break and do some office lunges! This tip isn’t a new one yet, when I was completely honest with myself, I never employed it. Ever. All this extra activity is called non-exercise activity thermogenesis and it definitely adds up to calories burned.
Realize that you are human and do have limitations. Listen to experts, gurus and well meaning friends, but remember you are the expert of your own body. Does an activity which is supposed to be ‘your level’ feel too difficult? Is the walk you did yesterday with ease feeling too challenging today? Don’t hesitate to take a day of rest or adjust a workout routine accordingly. Fitness, like most things, is not one size fits all. We may all have the same end goal of living a healthier life, but we don’t all need to take the same path there.
Take time to recognize your successes. Initially I spent far too much time focusing on the scale and not nearly enough celebrating my non-numeric victories. The weight loss community has created a separate classification I adore called non-scale victories (NSVs). Can you finally plop comfortably in a movie theater seat? Celebrate that victory with a night out with friends. Are you far less winded after a 1 mile walk than you were a few weeks ago? New socks or shoes might be in order. Celebrate all your successes and don’t waste precious time worrying about others or only focusing on pounds shed.
And that’s it!
The five tips you need (and what I wish my doctor had told me) to get STARTed on your path to healthy living.