How to Start Your Fitness Program off Right

Getting started with a new fitness program isn’t just a matter of throwing on your cross trainers and diving into a workout at full tilt for as long as you possibly can. In fact, that’s likely the fastest road that you can take to an injury and will become your very first barrier to being able to keep up your workouts over the long term. Instead, you want to make sure that you start your new fitness program off right, and this involves a few steps to ensure that you will be getting the results that you want, but without putting yourself at risk of injury.

Getting started with a new fitness program will involve different steps depending on whether you have already been active and are simply changing your routine, or whether you have been inactive and you are getting back into regular exercise for the first time in a while (or ever!). So whether it has only be a few days, or many months since you last kept up a regular activity level, consider the following as you keep your promise to yourself to start in your new program.

  • If it has been a few days since your last workout, or if you are starting a new program after having previously been regularly active, start small and work your way up until you recognize where you should be. If you have decided to take on running, for example, when you have stopped for a few days or you have previously been a walker or a jogger, begin by telling yourself that you are going only for a very short run and that you can walk the rest of the time. Once you have completed that little run, see how you feel. You might discover that though you feel awkward at first, your body will get into the grove of the activity and you will be able to go farther than you thought. Or you may discover that the short distance is exactly what you need to begin with and that you can start repeating that over time until you can increase your distance. Just be sure to stretch and warm up properly beforehand to be sure to prevent pulled muscles.
  • If it has been a week or so since you last exercised and you’re hoping to start a new fitness program, then you will need to think of not only your physical shape but also your ability to motivate yourself. After that much time, it is clear that you aren’t yet in the habit of keeping up with activity on a daily (or nearly daily) basis. While you will still need to test your fitness level with your new routine, you also may benefit from putting the pressure on yourself to get out the door by having a fitness buddy. That way, you will encourage each other to get going instead of being accountable to only yourself.
  • If it has been longer than a month or so since you have worked out, it is a very good idea to speak with your doctor or a personal trainer before starting a new fitness program. This will help you to understand how you should safely begin and what you can do to help to ease yourself into shape and to keep up your motivation.

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What is the Right Fitness Plan for You?

Generally speaking, a balanced fitness program is one that includes cardio, flexibility and strength training exercises. However, establishing a balanced fitness plan that is specifically right for you is not as easy as it sounds. This is because before you can develop an effective exercise regimen for yourself – regardless of whether you intend to workout at home or in the gym - you must first figure out your current level of fitness. In other words, you need to determine what your body can and cannot presently handle.

You may already have some indication of your current fitness level. That being said, it is wise to take a few factors into consideration before making any fitness goals or building a workout routine. You may want to explore and keep the following questions in mind:

  • Do you have any health problems? Before exercising, it is a good idea to visit your doctor and have a physical exam to make sure you are in good health. This is especially important if you have a chronic health condition, have previously suffered serious injury, or are over the age of 50. Your medical practitioner can help recommend exercises that are ideal for your individual health needs.
  • Where does your body measure on the fitness scale? It’s a good idea to assess your body composition and flexibility, as well as you muscular and aerobic fitness levels. To do this, conduct the baseline examination below and record your results. Find out:
    • How many pushups you can perform at one time
    • How long does it take you to walk one mile
    • The rate of your pulse prior to and directly after walking one mile
    • Your BMI (body mass index)
    • The circumference of your waist at your hipbones
    • How far you can extend your arms forward while seated with your legs stretched out in front of you
  • Do you have fitness goals? What is motivating you to exercise? Are you following your doctor’s orders? Do you want to lose weight? Would you like to get in shape? It is important to have a goal because that will help you determine what exercises and areas of your body you want to target.
  • What activities do you like? – Make a list of all the physical activities you enjoy the most. It’s important to engage in activities that you find fun and interesting. This helps to keep you motivated. For instance, if you really enjoy riding your bike, you may enjoy spinning (indoor cycling). On the other hand, if you like to dance, there are aerobic routines that involve dance moves. You will find there are all kinds of activities to satisfy your cardio, strength training and flexibility exercise needs.