Finding the right resolve for exercise

Exercise today is in bad shape. This is not because people are exercising too little, or because the general public’s perception of exercise is disdainful. We are being inundated with reasons to exercise these days. Virtually all magazines are full of large-type promises: a leaner waist, tighter abs, bigger arms, etc. The list goes on and on.

People’s approach to exercise today is very piecemeal. They focus on the trees instead of looking at the forest. Most every fitness article that I read mentions nothing about whole body workouts or gymnastics. Instead, they all give the “perfect” prescription for getting rid of fat in problem areas, or tightening/enlarging a specific muscle. Your body is not a machine. You cannot replace the spare tire around your waist by just working your abs. You cannot work on just specific parts and ignore the rest. You can focus on specific body parts, but you need to work your entire body.

What’s worse, the wrong reasons are offered for exercising. Have you looked at the headlines lately? “Have better sex”, “Have better orgasms”, “Impress the girls”, “Get the biceps that will turn eyes”, “Girls, get a tighter butt”, etc. Are those really the reasons that people should exercise? No!

Exercising simply to obtain those benefits is a short-sighted, egotistical approach that will only make it harder for you to have a positive body image. Exercising for these reasons will definitely enforce negative habits and cause you to obsess unnecessarily about things that are out of your control.

Imagine your kids are walking through the supermarket, and they stumble upon these magazines. Do you really want their impressionable minds to be stamped with these ideas?! You work hard enough trying to keep them on a good path in life, do you really want some profit-minded magazine editor making your life harder? Are these the goals that you would like them to strive for when they are exercising?

Here are the reasons for exercising on a regular basis:

  • Better health, even perfect health. Yes, this is an attainable goal! Good exercise coupled with a healthy diet and sleeping habits is the winning combination for perfect health. Without good health, we cannot lead normal lives. Our intellect is impaired and we cannot work and create at our best, our day to day activities have to be reduced, life is not enjoyed as much, personal relationships suffer enormously… I’m sure we can all think of many more problems that arise when we are not healthy.
  • A longer life. Yup, you’ll live much longer if you exercise on a regular basis. The statistics are all fairly conservative on the issue, but I can tell you that you’ll probably add 10 or more years to your life if you keep exercising till the day you die. Just think of all the people that have died in the prime of their life because they were overweight or simply did not exercise.
  • A faster, more powerful brain. Many research studies have talked about this lately. Exercise makes your mind work better. It’s a given. If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself. Start an exercise program, and even after just one week, you’ll see a marked difference in the way you think and solve problems.
  • More physical strength. A balanced exercise program will increase your physical strength over time. Your strength can double, or even triple or quadruple depending on your current state.
  • A better posture. Exercise will make you stand up straighter, and will even help correct curvature issues of the spinal column such as scoliosis. Once the muscles in your back get stronger, and if you maintain good body posture at all times while exercising, mild to moderate scoliosis can be corrected largely or entirely. In addition to these benefits, people will give you more respect once you keep a straight body posture. It’s all in the body language. A person with slumped shoulders and a downturned head simply does not get as much respect as a person with correct body posture.
  • Increased flexibility. A good exercise program should make all of your muscles more flexible. Flexibility is the key to staying injury-free when we get older. It is because muscles aren’t flexible and don’t answer as fast that older people lose their balance and fall, breaking hips, legs and hands, sometimes even their necks.
  • Denser bone. Why should you care about this one? Because bones that are less dense are more likely to break. Older people get a disease called osteoporosis, where bones get less dense and as a result are brittle and break very easily. This disease is caused by age-related hormonal imbalances, but exercise can make their and your bones denser, because the effort of the movement not only stimulates your body to make the hormones necessary for bone health, but it also works the bones themselves, literally rejuvenating them. Blood once more circulates through them, and as they twist and turn with your muscles, they start once again to acquire the flexibility and density they possessed in your youth.

Now what do you think of exercise? I could come up with many more reasons, but these are the most important ones. And you will not get these benefits unless your exercise program is put together with them in mind. You will most certainly not get these if your workouts are motivated by a desire to turn heads or have better sex. Why? Because attitude is so important in any activity that we do. And when our attitude is selfish or it focuses on one shortsighted aspect instead of embracing the entire picture, our results suffer.

How then should we structure our exercise programs? Here are a few important guidelines:

  • You should take your entire body into consideration. I’m at the gym about 4-5 times a week, and I see people go there on a regular basis just to work on their abs, or just to work on their arms. I see people that just go there to run on the treadmills or just to use the stairmasters. That’s not the way to do it. An asymmetric approach will produce asymmetric results. People that run all the time may find that they still can’t get rid of the fat around their waists even though they run miles and miles every day. I see people who have indeed developed certain body parts very well, but others lag far behind. For example, their arms, especially their biceps, may be big, but their chest is small, and their legs are pencil thin. They not only put themselves in jeopardy because any one overdeveloped body part will cause imbalances in the rest of your body, but they also proliferate negative weightlifter stereotypes.
  • You should include a lot of stretching exercises in your workouts. As a rule, you should stretch before exercising, during your exercises, and after you are finished with your workout. Read these articles for some great stretching exercises.
  • You should not push your body too hard all the time. Don’t expect to set new personal records with every workout that you do. You will burn out, and that’s guaranteed. Instead, focus your efforts on maintaining good form in all your exercises, and on finishing all the sets that you planned to do. Personal records will come of themselves.
  • You should balance out your exercises. If you are a weightlifter, make sure your have days when you just stretch, run or swim. Plan ahead. Don’t do just one type of exercise all of the time. It may make your ego feel better, but your body will feel worse.

If you put the advice in this article into practice, I guarantee you that you will be pleasantly surprised. You will eventually receive all of the benefits mentioned here, and many more to boot. You may find that you have gotten rid of that spare fat around your waist, that you are indeed turning heads, and that your intimate relationships have improved, but these will be side effects. They should always be considered just side effects!

The main focus of all your exercises should be to maintain and increase your health. If you do this, all the other benefits will come as a nice bonus, as the icing on the cake. But your health should always come first. That should be your motivation, and that should be your goal.


Low impact abdominal exercises

A quick list of low impact abdominal exercises.

  1. Lying Bicycle: Sit on the floor, and prop your back at a 45 degree angle with the floor by using your hands. Bend your back so your abs can tighten better. Hold your legs up off the floor, and start bicycling on an imaginary bike. Repeat until exhaustion.
  2. Ab Crunches: Sit down on the floor, and prop yourself up with your hands. Keep your knees bent at 45 degree angles and your feet planted on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles, and lower your upper body toward the floor while keeping your hands in the air next to your body. Use your abdominal muscles to lower your body, but do not allow your upper back and shoulders to touch the floor. Hold for 1-3 seconds, then bring your body back up until your hands can touch your legs. Do not rest in this position. Once your body is up, begin to lower it again. Repeat until exhaustion.
  3. Lying Leg Raises: Lie down on the floor, and rest your hands palms down next to your hips. Using your abdominal muscles, start to raise up both your legs off the floor. Keep the feet together, heel to heel. Raise them up until they make a 60 degree angle with the floor, or just before the point where you can hold them in the air without straining your abdominal muscles. Hold them there for 1-3 seconds, then lower them back down, but don’t let them hit the floor. Let them touch the floor ever so slightly, and lift them back up once again. Repeat until exhaustion.
  4. Twisting Ab Crunches: These are fun to do and they work your obliques, which are the muscles underneath your “love handles”. Use the same movement as for the Ab Crunches (described above), but with the following changes: (1) Instead of keeping your hands in the air, cross them on your chest, and (2) Instead of raising your trunk up in a straight curve, twist your trunk in alternate movements so one of your elbows is in line with the opposite knee. In other words, as you come up, twist your body to the left so your right elbow (your arms are cross, remember?) can almost touch your left knee. Lower your body and straighten it at the same time, then come back up and twist it to the right so your left elbow can almost touch your right knee. Repeat until exhaustion.
  5. Twisting Lying Bicycle: If you’re ready for a high intensity ab exercise, this is it. Combine the movements of the Twisting Ab Crunches and Lying Bicycle crunches into one. As you bicycle your legs, lift your trunk up and twist it so opposite elbows and knees touch. You can either cross your arms on your chest, or cross your fingers behind your head (but make sure you don’t pull on your neck!), and do this until exhaustion. When you’re done with this, you’ll be done with abs for the day, because you’ll be too tired to do any other exercises.

Low impact calf exercises

  1. Lying Calf Pumps: Sit on the floor, and stretch your legs, but keep them parallel. Tighten your right leg’s calf muscle and push your toes forward as if you are pushing a heavy weight away from your feet. Push your toes until your calf muscle contracts tightly and hold for 3-5 seconds. Then, while keeping it contracted, bring your toes toward your body. Repeat this motion without relaxing the calf muscle for 10-30 times. Repeat for other leg.
  2. Standing Calf Raises: Stand up straight, and raise yourself up on your toes as high as you can. Hold for 3-5 seconds and then go back down slowly. Without pausing to rest your heels on the floor, go back up again. Repeat this motion for 10-30 times or more as desired.
  3. Donkey Calf Raises: Standing up, bend down at the waist until your palms touch the floor. Keep a wide distance between your hands and your legs so you can keep your back straight. Also keep your legs straight, but not completely extended, as this may cause knee problems. If you’re in doubt, just keep your knees slightly bent. You should keep the pose of a cat perched up on all fours. Now, using your hands to support your body weight, push your hips up with your calves, as high up as you can go. Hold for 3-5 seconds, and repeat for 10-30 times or more as desired.

Low impact leg exercises

  1. Quad Sets: Sit down on a straight surface, and tighten quadriceps muscles as tightly as possible. Push the back of your knee towards the floor/surface that you’re sitting on. Hold for 5 seconds, relax for 3 seconds. Repeat 10-15 times.
  2. Straight Leg Raises: Lying on back or in a sitting position, tighten quadriceps and lift leg 12-20 inches off the floor, making sure the leg is kept straight. Bend other leg to remove strain from low back. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower leg slowly. Relax for 2 seconds. Repeat 10-15 times.
  3. Wall Slides: Leaning on wall, slowly lower buttocks toward floor until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Tighten quadriceps muscle as you return to starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.
  4. Side-Lying Hip Abduction: Lying on side, tighten muscle on front of thigh, and then lift your leg 12-20 inches. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower leg. Repeat 10-15 times.
  5. Side-Lying Hip Adduction: Lying on side, cross your legs, upper over lower and then tighten muscle on front of thigh, then lift lower leg 8-10 inches.
  6. Simple Squats: Stand up straight, and use a squatting motion to bend your legs until they are parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and keep looking up. Do not bend you knees over your toes. Rather, keep your buttocks as far back as you can, and do not lean forward. Stretch your hands when your legs are parallel to the floor to keep your balance. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 10-30 times.

Leg stretching exercises

Let’s begin. I want you to remember to hold each position for 15-30 seconds. The stretch should hurt a bit, but not in your joints. It should hurt in your stretched muscles. These stretches are also good for balance and coordination, as you will see once you start doing them.

  1. Hamstring stretch: Tuck the foot of one leg in near your groin. Keep the other leg straight. Reach down the shin of the straight leg until a stretch is felt in the back of the thigh. Hold for a count of 15-30 seconds, relax, then stretch again. Repeat for other leg.
  2. Quadriceps stretch: You can do this standing up or you can use your hand to grab on to a wall or other object so you can keep your balance. Bend your left leg and use your right hand to reach behind you and grab the ankle of your left leg. Pull up and behind you until you feel the entire quadriceps muscle stretching. Reach up with your left hand, and stretch your entire body toward the ceiling while you pull up and behind you on your left ankle. You should feel a good stretch not only in your left quadriceps, but also throughout your trunk and uplifted hand. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat for other leg.
  3. Groin stretch: Sit down on the floor, and bring the soles of your feet together so your legs form a rhombus shape. Cross your fingers underneath your feet, and while leeping your back straight and head up, pull on your feet to bring them as close to your crotch as you can. You need to feel a stretch inside your leg. Trying to bring your knees closer to the floor also helps. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat.
  4. Hip stretch: Cross your fingers underneath your right knee, and pull it up toward your chest, as high as you can. You need to feel a stretch on the underside of your leg. Hold for 15-30 seconds, and then bring your leg back down. Repeat for other leg.
  5. Cross-legged stretch: I haven’t really seen this described anywhere, so I guess it’s something that I’ve come up with. Standing up straight, bring your right ankle up to your left hip, while the sole of your foot points upward. Pull up as high as it can go, and point your knee toward the floor, until the line formed by your leg is perpendicular to the floor. As you can keep your balance better, you can also try to twist your upper body toward you left hip. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then repeat for other leg.

That’s it! Shake your legs to relax the muscles, and you’re done.


Neck stretching exercises

These stretches are great during or after a day’s work on a chair. Your neck and shoulders get very tense, and they need to be relaxed. Do these stretches slowly, while breathing deeply. For each exercise, you should feel your neck muscles stretching, and you’re going to hear slight cracking noises as your vertebrae move with your muscles. If you hear clear cracking sounds, please do not continue the exercises, and go see a chiropractor!

I do have to warn you not to strain yourself when working with your neck. It’s a very delicate part of your body, and if you work it improperly, you could injure it permanently and run into chronic pain later on in your life. So be careful!

  1. Bend your head down and up, looking down at your chest, then up to the ceiling. Repeat 10-15 times. Don’t force the bend, just concentrate on feeling a stretch in your muscles.
  2. Bend your head side to side as though you are going to touch your ears to your shoulder, all the while keeping your shoulders down. In other words, don’t shrug your shoulders, keep them down and back, with your chest out. Repeat 10-15 times for each side. Don’t force the bend, just concentrate on feeling a stretch in your mucles.
  3. Rotate your head from side to side in a circular motion.
  4. Cross your fingers behind your head, and extend your elbows toward an imaginary (or real) wall behind you. Hold for 15-30 seconds while breathing deeply. Let your rib cage expand as you breathe deeply. Pull your elbows as far back as you can, and feel the stretch in your arms and chest.
  5. This exercise helps me relieve the stress at the base of my skull. Butt your head out above your chest while tensing up your neck muscles and keeping your chin high and out. If done correctly, you’ll feel tension all along the spinal cord in your neck, as the muscles press all of the vertebrae into their correct positions. You will also hear slight cracking noises. Move your head from side to side slightly (not too much!). Relax your neck muscles and bring your head back up into correct posture. Don’t do this last exercise too often, and don’t tense your neck muscles too much. You could hurt yourself with this exercise if you don’t do it right.
  6. Give yourself a quick neck massage by working the muscles along each side of your spinal column with the tips of your fingers. Do it slowly and delicately. You can also try to press along the base of your skull with your thumb. This may help people with migraines.

Now that you’re done, you hopefully feel much better and are ready to face the rest of your day!

How To

How to get a job right out of college

A quick note: I wrote this article for Edu.com back in 2000. That site no longer exists, but the article does, and I updated it to keep it current.

So you’re about to graduate and you’re starting to fret because you don’t have a job lined up. If going back to live with your parents seems like a bad idea, then you’d better do your homework. “Yeah, but where do I start?” you ask. Right here and now would be alright…

Use what you already have
First, don’t dismiss the resources that your college or grad school has to offer. Any good school ought to have a Career Services office, a place that will at least help you get an entry-level job if not more. My college, Middlebury, had just such a place. Of course, I never used it because I was too cool for it. Then I paid the price in crappy jobs. That was the first lesson I learned: use every opportunity to your advantage.

Networking (no, not the computer kind)
The least I could have done with my summers was to research internship opportunities. A few months during the summer (when you have nothing better to do anyway) will pay off big later on if you do a good job. Not only do you get to network and make important contacts, these people may actually hand you a job if they like you. And the whole thing is pretty much a no-brainer. You go to work, you, do a good job, then get a real job.

I knew better than to pass up internship opportunities while I was studying for my Master’s. (Besides, they’re pretty much required.) I interned with a local health plan, and while I didn’t get a job out of it, I learned an awful lot about how to function in such an institution. I also got a consulting gig with them when my internship was over. I designed and implemented a Physician Profiling application for them. They were even willing to put up with me while I was still learning my way through programming in Access. The whole thing turned out great in the end, and it persuaded me to go into computer consulting as freelancer, which is what I’m doing now.

Get started
Second, check out the job search sites. There are so many of them these days, you’re bound to find jobs that you like. If you’re looking for entry-level jobs, here’s what you’ve got: CollegeRecruiter.com, College Grad Job Hunter, CareerGuidance, and CareerBuilder. The list probably goes on, but this should get you started in your search for that elusive “real” job that will pay your rent and food.

Note: While in 2000 some job sites used to specialize in entry-level jobs, most good job sites these days will list both entry-level and regular jobs.

Serious play
Now, if you’re like me and you didn’t let those summers go to waste but worked instead, you may be ready for some grown-up jobs. While the competition will definitely heat up, the crop of available jobs and the pay for those jobs definitely looks better. CareerBuilder is a big site with lots of jobs. Another really good site is Monster.

CareerXpress is a site that will distribute your resume to employers and headhunters for a fee. CareerJet is another site that collects job listings from multiple job sites and makes them available to you for easy searching. Do your research though. Find more sites if you’re interested in this. Make sure exactly how the service works, or you might get ripped off.

For that special-ized job?
Discover Me is an interesting service, because it claims to match your personality with that of top performers in a specific job. If you’re in healthcare and you’re despairing because there are no sites specific to your needs, here’s one: HireHealth. They’ve got jobs about everything related to healthcare.

Or perhaps you went abroad for a semester or two, and fell in love with that country. Europe has that kind of power, I know. Maybe you want to go back there and work. Hey, it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too. Check out these two sites and make your dreams come true: Planet Recruit and Datum Online, which list international jobs. And who says you can’t reach for the sky: 6FigureJobs is just the place to go for those of us that like to think large.

If you’re in technology, you’re in luck. Those sites really abound, and the jobs are plentiful (or were, before 2000). The good thing is that computers make the world go ’round these days, so there will always be a demand for good IT people. Here are some sites for us lucky ones: Dice, ITclassifieds, Techies, Jobs, and Positionwatch.

Try the past, you may be surprised
Have you tried newspaper classifieds? Some of you may be wondering what they are, and I’ll tell you. They’re a good way to find local jobs, so give them a shot.

Final thoughts
Network, but don’t be sleazy. Be nice to everyone you meet, you never know when they can help. And be sure to help when you can. Don’t keep count, just be helpful. At your job, be professional. Leave the playing around to the goofs who will never be promoted. Do your job and perform above expectations. Never burn any bridges if you can help it. It will come back to haunt you, believe me.

How To

How to get started in web design

A quick note: this article was written back in 2000, and it shows its age. At this time, I have no intention of editing it to bring it up to the present. To me, it’s an interesting snapshot of the “old days”…

If you’re interested in Web design and want a simple “how to” guide to starting out, you’re in luck. That’s what this article’s about.

Learning the ropes
Thanks to the huge growth of the Internet during the past few years, it’s become easier than ever to get yourself on the Web without writing a single line of code. Sites such as Tripod, Homestead or FreeYellow will host your pages for free, give you tens of megabytes for you to fill up with files and free tools to help you build your site online in minutes.

Got the hang of it?
If you’re a little more advanced and want to work on your own HTML files, the Web is full of resources. You can have access to free online tutorials to help you beef up your design skills at the same sites mentioned above, or at sites such as CNET or ZDNet.

But my advice to you is to start easy. If you overwhelm yourself with tech terms and get into learning code from the start, you’ll most likely get bogged down and probably stop learning. Begin with FrontPage Express (you can find it at Microsoft’s Windows Update site) or some other free HTML editors such as Cool Page, HotDog or PageMill. The downloads section at ZDNET is where you’ll find free HTML editors and other cool web design programs and goodies. has a really good section on Web publishing tools.

Moving on up
Once you get the hang of these, you’re ready to graduate to the big dogs. Some of the premier HTML editors available these days are Macromedia Dreamweaver and UltraDev, Allaire Homesite and Microsoft FrontPage. What’s good about them is that they integrate ease of use with advanced features such as JavaScript, DHTML, ASP (Microsoft Active Server Pages, JSP (Java Script Pages) or CFML (Cold Fusion Markup Language) capabilities. These languages are what make most business Web sites run these days. They’re the hard code behind the pretty fronts that you click on.

Dreamweaver is made by Macromedia, the same company that made Flash a household name. I can’t say enough good things about this program. It is the premier web design application on the market, and it makes it fantastically easy to create quality websites. Of course, you also pay a pretty penny for it (price is around $250-300). UltraDev is Dreamweaver on steroids. Not only does it have all of the capabilities of Dreamweaver, but it also writes advanced code for you and makes it incredibly easy to add database functionality to your website. The price for it runs from $550-600.

Homesite on the other hand has a really nice and functional division between the work window and HTML view, though it lags behind Dreamweaver in the visual quality of the GUI. Allaire (which makes Homesite) was recently bought by Macromedia, so I’m not sure what the future of this application will be.

Microsoft FrontPage is good for beginners because it offers so many features and plug-ins, but it’s awkward to work with unless you use it exclusively. Switching HTML files between it and other editors is a nightmare because it changes the way the code is written. I stay away from it – far, far away – because I just don’t want to deal with the bloated code and the extra folders that it creates for itself on my web server.

After you use these programs yourself, you’ll discover your own pet peeves. And when you do, congratulate yourself, because you’ll have made it to the next level.

So you think you’re hot
If you think you’re ready for the big leagues, the Web development sections at CNET or ZDNet are the ones for you. CNET has a really good section with HTML tutorials and Web design, while ZDNet has a huge Developer section with all the tutorials and free code you could ever want. Other free code also abounds online. You’ll find more than enough CGI, Java and applets if you do a few diligent searches. It also never hurts to actually spend some money on good software books. Most of the time, they’ll come with CD-ROMs filled with free code and other goodies.

Good clipart and sounds (great for enhancing your page) are also available free online at places such as AllFreeClipArt.com, About.com, or Volition.com. The best way to find the sounds you like is to search for them by categories. Say you like The Simpsons. Well, then you’d search for them by name, find the sound file that you need, then insert a hidden sound tag on your index page. This sound would then play every time that page was loaded. And if you want to be really annoying, you can make it play over and over and over…. Of course you will have to watch for copyright infringements. If it’s a personal page, no one will probably bother you, but if it’s a page that sells stuff, or your own page on your company’s website, you might get in trouble. Just make sure you check to see if it’s okay first.

Going pro
Last but not least, if you want to be good at this, learn from the masters. Actually, steal from the masters. Go to the sites for some of the coolest design companies these days: The Designory, Me Company, Fusive.Com, Contact Designs, Control V Interactive, DayStream, Exprimare or Lupuspernix. The list is debatable, and so is the order. The important thing is to find some really good sites and pick them apart. Look at the source code. Save the HTML files to your hard drive. Open them up in Dreamweaver, see what they’re made of, how they’re put together. Try to replicate the graphic design in Freehand, Illustrator or PhotoShop. Get into
Flash. It’s hot these days. See what you can do. Then do it better. And when you’re ready, apply for some jobs. You can’t keep bumming off your parents forever. Here’s how!

When I grow up, I want to be?
If you get to know all the stuff I’ve talked about, then you’ll probably wish to specialize, or learn more about a certain aspect of Web design. There are three main areas:

  1. Code Monkeys: these guys and gals want nothing more than to sit in front of the monitor writing JavaScript and messing around with SQL (Structured Query Language) or ASP (Active Server Pages) all day long.
  2. Graphic designers: these creative folks make the great fronts you see on some of today’s coolest Web pages. Homework: go find these really cool pages. Judge them, and be subjective. Art is what you make of it.
  3. Web designers: these guys are the go-betweens. They take the stuff that graphic designers make and they put it on Web pages. Then they get it ready for the code monkeys, which will go in and finish out the job by integrating the HTML with the other code that makes sites work (see above). At most places, the 2nd and 3rd categories are one and the same, but at bigger companies, you will find that most designers will fall into these three categories.
  4. Art/Creative Directors: these gals and guys work on the big picture and chart the direction in which a project needs to go. They’re interesting people with quirky habits, and for the most part, they know what they’re doing.

How to keep your exercise goals

So you’ve had it with yourself. You’ve decided it’s high time you started to exercise. You’ve heard about all the benefits: increased energy and stamina, better health, more strength, and of course, a better looking body. But you don’t know where to begin, and simply deciding that you’re going to drop 20 pounds or add 20 pounds (whichever your case may be) probably won’t work for most people. You need a plan, and you need to break down that plan into achievable steps or goals.

This article makes it easy for you to identify and prioritize your exercise goals and establish an easy to follow exercise program. Just follow along and jot down your own notes or answers to each of the points mentioned.

  • Make sure your goals are in line with your priorities. For example, if your first priority is your family (you want to spend time with your wife or husband, or you have children,) don’t go all out with your exercise and steal away all of the quality family time. Your exercise will separate you from them, create tensions within your family, and in the end, you’ll probably associate exercise with that bad experience and you’ll be less likely to begin a new program. Instead, talk with your spouse about your plans and work out a schedule that works for both of you. Begin with exercise sessions 3 times a week for 20-40 minutes each. As you start experiencing the benefits of exercise, share your enthusiasm with your spouse. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that they will join in your exercise program.
  • Set realistic, achievable goals and time frames. This is a biggie! Many people get discouraged and stop exercising because they don’t achieve the goals they set for themselves. Of course you’re not going to achieve your goals if they are too high and lofty. Having fallen prey to this mistake myself, I can tell you right now that you will not drop/add 20-30 pounds in a month, or in some cases, even in 2 months. It just will not happen, unless you’re incredibly lucky or you do some incredibly thoughtless thing like going on a crash diet. What will most likely happen is that you will be able to drop or add 10 pounds in a month of serious exercise. These are what’s called “beginner’s bonus”. After that, your gains or losses will come harder for the following reasons:
    • If you’re trying to lose weight, you are, but you’re also replacing that weight with muscle, so as your muscles grow, you’re adding weight and replacing the fat weight that you’re losing. So if you are lifting heavy weights and hoping that your own weight will drop as a result, you’re in for a surprise. If you’re lifting light weights, focusing on lots of repetitions and lots of cardio exercises (which increase your heart rate), your weight will probably continue to drop fairly steadily, although the leaner you get, the harder you will have to work for those last few pounds. So, unless you’re very fat, your “beginner’s bonus” will wear out quickly and you’ll need to work harder in order to continue losing weight.
    • If you’re trying to add weight because you’re thin, your body will like staying thin and won’t like adding weight. So after the initial shock of exercise and an initial amount of weight gain, your body will try to stay at the new weight or even go down to its previous weight. What’s worse, if you gorge on food hoping the sheer amount of calories will force your body to add more weight, you’ll be adding lots of fat, not muscle, and then you’ll be both scrawny and flabby (bet that’s a pretty picture…).
    • Basically, the fight will be with yourself. After the beginner’s bonus wears out, you’ll really need to get determined and stick close to your exercise schedule, because sooner or later you will reach something called a “plateau”, which is dead point in your progress. The only way to get out of a plateau is to set small, achievable goals and document everything, so you can follow your progress on a daily basis. Then it’ll be a game of comparison: you’ll compare the numbers with the dates, and before long, you’ll see yourself progressing again.
  • Visualize the results. Every time you look in a mirror, imagine yourself at your goal image, and keep that image in mind as you exercise. The power of getting results depends on the determination that you use in picturing your end result. Even when the image gets stale or seems too far away, you have to hold on to it and truly believe you can get there, or else the game is lost. Once you get in a regular exercise schedule, it’s all a mind game. You have to actively decide to go to the gym, to stay in there till you’re done with what you planned to do, to eat right, sleep right and stay focused. Otherwise, you’ll get lost on the wayside and never reach your destination. Focusing on your goal image helps keep you on track and gives your the extra power that you need to finish your workouts.
  • Take positive steps toward your destination everyday, even if it’s just a few moments for reflection. While it’s harder for you to control your thoughts or feelings (you will have many doubts), it’s much easier to control your actions. If you want to drop those pounds, make sure that every bit of food you eat is healthy, and every exercise that you do at the gym is done toward losing that weight. If you want to add weight, make sure you eat all of the food that you planned, that you work out until the point of total exhaustion at every workout, and that you get more than adequate amounts of sleep. And take a few moments a few times each day to think about the progress you’ve made and enjoy the goals you’ve already achieved. You’ll be re-enforcing your drive when you do that, and you’ll motivate yourself to go even further than you planned. Every little bit that you do counts, no matter what your goal is.
  • Reward yourself. When you give yourself a reward for your achievement, you unconsciously give yourself support for your actions. Give yourself a worthy gift for a worthy success, but don’t spoil yourself. In other words, if you’ve just dropped 20 pounds, don’t celebrate with a triple fudge Sundae and an all-course brunch. You’ll be ruining everything you worked for. Instead, re-inforce the positive habits you’ve created by doing something healthful, like getting a full body massage or treating yourself to some exotic fruit smoothies. Chances are you won’t need to worry about rewarding yourself; if your body looks better, your spouse will probably find plenty of ways to reward you…