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…