You have decided that this year will be different. This year you will succeed with your plans to exercise regularly. We are all aware of the enormous benefits of a routine exercise program. We do not dispute that … yet somehow so many of us fail to keep up with an exercise program built around a New Years resolution. Why?
Starting a new exercise program is not easy … you will not become addicted to it like some of your friends for a few months. You need to be able to persevere and you need to be able to stick with a program long enough to begin to see results. If you are not enjoying your exercise program you have a high risk of failure. There are many mistakes that someone new to an exercise program makes which eventually leads to failure. Let’s change that !
Mistake #1 : Unrealistic Expectations
You are getting older, you belly is bulging a bit, you are short of breath going upstairs and it’s time to buy new pants which are one size larger.
Your goal for starting an exercise program should be to live a longer, healthier and happier life.
Running a 6 minute mile should not be your starting goal. That will crush your desire to exercise after a month or less. Still want that 6 minute mile — go for it — but that will be next years resolution after you’ve adhered to an exercise regimen for a year and brought that goal within reasonable reach.
Folks new to any exercise program need to “build a base.” Your heart and your lungs can be your friend or your enemy depending on how you approach base training. The mainstay of any aerobic exercise program, even for elite runners is the long, slow run. In order for you to ready your body to adapt to a new exercise program you need to build your base slowly and keep at it. A heart rate monitor helps with this… but is not essential. Your initial workouts, whether they are on a treadmill, elliptical , a bicycle or the road will be very similar. Start at a slow pace that gets your heart rate up. But.. you only want your heart rate up to a point where you can carry on a conversation during your exercise program. The “intensity” of your effort is of paramount important. When starting an exercise program the intensity of the effort that you perceive should be “easy.” This post on Pace versus Intensity goes in more detail on that. That is true aerobic training or base training. If you are short of breath, slow it down… if that means walking … so be it. You’ll be running soon enough.
Set daily or weekly goals… not lofty annual goals. You are more likely to accomplish a goal running or walking 3 miles this week then you are a goal of running a 6 minute mile somewhere 12 months off in the future.
Take it slow,bring a friend, listen to a podcast, set weekly realistic goals for a better chance of remaining active throughout the year.
Mistake #2: Aerobic Training Is Enough
Not true. Strength training is critical to the success of any aerobic program. Running, walking or cycling and swimming are all great aerobic exercise programs. They improve our heart’s ability to deliver oxygen to our body. Your muscles adapt and are ready to receive and use that oxygen. But aerobic exercise requires strong muscles in your legs, core and torso. The stronger those muscles are the less likely you are to be injured. The stronger those muscles are the more likely you are to be able to keep up with your aerobic exercise goals. So, if you plan on doing your aerobic work 3-5 days a week, then plan on doing some strength training 2 days per week. Do not strength train 2 days in a row and do not push it too hard. Very sore muscles are not pleasant to deal with. Your muscles need time to recover from their training program. Body weight exercises are fine for most of you. Squats, lunges, and planks can form the basis for a good strength training program for most of us. And no, you do not need to squat so your butt hits the floor. Start at a level and pace that you can easily accomplish and build it up slowly.
Mistake #3: I Exercised Today So I Can Eat That Cookie
The research on exercise and weight loss is pretty clear. Exercise alone does not typically lead to weight loss. There are many reasons for this, but one big problem is that we reward ourselves for our exercise effort by granting ourselves a free pass to put down a pint of ice cream.
Stay hydrated during your training. Hydrate with water… do NOT drink energy or sports drinks. They are loaded with sugar and offer you no other benefits. Unless you are sweating through an 8-10+ mile run you will not have a problem with electrolytes and thus water is all you need to hydrate with.
When your program is over make yourself a smoothie with fruit and almond milk. Have an apple, orange, some nuts or a whole wheat bagel. Stick with high fiber, whole grain foods and you will not become another statistic where exercise led to weight gain or no net loss.
The benefits of regular exercise go far beyond just weight loss. A runners high is a real phenomena. You will feel great because of your run. You will feel great because you are getting out there and doing something. You made a goal and you are sticking with it. Regular exercise is but one part of the overall lifestyle changes necessary to live a healthier, happier, longer life with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic disease states.
** Of course… before starting any exercise program… please check with your physician who may want to be sure your body is ready to do so.