What You Want out of a Physical Fitness Program
Beginning a new fitness program can seem intimidating to anyone, whether they’re new to fitness or have been training for quite some time. There are workouts to plan, goals to set, and realities to face about our own wellness and starting points. It’s important to know what you want out of a physical fitness program before beginning one. Let’s take a moment to talk about what the average person needs from their program and how to make your program work for you. We’ll discuss how to get started, what you need to include in your program, and, finally, ways to make sure that your physical fitness program is a lasting success rather than a short-lived resolution.
The hardest part of starting a fitness program is knowing where to begin. Whether you enlist the help of a trainer or set out to get healthy on your own, it’s important to assess your fitness level at the beginning of your chosen program. This will help you calculate your progress and give you a clear, empirical measurement of how far you’ve come as you continue to become fit. These measurements are easy to do on your own and can be recorded throughout your training as milestones to see your personal improvement.
Start by walking a mile. It doesn’t matter if it’s around your neighborhood, a running trail, or even a local track. Just make sure that you measure the appropriate distance. At the end of your mile, write down how long it took you to walk it. Also, make sure to record your pulse rate after walking the mile. This can be done with a heart rate monitor for maximum accuracy. These two numbers can be re-evaluated throughout the course of your training and should improve the longer you keep up with your physical fitness program.
Another number to record is the number of standard (or modified, if the standard is too difficult at your current fitness level) pushups you can do at one time. Make sure that you’re using the proper form so that you don’t injure yourself! Next, break out the tape measure and see how far forward you can reach when sitting on the floor, your legs out in front of you.
You may need some assistance to measure the final two numbers we need to calculate your starting fitness. Try measuring the circumference of your waist, just above your hipbones. You should also measure your body mass index (BMI) at the start of your program. Don’t be afraid of these numbers. You’re on the path to success, and it’s important to see how far you’ve come from when you began when you look back.
Taking a look at your health
Before beginning your physical fitness program, it’s important to consider any health issues you might have. Conditions such as asthma, heart conditions, or any variety of such factors can change the way you want to exercise. Consult with a healthcare professional to find out what’s right for you and what steps you may need to take to keep your health in check as you pursue your program.
With this basic assessment of your health in mind, it’s time to set your goals. How fast do you want to be able to walk that mile? How many pushups do you want to be able to do? Decide for yourself what you want out of your program and monitor your progress using the same factors listed above.
The Five Basic Elements of Good Health
Every good physical fitness program will take into account the five basic elements of good health. These include aerobic fitness, strength training, core exercises, balance training, and flexibility. A personal trainer will make sure that all five of these elements are included in your workouts, but if you’re setting off on your own, you’ll want to make sure that all five are accounted for.
Aerobic fitness, also known as cardio or endurance training, is the first on our list. This element of good health makes you breathe faster and more deeply, which maximizes the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream. It also makes your heart beat faster. Doing so strengthens the blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs. The goal of aerobic exercise is to use large muscle groups and to increase heart rate.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults perform at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week. This number changes to 75 minutes if the rigor of aerobic exercise increases from moderate to vigorous. It is recommended that these minutes be spread out during the week, rather than being performed all at once. You can even perform your aerobic exercise in 10-minute bursts if you choose to do so. You can get in your aerobic exercise through walking, jogging, biking, swimming, or even dancing.
The next element you should incorporate into your routine is strength training. This element increases bone strength and muscular fitness. In addition, it can help you manage or lose weight. For those of you executing your physical fitness programs at home, strength training can be done through exercises such as pushups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches, and leg squats. For those with workout equipment in the home or with access to a gym, try using resistance machines and free weights to give your strength training an extra edge.
Core exercises, the third basic element of good health, are essential to a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle. The core of the body is composed of the muscles in the abdomen, lower back, and pelvis. These muscles protect back while also connecting upper and lower body movements. When we train these muscles, we are training them to brace the spine, giving it the support it needs. Core exercises also enable us to use the upper and lower body more effectively in our everyday lives, not just within the realm of exercise. To train the core muscles, we must use the trunk of the body without support. Exercises such as bridges, planks, sit-ups, and fitness ball exercises are all excellent ways to train the core, whether you’re working out at home or in the gym. Just make sure, as always, that you’re using the proper form so that you don’t risk injuring yourself.
Number four is balance training. While everyone engaging in a physical fitness program needs to train their balance, it is especially important for those who are a little older. Balance tends to deteriorate with age, and while this might seem like a minor inconvenience at worst, it can cause some serious injuries later on in life. Poor balance has been shown to lead to falls and fractures in elderly. Increasing your balance now can improve your quality of life later. The purpose of balance training is to stabilize our core muscles. Strengthening them, as stated in the third element, is beneficial but also not the only aspect of the core that needs fine-tuning. Stability is essential within the same muscle group to keep us mobile and capable of performing everyday tasks. There are ways to train your balance, such as tai chi and several yoga poses. These can be performed in the home on your own or with the guidance of an instructional video.
Physical Fitness Program
The final element that every physical fitness program should take into account is flexibility and stretching. This type of training can help you improve your range of motion at the joints of your body. It also may promote better posture, which is great for the shoulders and spine. Furthermore, regular stretching helps to relieve stress and tension in the body – a major bonus!
Try stretching after you exercise. This is when your muscles are warm and receptive to stretching and improving flexibility. If you want to stretch before exercise, warm up for 5 to 10 minutes before stretching to achieve a similar warm state in the muscles. You won’t see the same benefits if you stretch without exercising at all first. I recommend that you stretch whenever you exercise, not only to increase flexibility but also to decrease muscle soreness after your workouts. If you aren’t to the point where you’re exercising regularly, I still recommend stretching and flexibility training two to three times a week after the basic warm-up period, even without exercise.
Tips for Success
Too many times, we start a new physical fitness program only to give up after a few months or even weeks. It gets boring, we talk ourselves out of it, or we miss too many days and decide that it’s impossible to get back on track. This mentality can be lethal to your program. Thankfully, there are easy and effective ways to make sure that your program survives hiccoughs such as these.
It’s important to start slowly and build up gradually. Most of us aren’t going to be able to run a marathon after a month of training. Find out where you’re at using the metrics discussed earlier and find out what’s right for you. Be patient with yourself and acknowledge that your starting point might not be where you want it to be. It’s important to remember that you’ll reach your goals at your own pace. Don’t beat yourself up or think negatively about your program. It’s all about self-improvement.
On a similar note, it’s important to be flexible. Maybe your Tuesday run gets canceled because you have to go to the doctor. Maybe you sprained your wrist doing yard work and can’t do those bicep curls you had planned for Saturday. This is when we stop, reevaluate, and change our plans just a bit. Bumps in the road happen to everyone, and they certainly don’t mean that your entire program is ruined. Reschedule that run, focus on your legs instead of your arms. Adapt your routines when needed.
Incorporate fitness into your daily routine
It is necessary to be adaptable because the best method is to incorporate your physical fitness program into your daily routine. This isn’t to say that you need to be walking five miles every single night. But try getting a fitness ball instead of a desk chair to work out your core while you sit in the office. Make time to stretch and work on your flexibility after taking your dog for a walk, when your muscles are already warm and receptive to exercise. Little things such as these can go a long way toward achieving your goals and toward keeping you motivated with your program.
Listen to your body
Make sure, no matter your routine or how far you are in your program, to listen to your body. No one knows your body better than you do. Pushing yourself can be a good thing, but when your body tells you that it needs to stop, listen. Take that water break, shift down to less weight when working with equipment. It’s much better to fall short of that day’s goal than to end up injuring yourself and putting the entire program on hold.
It’s a great idea to reward yourself when you do well with your program. Get a pack of fun stickers and add one to your calendar every day you take part in your fitness program. Indulge in that new water bottle or those new running shoes when you pass a significant milestone. Show yourself that you’re proud of your own progress. You deserve to treat yourself well when you succeed. But, remember, rewarding yourself for the good does not mean punishing yourself when you fall short! Be forgiving and stay positive.
Make it fun
Above all else, make it fun. Get your cardio in by playing a game of soccer with the kids. Start a yoga group with your friends once a week. Dance to your favorite music. Exercise doesn’t have to be painful and boring. Find what works for you and embrace it, no matter how unusual it might seem. Break out of the mentality that working out is strictly lifting weights and running laps. Discover new ways to be active, things that you enjoy, and it won’t feel like work at all.
Reach out for help if you need it
If you find yourself struggling to stay consistent and see the results you want, contact me for a free consultation to see if we are a good fit to work together. We can go over your goals and find a customized plan for you and your lifestyle to get you where you want to go and ensure the journey is enjoyable. To schedule, fill out the form on my contact page here.