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Pick Up the Pace

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Pick Up the Pace

A fitness program needs some forethought. There needs to be the time, inclination, and patience to be able to stick with it. The program has to evoke participant passion and commitment to endure - because it's much easier to sit on the couch than get off it! Here are six tips to help you (or a friend) develop a successful fitness program.

The SPCA warns us not to buy puppies as Christmas presents because the recipients may have neither the time nor the inclination to care for them. Instead, we buy our friends memberships to the gym.

Like pet ownership, though, a fitness program needs some forethought. There needs to be the time, inclination, and patience to be able to stick with it. The program has to evoke participant passion and commitment to endure–because it’s much easier to sit on the couch than get off it! Here are six tips to help you (or a friend) develop a successful fitness program.

1. Choose an activity you like to do

As a fitness instructor, I learned that I am not doing my participants any favours by recommending programs they don’t like. If the participant likes weightlifting, but hates the cardio equipment offered, then I suggest running or biking to the gym, but ask them to find a route that throws in a few hills. If the person likes cross-country skiing but hates weightlifting, I show them exercises they can do without weights, but ask them to add strength to their stride while skiing. The point is to try several exercises to find out what you like to do.

2. Find a fitness buddy

Fitness can mean pain and misery. So, if misery really loves company, you need to find someone with whom to commiserate. Whether it’s a Monday evening date with a friend or tennis with the love of your life, invite some workout camaraderie. If they’re not available, maybe you can find your workout buddy at the gym. All you need is a good icebreaker. Try saying, “These weights don’t get any lighter, do they?” If the response is favourable, you have a new workout buddy–someone to share information with and to spot for safety reasons.

3. Set SMART goals

You don’t have to bench press a Buick on your first strength-training session. Instead, set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Time-Bound. A goal to improve muscular endurance that uses the SMART criteria might be: “Within 30 days, I will increase my squat resistance from 100 to 120 pounds by training four days a week and by increasing my weight by five pounds each week.” If you reach your goal after 30 days, you may decide to set a new goal. If you didn’t reach it, perhaps the goal wasn’t as realistic as you thought. Formulate a new SMART goal and time interval and start again.

4. Lift heavy

Some people find that they don’t see results in spite of diligent weight training. It could be that they aren’t lifting weights that are heavy enough. Lifting heavy means choosing a weight that is so heavy that you can manage only one lift. Take 60 to 80 percent of that weight and work with it for about three months. Then try the base weight again. If you accomplish more than one repetition or do one repetition with a heavier weight, add 10 percent to your workout weight. If you can’t lift the heavier weight, keep lifting the lighter weight until you can safely and comfortably add more.

5. Take a break

Resting a day between workouts is important. Weightlifting causes tiny
injuries to the muscle fibres that need to heal to get stronger. Rest will allow you to pursue your fitness goals with renewed vigour.

6. Don’t get discouraged

You may find that you are not noticing the benefits you expected after a few months. You can probably blame that on genetics, but stay on the treadmill. Try to view fitness as a journey in which all the fun is getting there. You may not see those six-pack abdominals after the first week, but you might be able to feel them.

Health benefits in the early months of your fitness program aren’t always obvious either. But you will be warding off diabetes or arthritis. You might even find that you are sleeping better and your sex life is improving. You may be enhancing your whole thought process and also might be more conscious of your diet.

Best of all, a regular fitness program will give you the strength and energy you need to walk that Christmas puppy.

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