As featured in the Medfield Patch 3/4/13:

The first warm days of spring often spark a little motivation in people to consider starting a new fitness regime. If the idea that winter is coming to an end has you thinking this way, here are some strategies to help you transition from contemplation to action and to help you keep going once you begin.

Identify When You Can Fit Exercise Into Your Schedule – To be successful in increasing your fitness level, you need to be realistic about when and for how long physical activity will fit into your life. If you set out with a declaration that you are going to work out 1 hour a day six days per week, you may be setting yourself up for failure when you find that goal difficult to achieve due to your other commitments. It can also be overwhelming if you set out thinking that a very high level of intensity and dedication is required on day one. Try starting with 3 days per week and building slowly from there. Establish regular days of the week for your exercise and add them in your calendar. Block out time for your workout, and you’ll have one less excuse for missing it!

Once being active becomes part of your normal routine and you start reaping the “feel good benefits”, you will likely add more. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the initial conditioning phase of cardiovascular activity should include 20-90 minutes of continuous activity 3-5 days per week for the first 4-6 weeks. Alternatively, you can start with 10-minute increment bouts dispersed throughout the day rather than trying to find the time all at once.

Incentivize Your Training – Sometimes, you need a little motivational help to reach your goals. Whether it’s a favorite food, a trip someplace special, or even a new piece of workout gear-rewarding yourself after reaching a goal can help give you that extra push towards the next step. Many gyms and fitness facilities offer incentives for participation as well, in case you’re not one for rewarding yourself.

Set Specific Goals – Setting specific goals can help provide a little direction to your workout and create a path to help you move forward.  If you are starting a walking routine, commit to adding 5 minutes or one more loop around the neighborhood each week.  If you are already walking and would like to start jogging, plan to add in 1-2 minute intervals of jogging and increase the duration and quantity of intervals you include each week.  Write these goals down in a journal or in your calendar so you can review your progress and hold yourself accountable.

Find an Activity You Will Enjoy – Once you have identified the times you have available, you can then determine what activities can be done at those times and, more importantly, what you would enjoy. You are far more likely to keep up with your new fitness routine if you enjoy the activities you are participating in.  Today, more than ever before, there is an incredible array of options for you to consider when trying to get more active.  Keep trying new ones until you find those you enjoy most.  As always, if you have any concerns about the types of activities you can safely participate in, you may want to discuss them with your physician before getting started.

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. If group classes interest you, gyms often have spring membership deals. It can be as simple as walking, relaxation and core strengthening at yoga, fun body movement at Zhumba or straightforward biking or running. Do you have a friend who can join you or a walking, running or biking group you can get involved with in your area? You may be more likely to stick with an activity when you have someone to do it with (and someone who will keep you honest about showing up for a planned outing).

Find a Friend or Class – If you struggle with working out by yourself or can use a little extra motivation some days, find a workout partner who shares your schedule or a fitness class to attend on a regular basis. In addition, simply sharing your plans and goals with your friends and family may make you more accountable.  Tell the people closest to you about your plans and see if you can recruit some of them to join you on your journey.

Track Your Progress – To keep the momentum going, you may want to capture some data when you begin your fitness routine. If you review the data a month later and see how much progress you have made, you will be encouraged to keep going. Some benchmarking options may include taking your resting heart rate when you begin your fitness routine and taking it again once each month to see the steady decrease as your improve your cardiovascular health or, for muscular fitness, performing tests such as how many push-ups or sit-ups you can do in one minute.

Finally, my favorite quote seems an appropriate conclusion. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not.  There is no try.” Don’t worry about how much or how long. Just get started. You can increase the time, the distance, the weight or the frequency later. For now, just get out there and get moving!

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