Among the many New Year's resolutions, making a commitment to exercise is high on many people's lists. But just how long will that resolution last? The average "exercise starter" seems to quit after six months, and one of the top reasons is that they become frustrated when they do not see the results they want. Before you run to your nearest gym with new-found enthusiasm, here are some tips for beginners to help stay on track, be safe and avoid burnout.
A few forget-me-nots
Forgetting to warm up: You may think you will save some time by skipping the warmup, but the warmup is essential preparation for the main event. Dynamic stretching, which is stretching with movement, loosens up all your major and supporting muscles, improves range of motion and revs up your circulation, all of which will make your workout easier and safer.
Forgetting to begin slowly: Your body requires time to adjust to its new activity. You need to gradually build up the intensity and duration of the activity to avoid soreness and injuries. Too much too soon can cause some people to throw in the towel.
Forgetting to change your workout: When you perform the same exercises the same way over and over, your body will adapt within six to eight weeks and you will hit a plateau. It will seem as if you've become "stuck,'' and you won't notice further changes. To top it off, not adding variety to the workout can make your workout boring. One way to prevent this is to make little changes to your workout every two weeks or monthly. This could be as simple as mixing up the order of the exercises or introducing a new movement. If walking is your exercise, add an interval pattern, which would alternate a normal pace with a faster one.
Forgetting to stretch: As we get older, the loss of elasticity in the tendons and ligaments causes tightness, which reduces flexibility. Static stretching (stretch and hold for 30 seconds) is recommended for the end of a workout, when your muscles are thoroughly warmed up. And don't forget this: No bouncing with your stretches.
Forgetting how to measure results: Many benefits are subtle. Looking for proof of exercise success by jumping on the scale can often set you up for disappointment. While you may be increasing muscle strength and losing fat, the scale doesn't reflect your body composition. Judge your accomplishments by how your clothes fit and how you actually feel. You will start to feel better, have more energy and feel stronger before you see a drop on the scales or a difference in your clothing. It will take roughly six weeks or more before you will see noticeable changes.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.