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Your Get-Back-in-Shape Plan

If you’ve stopped exercising due to illness, injury, or any personal setback, these six simple steps will help you get back to being fit.
By Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Have you ever wondered if you'll ever get in shape again? Setbacks happen, whether it's an injury, a crunch time at work, or a hectic time with your family.

Whatever it was, you've fallen off the exercise wagon.

This happens to just about everyone. You can rebuild your stamina and come out of this healthier, stronger, and even a little wiser. You need to develop these three things:

1. A fitness goal. Sit down and figure out a goal you want to achieve. Do you want to run 1 mile, or 5? Swim two laps or 20? Climb every mountain, or maybe just that hilly sidewalk in your neighborhood? Write down your goal, and keep it in front of you. The refrigerator is a good place. So is your desk.

2. A fitness plan. Now figure out the baby steps you're going to take to get to that goal. Look at how, where, and with whom you spend time, and start to make changes that allow you the time you need to get back in shape.

3. Fitness opportunities. If you've been injured and are on the road to recovery, find ways to exercise that begin to rebuild your strength and stamina. You might try elliptical or rowing machines, bicycling, dancing, swimming, or easy hiking. Maybe now is the time to start yoga or Pilates.

Focus on the Three M’s

Mind. Accept that you have hit an obstacle and you need to find a different path. See this as a chance to explore new approaches to self-care and fitness.

Muscles. Start slow. Sure, you were able to run 5 miles 2 months ago, but right now you can only run one. So run one, and know that you'll build up again. This is also a good time to think about strength training, since strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons help prevent injury. Aim to use weights twice a week, or shoot for 25 pushups, 100 sit-ups, or similar exercise to start.

Mouth. Remember, fitness isn't just about exercise. It's about your total health. Concentrate on other ways of nourishing your body. For example, make it a goal to eat more vegetables, cook more often at home, and bring healthy homemade lunches to work.

Reviewed on May 13, 2014

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