New Year's Resolution: Get Fit
Resolved to exercise and get in shape? Here's how to actually do it.
Starting to Make Healthy Choices continued...
Consulting a dietitian for nutrition advice may help as well. Healthy eating
is an essential part of a good fitness program. A person who works out a lot
but does not nourish the body properly could be sabotaging or hiding the fruits
of his labor.
Dee Sandquist, MSRD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association,
advises having a general plan, and investing some time in advance to make it
happen. "Taking five minutes on the weekend to plan your food for the week
can pay huge dividends," she says. "Look at your schedule for the
upcoming week, and find out how many meals you'll be eating in and how many
meals you'll be eating out. Make a list, and then go to the grocery
Planning works regardless of your dietary goal. Some people may prefer to
work on reducing fat in their diet, adding fruits and vegetables, watching
portions, eating at a slower pace, or curbing junk food.
Whatever your aim, avoid getting too hungry. At that point, people tend to
overeat and ignore their best intentions. Also, figure out what triggers you to
overeat or disregard your nutrition plan. Determine how to avoid problems or
how to tackle them.
Many a New Year's resolution has been thwarted by injury. Some people are so
gung-ho about getting fit that they are too aggressive at the beginning of
their fitness program. As a result, they may become injured, feel a lot of
soreness, or think of exercise as an unpleasant experience.
"Start low and then gradually progress," advises Cedric Bryant, PhD,
chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "The
thing most people forget is that they didn't become deconditioned and out of
shape overnight. You shouldn't expect to become well-conditioned
To figure out whether you are exercising at the right level, try the talk
test. The goal is to carry on a basic level of conversation without being out
of breath. If you find that you are too chatty, however, chances are you are
not working hard enough.
You can also assess your energy level after a workout, says Bryant. If you
are still tired one hour after exercise, you probably overdid it. He says the
average person should be reasonably recovered in that time.
Lee Igel, NSCA, a sports psychology consultant and faculty member at New
York University, simply shakes his head at some of the less-than-bright things
people do at the beginning of a fitness program.
"It's easy to walk into a gym, and see somebody with a body that you
want, and say, 'I'm going to do everything that I can to get that,'" says
Igel. He says some people assume they know how to achieve the perfect body,
jump into a workout routine without educating themselves on proper form and use
of the equipment, and then get hurt.