The thought of getting fit may seem daunting, but the payoff is worth it. We’ve laid out the steps you should take to get yourself onto the path that leads to the fitter, healthier you.
Developing the Right Mindset
Develop the right attitude. The mind may not be a muscle, but it’s still incredibly strong, and can make the difference between succeeding and failing at your goal. Being fit is a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires making changes to your entire lifestyle. Don’t give up when you’re not getting what you’re heading for…
Don’t approach this with the mindset that you can abandon the changes you make as soon as you reach your ideal fitness goal or you risk slipping into your bad habits again. Being fit should mean incorporating things into your life that you can eventually do by habit.
Create a commitment contract with yourself. These contracts are otherwise known as a reward system. Set a goal for yourself and then decide upon a reward for yourself. Pick an item that you really want or something that you really want to do.
For instance, make a contract with yourself that states that if you go on a run for 30 minutes every day you can buy that cute shirt or new golf clubs you have had your eye on for weeks now.
Get someone else to get fit with you. It is much easier to reach your goals when you have someone to share the pain and the gain. Create a schedule that you can both commit to and keep each other on track.
You could even get a group of people in on the ‘get fit’ schedule. Have everyone put $10 into a pot and the person who works out the most during the set amount of time wins the money.
Incorporate more physical exercise into your daily routine. By regularly challenging yourself you keep your physical self “tuned up”. If getting fit means losing weight, this will help the pounds melt away—and stay away! If you’re training for endurance, this is the way to ensure steady improvement. Consistent daily exercise is very important factor. You must not skip days. Take the subway or bike to work or school instead of driving. If that’s not possible, park several blocks away from your office building to force yourself into two 15-minute walks every day. When you go to the grocery store, hardware store, movies, or mall, park at the end of the lot instead of wrangling for a spot near the front door. Walk the dog more often—both your body and your pup will thank you.
Clean your house vigorously. You’d be surprised how physically taxing housework is: dusting your shelves, cleaning your toilets, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, vacuuming and sweeping, picking up the house, and cleaning the garage will definitely give you a workout. Making yourself and your family clean parts of your house on a regular basis will not only create a better environment for you to live in, but also make burning calories, staying flexible, and keeping in shape a much simpler process.
Exercise at the office. Believe it or not, it’s completely possible to make sitting at your computer into a calorie-burning activity. You can stretch and workout your muscles by doing leg lifts, oblique reaches, and lower back reaches, among others. Give breaks and stand and hear some music or walk for 5 minutes and get back to work.
Start an exercise regimen and stick to it. A proper fitness program has five components: a warm-up, an aerobic workout, strength-building exercises, stretching (flexibility), and a cool-down.
- A good warm-up is a steady walk outside or on the treadmill, a slow pedal on a stationary bike, or a few rounds on the stair master. You want to exercise just enough to get your blood flowing and put your joints through their full range of motion so that your muscles warm up. Exercising without a warm up could lead to pulling or straining a muscle.
- Cardio workouts improve circulation and endurance. This could include going on a run, biking at a high resistance, or doing an increased speed on a stair crunching machine. You want to work up a sweat and get your blood pumping. Good cardiovascular health is not only good for heart health and blood pressure, it has even been linked to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Doing interval training (i.e. alternating between low-intensity and high-intensity activity) has been shown to be an especially fast and effective way to improve heart health and endurance, and an efficient way to burn fat.
- Building muscle through strength-training will not only increase your strength and tone, but will also increase your metabolism, as muscular people have been shown to burn more calories even when they’re at rest. You could work with weights, do squats, push ups, or crunches, among many other exercises. If going to the gym isn’t for you, try strength-training at home.
- Stretching during or after a workout increases your flexibility. It can also relieve muscle and joint stiffness. Stretch your legs, arms, back, any muscles that you used while working out (which should generally be all of them.)
- A cool-down is very similar to a warm-up. You should perform some sort of cardio exercise at a very low level. Cooling down allows your muscles to relax while the blood is still flowing through them at a slightly increased rate.
- Note: anyone over the age of 60 or who has heart disease, high blood pressure, or arthritis should consult a doctor before attempting interval training.
Switch things up. Any physical activity that takes a bit of effort will help you get fit, but it’s important to remember that variety is the spice of life—and of physical fitness! More importantly, as your body gets comfortable performing a certain activity, it learns to do it more efficiently, making it easy for you to plateau in your workouts. Keep both your body and your mind guessing by enjoying a diversity of activities and having fun.
- Dance. Anything from ballet dance to breakdancing or even jump style will increase your fitness if you stick with it. Enroll in a Zumba or hip-hop class. You’ll be surprised by how many calories you burn while having fun.
- Go swimming. It doesn’t matter if you’re treading water, dog paddling, or mastering the butterfly stroke. Swimming is a good form of exercise that can be fun, too.
- Do yoga. Yoga is a healthy exercise that keeps both your mind and body fit. Pick one day a week to let your body indulge in some serious stretching, rather than doing your normal workout. Yoga will help you maintain your flexibility, but is also a great way to tone your muscles.
Join extracurricular activities like playing sports! Being with other people helps motivate you to keep going. For example, you’re doing track. Your teammates motivate you to keep going (and possibly the fact you don’t want to be last), unlike when you’re at home on the treadmill by yourself when you can easily press a button and you’re done.
Give your body the fuel it needs. As you become more active, you’ll need more food, but not just any food—you need healthy, energy-laden food that will jump-start the next phase of your day, not weigh it down.
- Switch to whole grains. It’s healthy and delicious. It might not be what you’re used to, but you’ll enjoy the richer, nuttier flavors. If you don’t want to switch entirely to whole grain, try to make half of the grains you eat whole grain. Who knows—you may find that you like whole grain more and more each day.
- Cut out unhealthy snacks and replace them with fruits and vegetables. The high fiber and water content will make you feel full, and the high vitamin and mineral content will nourish and transform your body naturally. Try to make meals that are half fruits and half veggies.
- Eat lean protein foods. Try to buy meat that is lean (which means that it has a lower fat percentage). Eat beans, eggs, and seeds to boost your protein intake without the fat that comes with meat. Eat seafood at least once a week. Seafood contains protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids (which is the heart-healthy kind of fat).
- Cut back on solid fats. These include items made with butter or shortening such as cookies, cakes, and other desserts. They are also found in processed meat like sausage and bacon, as well as in ice cream and pizza. Solid fat is the kind that results in you hitting the gym a lot more.
- Eat foods with a low glycemic index. These are foods that take longer for your body to digest and convert into energy, so you will feel fuller throughout the day with a smaller number of calories. Moreover, you avoid the “sugar rush” that comes as a result of eating foods with a high glycemic index, getting a nice boost of sustained energy throughout the day instead. This will keep you uplifted whether you’re doing work or exercising.
Keep your house stocked with the right food. Purchase the healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, soups, etc. that you want yourself to eat, and keep the junk out of your cupboards so you won’t be tempted. It’s not bad to indulge once in a while, but it’s too easy to do so if you keep your house full of unhealthy treats. Instead, the best litmus test for your true desire to indulge is if you’re willing to make the trip to the bakery or supermarket to purchase it. (Even better, make that trip on foot or by bike, if possible).
- Before you indulge, drink two 8oz (250 ml) glasses of water. If you still want the treat after that, go for it. Sometimes our brain confuses our hunger or cravings for food with thirst. Water is one of the best cures for cravings.
Drink 1.5~2 liters (0.5 US gal) of water each day. Water keeps you hydrated and promotes optimal metabolic activity. Moreover, water takes up a great volume in your stomach, so you will feel fuller without having consumed many snacks or meals. This is a great tool to keep off the excessive calories that you don’t really need but consume due to psychological eating or not knowing your satiety levels.
- Carry a reusable water bottle around with you at all times. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get in your recommended 1.5~2 liters (0.5 US gal) of water each day. It’s also cheaper than purchasing drinks whenever you get thirsty and better for the environment.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda. If you feel less compelled to drink water because of its lack of taste, try infusing your water with your favorite fruits, like strawberries, blueberries, lemons, oranges, and limes.
Let your body rest. When you’re giving your body a run for its money with varied physical activities, you also need to let it recover by getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Determine how many hours of sleep you need in order to feel refreshed in the morning, then discipline yourself to wake up and go to bed at the same times on a daily basis.
- Not getting enough sleep also comes at a huge expense to your immune system. You’re much more likely to get sick if you don’t give your body the energy or time to fight against infectious viruses and bacteria, and you’ll take longer to recover from common conditions like a cold.
- Sleeping too little has also been linked to overeating. Be sure that you don’t deprive your body of sleep energy or you will make it up in calories.
Get a check-up. To stay fit in the long run, you should perform regular maintenance on your body, just as you would with a car. Take yourself to the doctor and dentist regularly to make sure everything is running smoothly on the inside and to prevent any potential problems from arising.