Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How to Start - Very Slowly

I'm going to start out by telling you the number one mistake people make when trying to increase their fitness whether they are completely out of shape or a seasoned athlete:

#1 Fitness Mistake: Too much too soon

The biggest mistake people make is that they go out and do too much of whatever it is they are doing before letting their body adapt and they either have a bad experience or they get injured or both. For example, they go to the gym, hit the weights, and wake up the next morning so sore that they can barely get out of bed the next morning. In fact, the soreness is so bad that it doesn't go away all week. Discouraged they never make it back to the gym. I hate going to the gym the first couple week of January because it is so packed full of people excited by their New Year's resolutions. But by the end of the month the throngs have thinned out. The most likely culprit: too much too soon.

Another example is that a person decides to start running. So they start running every day. They run 3 miles every day. They feel a little sore but they figure it is just because they are starting out. But some of the aches and pains never go away. In fact some get worse and worse until running becomes difficult. Eventually it goes so bad that running becomes impossible and a trip to the doctor becomes necessary. The diagnosis: too much too soon.

When it comes to fitness slow and steady wins the race. No one ever gives up their fitness plan because they started out slow, made steady progress, and felt great. But beyond that, the body needs time to adapt to changes. When you start doing something new the body needs a chance to build strength. It can do it. It will do it. But it takes time. You just have to give it a chance.

Another example. Years of office work and fast food lunches were taking their toll on my friend. I kept bugging him to take advantage of the exercise room at work. Finally I took him down one day after lunch to show him how the elliptical trainer worked. It had a heart rate monitor on it so I started him going and set the effort so his heart was going about 130 beats a minute. "This is ridiculously easy," he said. That was the point. After 5 minutes I turned it off. "That's it?" That was it. No gym clothes. No sweat. No shower. Just a gentle 5 minutes and back to work.

The next day he was surprised that he was actually a little sore from just that short 5 minutes. Imagine if we had gone longer or gone harder. It had felt ridiculously easy, but he hadn't done any kind of physical activity beyond walking back and forth from his car in who knows how long. If that describes you, then you should limit yourself to a very short walk initially. You really can't do too little. If you feel good the next day you can always do more. The problem is that if you feel terrible the next day you can't go back in time and do less. So don't make the mistake. You simply cannot err on the side of doing too little. That's not a mistake. That's the right thing to do when you're starting out.

By starting out easy my friend felt good enough to do 5 minutes the next day. Guess what. It was easier. And it felt good! He started adding 1 minute a day. After a month he was doing 30 minutes a day. He started to listen to audio books on his iphone while he did it. He enjoyed it, he felt better and had more energy. That's all the time he had time for. But 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day is plenty to reap tons of positive health benefits.  Guess what. That's a great way to get fit. Does it sound like something you could do?

The plan: take a break in the company exercise room on the treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical trainer. Start with 5 minutes a day and gradually increase to 30 minutes a day. Keep heart rate below 70% of your max.

max heart rates is about 220 minus your half your age. Example:

Age 40: 205 - 20 = 185. 70% of 185 = 130

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