Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I promised in my last post to talk about getting started on a fitness program. I really think now is the time, rather than January 1 -- start while there is no illusion that you will keep everything perfect this time. There is no such thing as perfect. Each moment we have an opportunity to make a different choice. All those choices become our lives.

So the first thing is, what do you want? Anne sent me "Last Holiday" for my birthday, and even though the character Georgia is not living her life fully at the beginning of the movie, she at least knows what she wants with her "Book of Possibilities." What do you want to accomplish with your fitness program? Do you want to be able to play with your grandchildren? Do you want to be able to shop all day? Do you want to master a new sport? Do you want to train for an event, like a 5K? Do you want to fit into your skinny jeans? Whatever you really want, visualize it. I have "treasure maps," collages that I use to help me visualize my goals. One of the images from last year was Jillian Michaels doing a push-up. Thanks to my TRX class, I can actually do a push-up now. It doesn't matter if your goals seem silly -- I would recommend keeping your treasure map away from prying eyes and be really honest about what is going to get you excited about fitness.

Second, assess. What are you doing now? What can you do now? What do you like to do? Don't immediately plan to ramp up to a 6-day-a-week intense program if you are currently a couch potato. That's the way to become discouraged and maybe even injured. Don't decide to train for an Ironman when you've never done a race before. If you want to do an Ironman someday (great goal, but not for me, thanks), break it down: You will need to be able to swim. You will need to bike, and run. Are you doing any of those things? If not, pick one and start with that. Maybe train for a 5K or a long bike ride like the ones put on by the National Multiple Sclerosis society. But if you don't even own a bike, maybe start with a Spinning class before you go out and spend $1000+ on a brand-new ride. I'm a big believer in waiting to spend money until you know you're serious. I bought my bike for my first triathlon about 2 months before I did the race -- before that I trained in Spinning classes. I didn't need piece of equipment sitting in my garage making me feel guilty. If you think fitness purchases will motivate you, go to a friend's house and look at their $2000 NordicTrak clothes hanger. Use your goals to motivate you, not guilt!

Get help if you need it: If you're dealing with serious injuries, you may need to work with a physical therapist to determine what is safe and reasonable for you. I have gone through two or three bouts of physical therapy and it has always really helped me. Recently, because I was dealing with some joint issues that weren't severe, I talked to a personal trainer I know and trust who suggested some adjustments I could make to my posture. I knew her from some classes I had taken so I was sure she was knowledgeable and would give me good advice.

Next, make a plan for the next month. What are you going to do? When are you going to do it? When are you going to take a rest day (or days)? Plan activities that are fun and that will stretch you just a little. Sign up for any classes you want to take and then put your plan in your calendar like any other appointment.

Don't be afraid to start small and go one step at a time. As I said in my last post, I did daily walks for a long time before I tried to run. Once I had been doing the walks for a while and they felt comfortable, I signed up for a gym and started doing a simple strength training program I got out of a magazine. Then, after a month or two, I signed up for a yoga class at the gym. I liked the yoga class, so I tried another class.... The point was, I got comfortable with one step before adding or moving on to the next.

The biggest thing, though, is not to let setbacks start to build momentum. If you miss one day's workout, just do the next one. Don't wait a week so you can start out "perfect" again on Monday. If you feel frustrated and uncoordinated in your step aerobics class (like I did), try something else that sounds fun. Not every class is going to work for you: Sometimes the instructor bugs you, or the class is too crowded, or you just don't like it. Be patient with yourself, too. I still can't do all the reps with the instructor in my TRX class. I do what I can. I have gradually gotten better since the first class, and I know if I stick with it I will get stronger. That's the point, right? I don't tell myself I'm "weak" or "hopeless," I focus on how much I'm improving.

When you feel frustrated, that's the time to pull out that treasure map and remind yourself what you're working for. You can do it.

Seriously, though, start now. In fact, I'm going to quit typing and get dressed for my workout.


  1. P.S. Forgot the most important thing: You are you. You aren't me or anyone else. Your mileage may vary. Keep you eyes on your own goals and progress, not someone else's. Comparison is the key to heartache, I should know. I have derailed myself lots of times by letting someone else's successes make me feel like I was failing. There are always going to be opportunities to make yourself feel bad if you look for them. Don't!

    Ok, enough talk about fitness. Time for some action!

  2. Great post, great advice!

  3. Yes one of my goals is to do a 5 k walk. I have a list of goals on my board so I can view everyday. This helps alot


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07