Friday, January 3, 2014

7 Tips for Keeping Your New Year's Resolution to Get Fit!

1)  Pace yourself.  A common pitfall for people trying to start an exercise regime is “too much too soon” or going from “0 to 60.”  If you have been sitting a lot at work, on the couch, or on a bar stool for most of 2013 you shouldn’t start the first week of 2014 by exercising every day.  Your body and mind needs time to adjust to the new physical stress of exercise. Your body also needs time to recover, especially as we get older.  Too much too soon often times leads to an injury. A simple plan to follow if you are just starting back after a long hiatus is to aim for 3 workouts per week for the first 4 weeks.  If you are somewhat fit and have only been off the wagon for a few months or are a former athlete and feel like you can endure more, workout every other day or every 2 days.  Another strategy is complete a total body strength workout the 1st day, followed by a low intensity “recovery” workout like a 20 min jog or swim, 30 min on the stationary bike, 45 min walk at a fast pace or a beginner yoga class on the 2nd day and rest on the 3rd day, then repeat.  Increase the frequency, intensity, duration and change the types of workouts after you feel an improvement in your fitness and start to feel comfortable, then its time to push past your comfort zone.  In the meantime, capitalize on the New Year's motivation and just aim to be consistent!

2) Cross Train.  There are many components to fitness:  muscle strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance, body composition, flexibility, balance, agility, power, speed and coordination.  Different types of exercise will help improve one or some of these components.  The more variation there is in your workouts the more fit you will become.  Only running will only work on cardiovascular endurance and leg strength (depending on the type of running workouts done) but it does nothing for flexibility, upper body strength, balance, coordination, etc.  Only practicing yoga will definitely make you more flexible and have good balance but, if your main goal is weight loss it is not the most time-effective.  It takes months and even years to develop a good practice especially if you are lacking upper body and core strength.  Also, if you only participate in one activity that doesn’t incorporate various movement patterns like running, cycling, and single-joint weight-lifting you are at risk of developing an overuse injury.  Activities that are great for increasing fitness with a huge calorie burn are gymnastics, dance and martial arts.  They are most effective because they challenge all the components of fitness. Think about what you would like to improve, what you need to improve and what would be the most fun. Explore, experiment and get excited about the various ways you can become more fit!

3)  Learn proper technique.  Technique is the key to making any activity effective.  Correct form and alignment will prevent injury and insure that you are getting the most out of your effort.  If you are in the gym without a clue of what to do ask a trainer.  Most gyms like Reebok Sports Club/NY have trainers on the floor that are there to answer your questions.  If it is not in your budget to hire a Personal Trainer or Coach, find a Group Exercise Instructor that pays attention to the participants’ form and technique or simply buy books. I personally feel nothing is learned better than through practical experience, so before you go off and spend on another expensive designer whatever, think about the price of your health and fitness and choose to invest in yourself.

Some of my favorite resources:

 “How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy”, by Paul Chek

"The Yoga Bible", by Christina Brown, Ann-Marie Gallagher.




"Runner's World Complete Book of Running: Everything You Need to Run for Fun, Fitness and Competition,"  by Amby Burfoot


Group Exercise Instructor and 3-time World Kettlebell Sport Champion,
Lorna Kleidman:

Teaches a kettlebell class called Kettle X at various Equinox and the JCC. 

 4)  Set realistic goals.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and becoming more fit won’t either.  Aim to be consistent at first, then to feel better, then to reach the actual prize.  Whether it be to shrink a few sizes, increase your muscle mass, play a sport without injury or just keep up with your kids.  Set short term goals first so you medial maintain consistency and in time you’ll cross the finish line. 

5)  Make it social.  Join a club, sports team like Zogsports or enlist a friend to join you on your quest for better fitness.  Having a support team or someone to share the experience can give people the courage to get out of their comfort zone or face a new challenge.

Some fun groups I've had the honor of training with:

In Southern CT,  Team Mossman (at my 1st Triathlon camp in 2009)

In NYC,  Bridle Path Track Club at Ragnar Relay 2011

In Morris County, NJ 
Q CrossFit at a Kettbell Sport Workshop with Lorna Kleidman


6)  Sleep more.  It is not enough to just add physical exercise to your fitness regime.  Rest is equally important.  The body makes adaptations from the stress of exercise when it is resting or sleeping.  People are more likely to stick with an activity when they see results.  Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night to gain results.

7) Eat better but don’t make a huge overhaul to your diet.   All the hours of exercise and rest will not help you reap the benefits of your efforts unless you have healthy eating habits.  A diet of all-natural wholesome foods will be nutrient dense and low calorie which will help you use more energy for all your activities, recover better from all the stress, feel and look better.  You also have to be happy about what you eat.  Learn about and try different foods.  This will help you make better choices.  Know the unhealthy foods that you can’t live without like french fries or milkshakes.  Aim for a 80%:20% split.  If you are eating 80% healthy and 20% whatever that will ensure you lose weight, stay healthy and still enjoy the occasional meal of a burger and fries. 

Becoming more fit is a process and a lifestyle choice that takes consistency and hard work but it can be fun if you find options you enjoy and start feeling and seeing results.