Top Ten Tips for an Active Lifestyle
With the busy lives we lead these days, we need all the help we can get to not only get started on an exercise program but to keep going once we have begun. These ten tips are small things that can go a long way towards making you successful no matter what your particular goals may be.
1. Set realistic goals
Most beginners are too idealistic when they begin a workout plan. When they miss a workout here and there, they give up because the time demands they set for their workouts are too great. When beginning an exercise program, pick out a realistic amount of time you will workout each week. Spend a few minutes each week mapping out your schedule and decide where exercise fits in the best. It is also a good idea to decide on a back-up plan for those days when you get off track. For example, if you have company in town and you find yourself exhausted by 10 pm, know what you can do to give your body a little bit of attention. It may be as simple as a quick "at home workout" consisting of push-ups, sit-ups, and some stretching. The more realistic you are up front, the easier it will be to stay motivated.
2. Do it right
When you are first getting started on any exercise program, it is a good idea to seek the advice of professionals to insure you are making the right choices. Speaking with and getting the consent of your doctor is a must before beginning any exercise program. Once you have your doctor's consent, taking time to learn about the activities you are starting to do will save you countless problems. Meeting with a personal trainer to get instruction on proper technique and learn your way around the gym is a great way to get up to speed fast. If you do not want to work with a trainer, go to a group exercise class where the instructor will provide tips on the exercises you are doing, or do your own learning in books, on this site, or other places on the Internet. The more you learn beforehand about working out, different machines, proper technique, stretching, etc, the easier it is to maximize your time in the gym.
3. Get consistent sleep
Decide what bedtime and wake-up time works best with your natural body rhythm and stick with it as best you can. There will always be extenuating circumstances, but if you know what time you should aim for, it will help insure you get the sleep you need. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep per night to feel their best. Sleeping enough and thus feeling your best is key to getting the most out of your workouts. Being too tired is one of the major excuses people use to skip workouts. The more consistent you get with your schedule, the easier it will be for you stay on track.
4. Preset for your workout
The night before a workout, set out your workout clothes in a visible place or pack them in your bag to take with you when you leave your home. Make sure they are in a place you cannot miss when tired in the morning. Presetting your workout clothes not only insures that you have no trouble in the morning to prepare, but it also gets you in the mindset before you go to sleep that you are working out the next day. Keeping yourself in a consistent routine is key to your success and presetting gives you much less opportunity to blow that routine.
5. Eat wisely
Many people workout very hard and with consistency, but can't seem to lose those last few pounds. Often the reason for this lies within their diet. Exercise is only one component of the weight loss equation. If you are not eating the right foods, your results may be disappointing. One good rule of thumb when food shopping is: if it is not going to help you reach your goals, don't buy it. It is hard to eat junk food if it is not in your house. Making good nutritional decisions between workouts will help tremendously when looking for results.
6. Drink water
Those two words should say it all. Precisely how much water you need to take in depends on numerous factors including the environment where you live, your health conditions, and your activity level, but a general guideline is that you need at least 8 cups of water each day. Keep a water bottle in your briefcase, purse, or backpack and it will be hard to forget to drink. Staying adequately hydrated can prevent headaches, dizziness, combat fatigue as well as prevent dehydration. One hour prior to your workout, make sure you drink a little extra so that you are ready to work as soon as it is time for your workout to begin.
7. Fuel up
If your car does not have gasoline, it will not be able to run. The same principle applies to your body. If you have not eaten enough, or enough of the right foods, you will not be able to push your body during your workouts. A general rule of thumb is to eat every four hours for men, and every three hours for women. This keeps a steady supply of energy going into your body so as to not find yourself feeling weak from lack of energy, or sluggish from eating too much in one sitting. Take a look at the USRDA Food Pyramid for a good guide for building a healthy diet. They recommend whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and minimal sugar, fat, and sodium added to your diet.
8. Get moving
The hardest part of any workout is the first 5 minutes. If you are tired, upset, or just have things on your mind, you may not feel like working out. Set your emotions aside for five or ten minutes and do a warm-up by stepping onto a cardio machine, or going for a walk. As you are warming up, clear your mind of the issues of your day and focus only on the workout you are about to do. This will prepare both your body and mind to reap the benefits of working out.
9. Know your workout
In order to maximize your workout time, whether at home, in the gym, or outside, know what your workout is going to be and how long you have to execute it. That way you will not find yourself wasting time wandering from machine to machine trying to figure out how it works or if you should try it. When planning your workout beforehand, you will have to take into account how you feel as well as your environment. If the only time you have to workout is rush hour at the gym when every machine is full, perhaps you should take a class that day. If it is pouring rain and you were planning on biking outside, hop onto an exercise bike or take a spinning class. Having reasonable backup plans for when things change mid-day will help keep you on track.
10. Be patient
It is important to be patient with your progress and understand that consistency is the key to seeing results. Do not get discouraged if progress seems to take longer than you had hoped. Rome was not built in a day, nor will your ideal physique be built in a day. If you keep focused and working hard, you will see results soon enough.
Spending a few minutes incorporating these guidelines into your lifestyle and exercise goals will go a long way in keeping yourself active and on track toward reaching those goals. You may want to write your goals down to hold yourself accountable to them. You may just want to tell a friend or family member to help keep you on track. Whatever you decide to do, keep moving and realize that every little bit of exercise helps.