Transform Your Body
It's not an accident, coincidence or just good genes that keep someone fit with what seems like relatively little effort. Before ever stepping foot in a gym, you should have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish -- weight loss, fat loss, muscle tone, muscle mass, health, endurance, strength, and the list goes on. These goals become an exercise road map that navigate your program in the right direction.
Make a determined effort to educate yourself. There's definitely not a shortage of information on health and fitness -- but that's half the problem. We're actually saturated with too much misinformation. The question then becomes, "Who's right?"
The safest advice is to stay middle-of-the-road, using a fitness plan that's been proven to work over a long period of time. Anything that's too extreme is probably just hype, a waste of time and potentially dangerous. Don't limit yourself to one book, article or point of view, but try and get a balanced perspective on what's the most current and best information.
If you seek advice from a professional be sure he or she is accredited, but ultimately learn to be your own judge on what works best. This fitness sense isn't developed overnight, but over a period of time learning and experimenting.
Pair exercise with specific goals
To give you a head start, I've provided a list of some of the most common goals and generalized instruction on how to reach each one.
1. Lose pounds and inches
Losing weight is best accomplished with aerobic-type exercise such as walking, jogging or swimming, but long-lasting weight loss is also achieved through the acquisition of some lean muscle mass.
2. Build muscle mass and/or muscle tone
The best way to build or tone muscle and change the shape of your body is with strength exercises like squats, bench presses, or push-ups performed with a progressive resistance. There is no substitute here.
3. Build strength, endurance, energy
Building lasting strength and endurance is accomplished with a combination of aerobic and strength training, challenging yourself in small increments.
4. Improve health
To achieve and maintain overall health and reduce the risk of certain diseases and injury, put together a gentle mix of aerobic, strength and flexibility training that doesn't go overboard, but still produces solid results.
Most successful fitness plans will include of a variety of aerobic, strength, and flexibility training, applied at a variety of intensity levels. Take the time to develop a functional understanding of each one, its effect on your body, and then strike the right balance that produces results and fits into your life.
Knowledge is power
Gather as much information as possible so you can make informed decisions on how to exercise, but no matter what program you choose to follow, be guided by these basic principles.
Examples: Walking, swimming, bicycling
Effect: Burns fat and builds endurance
Repeat: 2 to 6 times per week for 20 to 30 minutes at your target heart rate
Examples: Squats, bench presses, push ups, sit ups, leg presses
Effect: Improves muscle tone, builds strength, endurance, revs metabolism
Repeat: 2 to 5 times weekly for 20 to 30 minutes
Examples: Stretching exercises, yoga
Effect: Creates permanent elasticity, increases range of motion
Repeat: 2 to 7 times weekly for 5 to 30 minutes
Your frequency of aerobic exercise can range from as few as two days to as many as six days per week, while strength training can run the gamut of a two to five day program. The restorative effect of stretching allows it to be performed almost every day.
Stick to the basics and avoid extremes of any kind. Learn for yourself what's hype and what works. Read information from credible sources and speak to local experts that you're sure are trustworthy. Base your program on solid principles and not the latest infomercial or ab-gadget. Getting in shape is not something that happens overnight.
Be sensible, have patience, stay focused on the day-to-day small steps, and your body will transform.