With the Slimdown Challenge rapidly approaching, I thought I’d write about setting goals and kicking off exercise. Weight-loss is hard. It takes planning, drive, moving, dedication, and a lot of celery. However, it doesn’t have to be a huge, daunting task that consumes your entire life.
Before any lifestyle modification, goals should really be in place to help give you direction on where you are going, and to help give you guidance for the steps along the way. I frequently use and promote “SMART” goal-planning which stands for:
S-Specific (Detailed, answers “what I want to accomplish” IE: I want to lose 20 lbs)
M-Measurable (Tangible/concrete accomplishment. Lbs lost, miles walked, workout days)
A-Attainable (Think about lifestyle and time; what’s important to you; can you do it)
R-Realistic (This goal must be something you want to do, can do and am willing to work for)
T-Time (Pick a time-frame to accomplish. 1 month? 1 year?)
Whether this goal is for the 8 week Slimdown, or to go beyond that point, make sure you are committed to your goal, and that you have the support you need to make it happen.
Once your goal is set, it’s a good idea to create a game plan to keep you on task. This could include meal planning, setting up exercise sessions, designating times for meal preparation, grocery shopping—or whatever you need with your particular goal. This could be very simple or a very elaborate plan, but make it work for YOU and what will give you the success you need.
Next topic: Kick-starting exercise.
We’ve all heard exercise is good for you. 30 minutes a day, most days of the week-- break a sweat and boom, you’re looking fantastic. If only it were that easy.
Exercise is intimidating, especially if you haven’t exercised recently. There’s weird machines at the gym, the potential for sore muscles, the large grunting man lifting weights in the corner of the gym and the “what the heck do I do” thought that may cross your mind.
I think exercise is easier to pencil in and do when you realize the benefits and learn the consequences of not participating. Instead of getting on my exercise soap box for a novel, I will say that exercise enhances almost every organ and system within our body, and has properties that can keep you living longer, happier lives. You really can’t/shouldn’t live without it! Find YOUR reason and motivation and stick to it.
Ok, back to the point. It’s always good to see your primary care physician before starting an exercise program. They can give you suggestions of what type of exercise would be best for your body, discuss injury prevention, talk about any contraindications and answer any questions you may have.
Once you have your clearance, it’s time to decide what exercise options work for you (Diddly Squats do NOT count J). Are you more of an individual exerciser? A group fitness participant? Maybe personal training would be your thing? (I wish laundry and dishes gave bonus calorie burn). Some people find that they also enjoy working out with a buddy to keep them accountable and on task—you know yourself better than anyone so keep this in mind too!
Once you’ve decided on what type of exercise you plan to engage in, whether it’s individual or group, you want to make sure you have the proper equipment. This would include clothing, shoes and any equipment you may need. Having the right equipment can make or break your exercise experience, and can unfortunately be a factor with injuries, so you want to make sure you have everything you need! I’m a big fan of walking because it takes little equipment and is something most people can do, but it’s nice to break out of the walking-shell and try something new! Also, remember to pencil in YOUR exercise time, and treat it as an immovable appointment.
Once you’re good to go, it’s time to get excited! You’ve made it this far! I usually tell people to start off slow with exercise, and to make sure that you incorporate warming up and cooling down with exercising. It’s a good rule of thumb to STOP with any abnormal pain/discomfort and listen to your body throughout. A little discomfort is normal, but any more could be a sign of injury. Starting off with only 10-15 minutes of exercise may be best for you to avoid the dreaded pain after exercise, but know you can always work your way up!
Sometimes it takes a few weeks to see changes, or to see any progressions with exercise and that’s ok. You’re likely not going to regret any time you spend exercising and all will be beneficial in one way or another to your health. Once you do start to see those changes in your body, or the exercises become easier, you can start to shake things up by adding more days of the week to your workout regime; more time while exercising, or more intensity which could be more weights, or a hill while walking on the treadmill. Your body needs those adjustments and changes with the workout so that it can make the adjustments and changes to ‘keep up’ with the exercise.
Weight-loss doesn’t have to be this huge undertaking—little changes go a long way, and finding what works for you with your own lifestyle changes (diet, exercise) are vital to success.
Remember, you CAN do it, one step at a time!!!