Exercise for a New and Healthy Lifestyle

October 9, 2011

This is a guest post by Derek Carroll.

All through high school and even in college, I had always been fixated on exercising. I loved team sports, and I was always joining new teams and trying out new sports. Of course, like most people, I also led a life of a couch potato, but I would always compensate for the inactivity by walking or biking to school —even if I had been up till 3am the previous night. Though I’m far from being an athlete, exercise had always been —and still is — a huge component in my life.

What’s In it for You When You Exercise

  • You prove that you can do whatever you set out to do when you commit to it
  • Your confidence level goes up
  • You become determined to excel in all aspects
  • You prove your detractors wrong; that you can achieve the things they say you can’t
  • Become part of the Fitness Elite —earn your bragging rights as you become part of the 16 percent of Americans who exercise daily. Flaunt this to the rest of the 80 percent!

But Life Isn’t Easy

One ostensible reason why most people do not work out is the lack of time thanks to work commitments. It’s understandable: after a long day at work, after being yelled at by a fastidious boss, the last thing on your mind is exercise. However, do not let work run your life. Make it a habit to incorporate cardiovascular and resistance training into your daily routine.

Walking is the most basic form of exercise, and one that is also effective. I walk everywhere I can —you can walk to your office as well, just remember to bring an extra set of clothing. Many times a week, I indulge in my first love: team sports. If you’re ready for something a bit more extreme, check out the P90x workout by Tony Horton.

Invest in a set of Bowflex dumbbells so you can skip the gym —hence eliminating the excuse of ‘I have no time to hit the gym’— and work out at home. They’re adjustable, so you only need one set, instead of 15 sets of individual weights clogging up your room space. On different days, I vary my routine by using different weights as well as targeting different muscle groups. Spending just 20 minutes a day on these dumbbell exercises can make a whole lot of difference. Here’s a full Bowflex dumbbell review.

Here comes the inevitable: aging. While I am as committed to exercising as I was a young lanky lad, things do become a little more strenuous and difficult after a certain age. I am more prone to injuries, and my body takes more time to heal too. If you are in the same situation as I am, it is important to go back to basics and learn to exercise safely.

Be sure to go for regular checkups with the doctor. I do encourage you to consult with your physician before embarking on a new exercise routine. Your doctor will review your health status as well as any pre-existing medical conditions. One important tip I picked up from a trip to the doctor is that my injuries were caused by over-exertion or the adoption of poor form. These days, I keep these tips in mind when working out.

Revving Up Your Motivation

Motivation is what will keep you going. There are two types of motivation:

  • Intrinsic motivation is the pleasure and gratification you derive when you carry out the activity
  • Extrinsic motivation is the expectation of an external reward when you partake in an activity

If training alone, you will need to work on finding your intrinsic motivation. Here are some tips:

  • Be in comfortable wear and invest in the basic sports equipment
  • Protect yourself by using sports gear where necessary
  • Familiarize yourself with the techniques
  • Reward yourself based on your performance
  • Change your routines every now and then
  • Set achievable performance targets

If you are an exercise neophyte, you can really benefit from the guidance of a personal trainer. Not only will he push you beyond your limits, your personal trainer will keep you motivated when you are about to fall off the wagon. Check the credentials of your trainer and ensure that he is certified with reputable national agencies such as ACE, AFAA, ACSM or NSCA. Good trainers also know first aid and CPR, and will sit down with you to review your medical conditions.

Take Stress Out of It

Work and stress are two words used interchangeably. Exercising is one way you can combat stress. Do some deep breathing exercises prior to your workout. Train your mind to imagine taking in energy and exhaling stress. On days when my motivational level is low, I use visualization to help overcome doubts. This helps me to focus and ensure I hit my goals despite initially lacking the confidence to do it.

Three Steps to Exercise

Many newcomers often neglect the importance of warming up and they jump straight into the workout. Think of that as trying to drive a car without even starting the engine. When exercising, always follow this sequence:

  • Warm up
  • Main set
  • Cool Down

* The warm up is of paramount importance because it helps to increase blood flow and oxygen to your muscles. It readies your muscles so they can take the impact and intensity of a hardcore workout. Start off with a slow jog and then stretch out each muscle group, giving extra focus to the ones you will be using during your main set. You should never stretch till you feel pain —this may be an indication that your muscles are damaged.

Cooling down is another step that many overlook. Again, using the car analogy, think of not cooling down as coming to a sudden halt. Cool down exercises help to prevent injuries. Lower the intensity of your workout five to 10 minutes before ending your workout. It comes full circle: do what you did for your warm up exercises —a leisure jog coupled with stretching exercises.

A Healthy Diet is Winning 70% of the Battle

If losing weight is one of your goals, then nutrition is one factor you need to take a hard look at. Do you know that nutrition accounts for 70% of weight loss? Start eating right and the pounds will come off! Eat a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat —yes, you read it right. To increase your metabolism rate, supplement your meals with vitamins and minerals. Dehydration can also cause illness and lethargy, so always drink a lot of water throughout the entire day.

Post-exercise nutrition can give you a great boost, not just with regard to your energy level but to your recovery as well. It is during the recovery phase that your muscles grow, so naturally you feed them with the right nutrients. You can refuel your body with a sports drink or even chocolate milk —your sugar level is low and these drinks will give you the energy boost you need to go about your day.

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