Published July 2002

Tips to help you stay on fitness track

By The Women Fitness Team
Guest Columnist

Starting a weight-loss and fitness program is easy (just like quitting smoking, most of us have done it a thousand times!) — it’s staying with it that proves trickier. Here are Top 10 tips that have been proven to keep even the most loyal couch spud on track:

Create a “team”: By working out with a friend or a group of friends. Just like a football team, you will be more likely to stick it out if a teammate(s) is encouraging you to “just do it.” Another tactic is to swap gym tips with your workout friend after you finish to give you a reason to visit the gym again the next day.

Setting realistic goals: One of the reasons why women tend to drop out is due to the frustration of expecting high, unachievable goals from their exercise program and then failing to see results. Try focusing on what you’ve already achieved, rather than where you want to go with your weight. Also, measure your success by more than just the scale. That is, commend yourself for being more fit, feeling better about yourself in general, being in a more “up” frame of mind — or whatever else your efforts at eating healthier and exercising are getting you. With time, weight loss should follow.

According to the USDA, a realistic weight loss would be about 10 percent of your current weight over about six months. Losing weight at this slower rate will allow you to enjoy enough healthy foods to feel satisfied and adequately nourish your body.

Make a contract: Be specific about the type and frequency of exercise you will do each week. Additionally, spell out the reward you’ll get if you make it (a massage, a new CD) or the punishment if you don’t (cleaning out the cat box instead of having your kid do it). Record your progress. Remember getting those gold stars in first grade for a job well done? You’d be surprised how motivating they still can be. Keep a chart or calendar for recording your “marks.”

Handle the details: Whatever you need to do before you start a program — getting shoes, choosing a walking or jogging route, buying a piece of equipment, getting enrolled into the right club — do it. Don’t allow the little details to create a large, imaginary roadblock.

Make exercise enjoyable: This is most important. Find an activity you like — or at least don’t hate — doing, otherwise you’ll never stick to it for very long.

Keep on keeping on: Studies show it takes 21 days to make a habit stick. If you can hang in there for six months, chances are good you’ll become a lifelong exerciser.

Vary your exercise schedule: Every now and then you can vary your exercise schedule, either beginning with a cardio workout or strength training. Do not forget to warm up and stretch before your workout. This will keep your muscle guessing and replace monotony.

Healthy weight loss is impossible unless supplemented with a healthy, low-fat diet and the right exercise program. To keep a check on your portion size, weigh and measure foods for a while — another way of making sure that you’re not eating more than you think you’re eating. See if you’re consistently going over the portion sizes listed on packaged foods.

Rest, a complete essential: Your mind and body need rest from the daily stress and strain of life. By incorporating a day of rest in your exercise routine, you lessen your chance of injury and give the muscles time to recover and build. Besides, after a day of rest, you will be better charged with more energy and commitment to exercise even longer than you had been initially doing.

Listen to your body: While some muscle aches or discomforts are to be expected when you push yourself during exercise, pain is not. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. If you continue exercising through pain, you risk injury. And if you have an injury, take some time off. You risk health damage, and your recovery will take longer if you don’t! In certain cases, you might need to temporarily drop out of exercise.

If you continue to do all these things and still don’t lose weight, you should ask your doctor if he/she thinks you should run some tests to determine if you have a medical problem that’s getting in your way.

The bonus of eating a well-balanced diet producing a slower, steady weight loss is that the foods you are eating when you’re losing weight are the same healthy foods you’ll need to eat to maintain your weight loss. Also, spreading your weight loss over a six-month period (depending on the amount of weight loss desired), will give you enough time to make the necessary changes in your habits, such as learning to minimize nonhunger eating and exercising regularly. Taken together, eating only when hungry and exercising will help you stick with your fitness program, help you to get the weight off and keep it off — for the long haul. In essence, you will be mastering maintenance while you’re losing weight.

This column was submitted by Women Fitness, an online guide for women to achieve healthy weight and optimum fitness, located on the Web at Members of the Women Fitness Team include Women Fitness Founder Namita Nayyar, who is an Aerobics and Fitness Instructor certified by the International Fitness Association, and a group of personal trainers, nutritionists and doctors.

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