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Published: Monday, 2/23/2009

How to start a workout routine that works

BY DR. CATHY CANTOR
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Cathy Cantor. Cathy Cantor.
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Each month physicians from ProMedica and Mercy Health Partners willl write columns about weight loss and fitness.

Congratulations! You have taken the first step to a healthier lifestyle by joining the Million Pound Challenge. Before you rush out to buy a gym membership and spend money on a new outfit, there are some things you should know about starting a workout routine.

The hardest part is getting started. First, be honest with yourself and don t make excuses.

The No. 1 excuse is that people don t have time. We realize that everyone s lifestyle is different. Whether you are a full-time parent, work 40 or more hours a week, or do both, remember to take time out of the day for your mental and physical health.

If your excuse is that working out is too hard, you re right. They don t call it working out for nothing. You need to be prepared to sweat, breathe hard, and have sore muscles after an intense workout, but don t get frustrated. It will get easier.

Now before you start a routine, you should know the definitions of some basic fitness terms.

Aerobic or cardiovascular activities are exercises that speed up your heart rate and breathing. Running or walking, swimming, and dancing are just a few aerobic exercises.

Strength, weight, and resistance training is an important part of any workout routine. These activities are focused on increasing strength and improving the function of muscles. Yoga, Pilates, and resistance-band and free-weight exercises are just some examples of this type of training.

Repetitions and sets are two terms used during strength-training exercises. A repetition, or rep, is how many times you perform an exercise during a set. A set refers to repeating an exercise a certain number of times. An example would be three sets of 10 reps. In all, you will do 30 reps.

Now that you are caught up on some fitness definitions, here are some more helpful tips to get you started on your journey:

• Set goals: Find your motivation. Do you want to lose weight or do you want to build muscle and get stronger? Whatever your goal is, make sure it s realistic. Placing too much pressure on yourself can be overwhelming and, in the end, discourage you from reaching your goals. If your goal is to lose an extreme amount of weight, start with smaller weight-loss goals, so you are able to celebrate your success along the way.

• Get your body moving: Any increase in physical activity is better than no activity. Your goal should be 30 minutes to an hour every day. But don t be disheartened if your schedule is packed. If necessary, break up exercise into 10 minutes segments over the course of the day. Building activity into your everyday routine helps you burn more calories overall. For example, when you go shopping or to work, park at the far end of the parking lot. Skip the elevator and take the stairs.

• Develop healthier habits: There are two easy steps to developing healthy habits eating right and exercising right. Try to stop yourself from eating that second slice of pizza or snacking between meals. When you think you are hungry, drink a large glass of water and wait 20 minutes. If you are still hungry after the 20 minutes, elect a healthier alternative than the food in the vending machine at work. Start packing healthy snacks like carrots or pretzels, or bring back a childhood favorite like celery and peanut butter.

• Get a workout buddy: Enlist friends and family to workout with you and create a workout schedule. Your workout buddy will ensure that you don t get bored during exercise, give you someone to celebrate triumphs with, motivate you when you are feeling weak, and push you to try harder.

• Be proud of yourself: The fact that you are getting up and exercising at all is an accomplishment. After you start your routine, you will notice that you are moving better, your energy levels are up and you feel stronger. Reinforce the positives and reward yourself with healthy prizes, such as a trip to the mall, the latest high-tech gadget, or a movie (but skip the butter on the popcorn).

Remember, every day is a new opportunity to make improvements in your body and in your life.

Cathy Cantor is a board-certified doctor of internal medicine, sports medicine, and pediatric medicine with ProMedica Physician Group.



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