Starting a Fitness Program: Slow and steady is the key
If you are embarking on an exercise regimen, good for you! You want to live a healthier life, and that is commendable. But it is possible to be too eager – when it comes to exercising after a long time off, your mind may be in a ‘go hard or go home’ mode, but your body isn’t.
In fact, pushing yourself too hard too fast can result in stopping before you see any real results. Here are some reasons why over-enthusiasm can lead to early quitting:
Injury: Your body needs time to adapt to new forms of activity and new intensities. If you don’t allow your body to recover and readjust, it will weaken to the point of injury. And an injury means you won’t be able to exercise.
Burn out – Physical: When starting to exercise after a period of low physical activity, you’re going to be sore. After pushing yourself really hard for a week or two, you may not be able to envision exercising at that same pace for months. In short, such a difficult regimen is unsustainable. That’s why starting off slow, for shorter periods of time, will ‘build up’ rather than ‘burn out.’
Burn out—Mental: It takes mental effort to push your body to work hard. Your mind will have to work overtime if you push your body past its limits over and over again until you get to the point of “This is too hard, I don’t want to exercise anymore.” A gradual increase will not only ease your body into fitness, but your mind will have time to adjust as well.
Schedule: Working out 2 hours a day right away can really mess up your schedule. You have two less hours than you did before, and unless you can do laundry and give your kids a bath while at the gym, you may fall into the trap of “I have no time to work out.” That’s why it’s better to slowly carve out time in your schedule starting at 20 or 30 minutes, then increase until exercising becomes part of a new routine.
Unrealistic expectations: Let’s say you have been exercising for two weeks, you have been pushing yourself to the limit and your body feels like mush. This makes you think you should have lost at least 15 pounds – but the scale only says two. You may think “What’s the use? Exercising isn’t working” and give up. But remember that it may take time for your body to absorb the changes in diet and activity, even if you are doing these at an intense rate.
To start a successful fitness program:
- Slowly build up in time and intensity.
- Eat to fuel your body for increased physical stress, and drink plenty of water.
- Allow time for recovery, both during workouts and by taking ‘rest days’.
- Don’t push yourself when you feel pain, feel lightheaded or dizzy.
- Exercising is about challenging yourself to be healthy. “Working out” means that there is work involved: heavy breathing, accelerated heart rate and sweat. But pushing yourself too much too quickly does not make you ‘tough’ or show more dedication, because it is quite possible it will cause you to quit. To really be tough and dedicated, build up at a rate you can tolerate so that you stick with your exercise regimen for the long-term.
“Working out” means that there is work involved: heavy breathing, accelerated heart rate and sweat. But pushing yourself too much too quickly does not make you ‘tough’ or show more dedication, because it is quite possible it will cause you to quit. Here are some reasons why over-enthusiasm can lead to quitting:
- Mental and Physical burnout – you can’t sustain such an intense level of activity
- Scheduling problems – it’s easy to think you have no time for exercise if you try to dive in at two hours a day
- Unrealistic expectations – it may take a while to lose weight and form abs, even if you are working out like a maniac
A successful exercise regimen balances challenging yourself with pacing yourself. Slowly build up in time and intensity of workouts and don’t push yourself too hard. Allow for recovery so that your body can adjust to all the great changes you are making. Focus on a long-term, sustainable workout plan and you will be less likely to burn out and quit.