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Make it Happen!: Physical Fitness

  By Linda Byard            

We all know that physical activity helps us live longer and live better. Thinking about exercise is one thing, but actually doing it regularly is quite another story. Just way too busy, right? But sometimes our pursuit of health or a more attractive body really does motivate us to change our life styles.

One common dilemma: do I work out from home, or should I join a health club? “Health Club: You Belong There!” will offer you some tips on picking a health club. However, people can and do work out in and near their homes successfully. I’ll give you some hints on how to achieve your exercise goals while staying right in your house in the second part of the article, “Home is Where the Heart Is.”

Whether you choose to exercise at home or at a club, try to set realistic and measurable goals. Someone who is not doing any exercise at all might start out with scheduling ten minutes of exercise every day. A ten minute walk four times a week, and ten minutes of strength and toning exercises on the other three days, and you are on your way! The key is not to stop there. Do a little more during week two. Don’t be discouraged if you miss a day but do jump back on track. Soon you will feel so good after exercising that you won’t want to miss a day no matter where you choose to exercise. Do not use weight loss as a goal. Think of it as a bonus which will likely accompany meeting your exercise goals over a period of time. You really can achieve a good level of Physical Fitness

Health Club: You Belong There!

Why would you want to join a health club? Maybe you don’t think that a treadmill fits in well with your décor. It bores you to even think about stepping on this or any other machine. You may have a few muscles that you think work pretty well, and you don’t know about the rest because you haven’t tried them lately. You know that physical fitness is not something you have the self-discipline or knowledge to achieve with a home exercise program. It’s just not you. You might like to try some group fitness classes or at least exercise in the company of others. You might like to think about fitness machines later on, but you would rather someone else picked them out and maintained them.

Approach a health club membership like you would any large purchase. Don’t lose your common sense in the warm, friendly sales pitches you are likely to hear. The salespeople generally work on commission and they will be very welcoming but make no mistake; they are not going to be your friends.

Achieving physical fitness requires time and effort, and you will want to find a health club that is right for you. Most clubs offer a complimentary work out. With a little begging, you may even get a week’s worth. It is important to try out everything that you might be at all tempted to use in a particular facility. That includes classes, machines, showers, and so on. Try to use your free pass at a time when you would likely use the gym. Be tuned in to who else is there. Gyms do have a social component, and you may enjoy meeting others who exercise at the same time. If you are a sixty year old grandmother, you may not like a gym where there are always twenty year old guys hanging around flexing their biceps. On the other hand, you might!

Some facilities are beautiful and offer all the latest bells and whistles. Others are more modest but each should be clean and well organized. Probably there will be a room with fitness equipment. There should be someone in attendance all the time who will be able to show you how to use various machines, and give you some general tips. Try these machines out and imagine yourself using them often. Are there enough different ones to keep you from total boredom, and will they stimulate you to exercise different muscles? Are there enough machines to accommodate the membership at the times you are likely to go there? Are there easy to watch televisions? Is there music playing? Windows with an extraordinary view? What kind of atmosphere do you think will work best for you?

Your membership may include a session with a trainer who will work out an individualized program for you based on your physical condition and your goals. But it will be your job to come on a regular basis and go through your routine. Ask yourself if you are going to need constant reassurance and praise? If the answer is yes, you might do well to hire a personal trainer to accompany you as you work out either regularly or when your motivation starts flagging.

A much less expensive alternative would be for you to take group fitness classes instead of working out on machines either some or all of the time you exercise. Classes provide the structure that helps many people stay motivated and enthused. Likely you will find some combination of aerobic classes, and strength and toning classes that will meet your needs and interests. You might even find some unexpected special classes in dancing or yoga or other activity. Classes tend to be less tedious than working out on machines, and time goes by quickly. You might also enjoy meeting others in your classes.

Do try out a few classes during your trial and observe carefully. Here are some issues to consider:

Is the teacher competent and able to run a reasonably good class?

Does the teacher make it up as he/she goes along? Or is the routine set? How much change can you expect over several weeks?

Does the teacher suggest different movements reflecting different levels of fitness amongst the participants?

Does the gym offer a good balance of classes during the times when you might most easily get there?

Is the music too loud?

Does the class start and end on time?

Talk to some people. Have they been coming for years? Are they enthusiastic about their memberships?

Here are some other questions to consider when comparing different facilities:

Is there a member’s lounge?

Do you think you would use it?

Food to buy? A place to eat?

Is there child care on premises?

How about a sauna? Jacuzzi?

Do you like the shower/locker room setup? Is everything clean? Are there ample supplies in the rest rooms?

Are there mirrors in the classrooms? These are really good for checking your own form.

Is the club in a convenient location for you?

Look hard at cost. Is there a membership fee in addition to a monthly cost? Can you “freeze” your membership if you go out of town for an extended period? How much does that cost? Is there an extra charge for towels? Lockers? Is it less expensive if you join for a year rather than pay monthly? Does it cost extra to attend special interest classes? Which ones? Are you likely to want those? Do some “guest” passes come with the membership? If not, how much do they cost? Will you get a break if your spouse joins as well?

There are no correct answers to any of these questions. You just need to find the right club for you.

Home is Where Your Heart Is

While health clubs are certainly appealing, some people are just not able to take that route to physical fitness. Factors which can hold people back are extremely tight finances, an inability to work out in a public place because of obesity or total lack of confidence, or there may be no health club located nearby. But people can and do work out successfully at home. It takes a lot of motivation and self-discipline but it can be done. The very first and most important thing to do is to give physical fitness a very high priority in your life. Put workouts on your calendar and do not let anything other than true emergencies keep you from working out at your scheduled times. Many people like to get up in the morning and get this done so that even if the day gets crazy, the workout has been completed. Schedule your times and stick to them.

Supplement your exercise with a vigorous walk three or four times a week. Possibly you can find a friend or other family member to do this with. Get yourself appropriate weatherproof clothing and don’t be put off by rain or snow. If you walk alone, you might like a radio you can strap on your arm with ear phones to listen to music or the news while you walk. If you use music, remember that your body will naturally accommodate itself to the beat so don’t listen to lullabies. Having a destination approximately half the distance you want to cover helps. A pedometer will also help ensure that you meet your personal goal for the day.

People who exercise at home often buy machines but they do have their drawbacks. They are expensive, and they may take up a lot of space. Each one also only allows you to work only on certain muscle groups. After a while any machine can become very boring and you may not get a good enough workout once a particular muscle group gets strong. The key to working out at home is always going to be variety before you are in shape – and after. That is not to say that a machine is not useful. It might be. But a set of light and heavy hand weights, exercise elastics, and an exercise ball will set you back less than a hundred dollars, won’t ever break, and can go a long way to helping you get and stay fit. Plus storage is a snap. These items all come with instructions for working out plus you can find still more ways to use these items in magazines, on the web, books and so on. You will want to change your workout frequently both to work different muscles and also to avoid boredom.

Video tapes and DVDs are also popular. Stand in front of the television screen, turn one on, and an expert will tell you exactly what to do. These video teachers are remarkably diverse in style and you will soon notice a variety in the quality of the programming as well. Before you buy any of these, you might like to check some out from your local public library. Remember that what you may find somewhat entertaining at first, may seem totally obnoxious after you see it a number of times. Celebrity instructors, even reasonably good ones, sometimes have distasteful mannerisms. Do an aerobic work out a few times a week and then work in some strength and toning videos on alternate days. No one will prompt you so it is up to you to work hard and build up a sweat.

If you buy tapes or DVDs on the web, look for sites with an extensive collection of workouts and which offers you the chance to see video clips on-line. Also look for web-sites which employ people who have actually done the workouts and can provide you with some advice either on line or on the telephone. Probably you will find a few teachers whose style you enjoy. You only need a couple of tapes, but again allow for the boredom factor to enter. If it starts getting really hard to face that same big cheery smile again, and you are no longer feeling challenged, it may be time to try a new workout. Look for tapes that will force you to use different muscles. You always want to be building some muscle tissue. You can also find used videos on popular internet sites, sometimes very inexpensively. Or find a friend that you can trade with every now and then.

Sports can substitute for some of your workouts and also add some variety. Team sports can be great fun and add something to your social life although the very thought might strike terror in your heart. Still, many people can find a place to swim, or might gradually add some running to their walks, or convince a spouse that some after dinner badminton is a good way to end a summer day. There is also cross country skiing and ice skating and snowshoeing. Make yourself try a new activity once in a while. You might find one you really like. Substitution of one activity for another is stimulating to both the body and the brain. Your body will thank you for whatever you do manage to get it to do.

If you didn’t exercise yesterday or last week or even last year, don’t let that stop you from what you might do today. Every day is a new day and you can start right now.

Linda Byard

More articles from Linda:

20 Dieting Tips Be slim and live longer!
Diet for Kids Healthy kids.
Fitness Be serious about fitness
Survive Long Flights Living in the stratosphere
35 Travel Tips for Americans Enjoy your Visit to Europe. Linda's advice could prove invaluable.


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