Every January, hundreds of people descend upon their local gyms, determined that this is the year when they’ll become fit. A month later, nineteen out of twenty of them are gone – mostly because they had unrealistic expectations.
Getting fit requires determination, but it also helps if you know what you’re getting into. Before you hit the gym, here are seven things you should know:
Fitness Takes Time
You don’t get fit overnight, or even within a week. Most people take two or three weeks before they start to feel good from regular exercise, and two to three months before they can see the results in the mirror. Then figure on six months before the results really kick in.
Moreover, the longer since you were fit and the older you are, the longer getting fit will take. It’s not a pastime for those who want instant gratification.
Exercise Is Going to Hurt
You shouldn’t exercise to the point where you are crippled by sore muscles. But any time you try to get into shape or increase your fitness, you’re going to hurt a little, especially in the first week. Your muscles are being used in ways that you’re not used to, or else more than you’re used to, and they need time to adjust. If you don’t feel a little achy when you start a new fitness program, you are probably doing too little to do you much good.
Exercise Can Be Boring
Any exercise is basically a set of movements repeated over and over. That means that you are likely to get bored sooner rather than later. Some people combat the boredom with music players, but you might want to try varying your work out – for instance, doing intervals on the elliptical trainer one day, then a slower workout on the bike the next. Also, whenever possible, get out of the narrow confines of the gym and do part of your routine outside.
Exercise Is Not Really a Social Occasion
Going to the gym with friends may help you to workout regularly. However, once you’re in the gym, being with friends can be more of a handicap than a help. Talking while training usually means that you move more slowly, while talking between intervals or sets usually results in more talking than training. Either way, you also annoy those around you.
A word, too, about going to the gym with your significant other: if you’re accompanying them to be supportive, or to learn to share their interests, stay home and avoid the boredom. These reasons for going to the gym won’t do anything to keep you coming back in the long-run. They can also involve self-consciousness to say nothing of impatience as one of you waits for the other to finish their routine.
Cardiovascular Is Better Than Strength-Training
You might think that lifting weights or using machines is a less strenuous way to start getting fit than the treadmill or elliptical trainer. The trouble is, these exercises are not equivalent. Free or fixed weights are for building strength, the treadmill and elliptical trainer for cardiovascular development – and cv is what you mainly need to get fit. For all-round development, you want the right combination of both types of exercise, but, if you only have time for one, choose the cardiovascular exercises. They’ll do more for you.
Losing Fat Often Means Gaining Muscle
If you measure fitness by pounds lost, you may be disappointed to find that you are not losing weight as quickly as you’d hoped. To your horror, you may even be gaining a slight bit of weight. Usually, either of these events means that you are replacing fat with muscle mass. This is a good thing, and only avoidable by a very carefully designed routine.
But why would you want to avoid it? If you judge by how you feel and how you look, that new muscle is something you should want, regardless of whether you are male or female.
Exercise Alone Is Not Enough
Regularly scheduled exercise is only part of getting fit. To increase your chances of succeeding, you need to change other routine parts of your life. You need to walk instead of taking an elevator whenever possible, and to change both the amount that you eat and the quality of what you eat (in other words, cut out junk food). It means less caffeine, sugar, and salt as well.
Remember exercise is only part of the changes you need to make. Otherwise, you may actually sabotage your exercise by using it as an excuse to eat more.
Discouragement and Motivation
If any of these points discourage you or make you less inclined to start exercising, then very likely you are one of those who will drop out of their exercise program in a matter of weeks. Resolving to get fit is a commitment, and it can be an uncomfortable one, especially at first. Until you’re ready to face up to these facts, you’re not ready for the commitment.
By contrast, if you find yourself nodding at these points, or making notes, you may be ready to make the changes in your life that fitness implies. Why not hit the gym and find out?