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Archive for the ‘exercise’ Category

For at least the twentieth time, I am currently in the process of getting back into shape. As a regular exerciser, I find it an effort that consists equally of humiliation and patience.

I know that treatment for an injured knee should include staying off it. However, when you live alone, that’s not possible. There’s no one else to do the laundry or cook meals, and even ordering take out means dragging yourself to the door. Occasionally, too, I need groceries, and although neighbors and friends offer to help, it’s easier for me to get them myself than describe with precision the food I want.

As a result, the original injury is only the start. After a few days, collateral damage sets in on the other leg. If I’m especially unlucky, the collateral damage can cross back and forth several times between legs.

Being forced into as much inactivity as I can manage is a blow to my self-image, because for much of my life I’ve been on the high end of fitness. Suddenly, my muscles feel flaccid. Simple tasks like pulling on socks and shoes require all my ingenuity.

Even worse, as I hobble out with a cane, I am slower than everyone else – slower, sometimes, than even octogenarians. Instead of offering help, I am faced with the decision of whether to forget my pride and accept it. Instead of giving up my seat on the bus, I am offered one. Twenty times a day, I tell myself to cultivate patience, and sing Stan Roger’s “The Mary Ellen Carter” in my head to keep myself going. When I come home, I collapse on the bed, as often as not falling asleep before I can pull my shoes off.

Nor does the ordeal end with the last of the collateral damage. Having gone for days without the usual outlets for my excess energy, my first impulse is to throw myself back into my full exercise routine. But the sensible part of me knows that is the last thing I should do. Three or four days of full exercise will only make me an invalid again. I have to start slowly, if not from the beginning, then close enough to it that my pride takes another beating. Often, the first few days leave me feeling like my entire body is bruised, and the gradually increasing effort leaves me lightheaded for a week or more.

That’s where I am now, and, as always, I have some insight into why so many people who are new to working out quit after a few weeks. Every step of the way, I have to caution myself against impatience and the temptation to do too much too soon. One good day, and I can all too easily do a harder workout than I can manage. Physically, I have high expectations of myself, expectations unsuited to my current circumstances and increasingly out of sync with my age. Unless I am careful, I could easily find myself at the beginning of the process again – and I seem to be an appalling slow learner, reluctant to do as much as take a day of rest when I have missed so many.

Of course, unlike newcomers, I know that the effort will be worthwhile. But getting back into shape is not a process that improves with repetition. It’s simply preferable to any alternative.

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Running has been a major part of my life since I was eight. These days, I am slowly replacing it with swimming and cycling in the hopes of preserving my cartilage-challenged knees, but it remains a major part of my live – a break in the daily routine, proof of my fitness, and a sweaty, endorphin-inspired high unlike anything else.

I was always active as a boy. Good thing, too, or else with my bookishness and early speech-impediment, I probably would have been bullied. But although I played soccer and other sports from an early age, I didn’t pay much attention to running until Grade 3, when I discovered it out of pure envy.

My school was going to have a track meet with two other schools, and the gym teacher had assigned the students he thought promising to the various events. Somehow, he failed to assign me an event, an omission that I felt self-evidently wrong. I determined to show him the error of his ways, and began doing laps around the school ground before and after school, where I was sure he couldn’t fail to see me.

Likely, he didn’t notice me, but, if he did, I didn’t change his mind. But the idea of running stayed with me. For a while, I organized before-school runs with my friends, continuing the habit after everyone else grew bored.

In Grade Seven, I finished fifth in the provincial cross-country championships. That was the start of a string of second and first places throughout my school career, with the occasional meet or course record.

I still remember the highlights of those days: crossing the finish line first in the first race of the cross-country season in Grade Nine, distantly followed by team mates in second, third, and fourth, being cheered to a 1500 meter record in Empire Stadium, finishing third against all age groups in the James Cunningham Memorial Seawall Race. I had shared in victories in soccer and rugby games, but winning by yourself gives a fierce satisfaction that a team’s victory can’t match, no matter how important your role might have been.

Yet, somehow, I never quite did as well as I should have. I missed one high school championship because I was sidelined for two races with the ‘fl. Then, in my final year, which I wanted to be a triumph, I ended up limping for months after running my left knee into a steeplechase hurdle as I was trying to learn to leap over it without pushing off from the top. I had to sit out the season, and, consequently, the scholarships for which I had hoped didn’t materialize.

However, in the end, that was probably just as well. Track and field and cross-country were altogether more serious matters at university than they had been in high school, and, at seventeen, I was suddenly competing against full-grown men.

Nor did my commute leave me time for training with the team. In the spring of my first year, I won what was to be my last race – a fun run organized in my local community. I was good, I realized, but unlikely to be great, even if I found proper coaching.

Still, that belated modesty did little to change my habits. I no longer trained 75-90 miles per week, as I did when I was racing, but I still averaged 55-70 until a few years ago, with the occasional bit of interval training.

Keeping up the mileage was, to be frank, an important part of my personal pride. I was proud of my endurance and discipline, and, as I aged, of maintaining abilities beyond those of most people around me. When students on the football team mentioned that their ambition was, by the end of the semester to run up Gaglardi Way to Simon Fraser University without stopping to walk, I took a smug glee in letting them know that I did so several times a week, despite being twice their age. The fact that I never looked fit unless I ripped my shirt off (something that is hard to do naturally unless you’re the Incredible Hulk) only added to their astonishment and resentment.

By the time I was middle-aged, I must have run far enough to circle the globe three or four times. But, eight years ago, I suddenly found myself suffering from regular knee injuries. I took a while to understand the obvious – evidently I’m a slow learner – but, in the end, I realized I would have to modify my daily exercise or face an old age on a scooter.

Now, my running mileage is usually less than it was on a light day in my prime. I get my workout in other ways, but it’s just not the same. I still remember topping a hill just in time to see the sun rise on a chill winter day, and the feel of taking over the lead in a race. I suspect that in my dreams I will always be running, luxuriating in a sense of wildness that comes from the effort and the rhythm of the long miles on the road.

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If chronic aches last long enough, they can become part of your daily background. They can even worsen without you noticing, because you are living with them daily. Only when something relieves them do you realize exactly what you have been enduring.

Take, for example, my feet. I have been running for over eighty percent of my life. For much of that time, I did long, hard distances, averaging seventy-five to ninety miles a week. But although I always took care to wear running shoes with good support, like many young men, I was convinced that I’d never have to pay for all this wear and tear. I would magically continue the training regime I had followed most of my life, maybe slowing down a bit, but otherwise going on for decades much the same as I had in the past.

What I didn’t notice is that all that pounding on the pavement was gradually making my feet as broad and as awkward as a duck. I did notice that I could no longer wear Nike, but I put that down to a difference in manufacturers. I could wear Reebok and some Adidas models, and, not having any brand loyalty, that was good enough for me – especially since I disliked the rumors of Nike’s sweat-shop practices.

But the spreading of my feet was aggravated by an attack of what might be called sports gout. Heavy training in hot weather had left my body critically short of sodium, potassium, and trace minerals, causing the joints of my big toes to swell agonizingly. A few supplements took care of the gout, but not before the joint at the base of my left big toe had become permanently twisted sideways and semi-locked.

Between the normal spreading and this mild deformity, my shoe size gradually increased so I could rarely get a shoe with the necessary width. By last year, I needed a shoe three half-sizes larger than justified by the length of my foot. It didn’t help, either, that stores seemed increasingly inclined to carry only normal shoe widths.

To say the least, the result was uncomfortable. A foot moving inside a shoe gets little of whatever support the shoe around it offers. It is always strained and feeling sore, and more fallen arches and pinched tendons happen. But, as I said at the start, I didn’t especially notice, because the condition had crept up on me so slowly. So far as I thought of the problem at all, I imagined the constant discomfort was a consequence of growing older after a life-time of abusing my feet. What worried me, though, is that it was getting worse, so that I could hardly walk three miles before it felt like a bruise was breaking out all over both feet.

Then, last week, I noticed an ad for SAS Comfort Shoes‘ new store in the free local paper. I rarely notice ads in newspapers or online, but perhaps my growing worry made me notice this one. Not only did the store make its shoes in the United States, but it specialized in wide shoes and styles designed to fit well. Its models included a training shoe, so after my stint in the gym today, I hobbled out to the store. I didn’t expect much but I thought I had nothing to lose. If a store that claimed those sorts of wares couldn’t help me, I would have to consider custom-built shoes.

I explained my particular needs to the sales clerk, and tried on the trainer. Immediately, I felt my feet relaxing, and realized how sore they were from my normal workout. Walking the length of the store and back again, I also noticed that my foot was no longer sliding about. The shoes were actually supporting my feet. For the first in several years, I was wearing shoes that fit something like properly.

I had to try on a few different sizes and widths to find a perfect fit, but in ten minutes I’d found it. I quickly moved on to buy a pair of business casuals, which fitted differently, but were equally comfortable.

I wore the trainers on to the street, feeling so light on my feet that I thought I could dance – a big change from the way I’d dragged myself in. I settled for walking a little straighter and enjoying lighter spirits.

Unlike many running shoes I’ve bought in my life, this pair needed no breaking in. Four hours later, when I returned home from my other errands, my feet were still feeling relaxed.

It was a feeling that I’m sure I could get used to. In fact, as I write, I realize that I already have.
Eventually, I plan on returning to the store for other shoes. If the shoes are more expensive than those offered in most stores, I am willing to pay the difference for comfort.

However, the real moral is not just an unpaid endorsement of a business. For me, the moral is that stoicism has its limits as a virtue. In the future, I’ll try to remember that, just because I’m used to a discomfort doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to live with it.

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“I tell them to thing of the play, and not of the fame,
‘Cuz if they have any future at all, it’s not in the game,
‘Cuz they’ll be crippled and starting all over again,
Selling on commission, remembering when they were flying,
Remembering dying.”

-Stan Rogers, “Flying”

The Olympics are always a wistful time for me. I never watch them, but I remember that I might have competed in them myself, if I had chosen not to accept my limits.

That’s not fantasy or boasting, either. I used to train with one or two young men a few years older than me, and they qualified. So, with more dedication, I might have managed the same. But probably I’d have been lucky to be a finalist. I never would have won a medal, which was the whole problem.

From Grade Eight to my second year of university, competing in cross-country races and long distance track events was a major part of my life. In those years, I averaged seventy to ninety miles a week. Often, I’d train by doing half mile intervals up 17th Street in West Vancouver, or along the seawall at Ambleside Park. My summers were marked by track meets, and my autumns by road races.

And in my age group and distance, I was a standout. My legs are too short for me to compete successfully over 800 meters, but at 1500 meters and above, I won my share of gold medals and cross-country championships. I also set several records that stood for a few years. At high school, I was known for running, so much so that, decades later, that is what many people remembered me for.

Quite literally, I was a front-runner. I would take the lead early in a race, and keep it. As a tactic, this habit lacked a certain variety, but it was psychologically effective. Other runners thought it so natural for me to be in front that once I won a cross-country race with the ‘flu. My time was slow, but nobody thought to challenge my lead – although if anyone had, I wouldn’t have been able to defend it.

But that was high school. At university, running was an altogether more serious matter. In high school, I had usually trained alone, and my coach, not seeing any reason to argue with success, was content to let me do so. But, at university, I was under pressure to train with the team. More – I was expected to support the other jocks and do things like paint banners to display on campus. Since I was commuting by bus several hours a day, I had trouble meeting those expectations.

Even more importantly, for the first time in my running career, I was at a disadvantage. Not only was I suddenly competing against fully-grown men, but I was still recovering from smashing my knee into a steeplechase hurdle. Suddenly, I was no longer the star.

I soon realized that I would have to make a choice. I could focus on running, cutting down my classes and taking up weights and cross-training, spend some time in physio to strengthen my damaged knee, and make training a more regimented and even larger part of my life.

Or I could drop out of athletics altogether. In the circles in which I was moving, there were no places for casual athletes.

Eventually, I realized the obvious: I was good, and with proper training I might become very good. But I wasn’t great, and I never would be.

The realization troubled me, but the choice was clear. If I put in the kind of time I would need to remain a serious competitor, I would spend years in which my life was defined by competition, and, in the end, have little to show for my efforts. It wasn’t that I needed to win at all costs, so much as I recognized that the effort simply would not have been worth the results.

This was one of my first realizations of my limitations, and for about eight months I struggled against the unavoidable logic. I didn’t have any moment of realization – it was more a matter of priorities – but at the end of one spring semester, I cleaned out my locker in the gym and knew that I wouldn’t be coming back. At that point, I had drifted so far away from the running team that I didn’t even have anyone to say good-bye to.

Almost immediately, my knee improved and running became fun again. For years, I logged the sort of mileage that I had done while in training. But gradually I eased off, and now I do as much swimming, cycling, and walking as I do running in an effort to preserve my creaking knees. And it’s been years since I exercised with a stop-watch.

Looking back, I am confident that I made the right choice. Still, every now and then, I hear news about long distance running. Then I regret the necessity of my choice, and grow nostalgic for things that never happened.

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“I’m going back on the bicycle,
I just can’t pay the bills,
I’m going back on the bicycle,
And freewheel down the hill.”

–Tommy Sands

In my teens, I was welded to my bicycle. I used it to run errands in the village, and in the summer I would organize forty kilometer rides out to Horseshoe Bay or the University of British Columbia. But as an adult, I let my bicycle rust on the porch until it was beyond reclaiming, and walked or rode in a car – until today, when I spent the afternoon becoming a cyclist again.

I’d been contemplating the move for some time. For one thing, I only preserve my sanity when riding an exercise bike at the gym by doing interval workouts – and even then I have to grit my teeth against the sports and diet talk around me. For another, Burnaby, the city where I live, has kilometers of urban cycle trails, including the Central Valley Greenway, which goes all the way into Vancouver, as well as dozens of trails through the nearby green belt. Just as importantly, now that I’m by myself, I felt the need of doing something new, something just for me.

Still, for a while I thought I wasn’t fated to be a cyclist again. Twice when I planned to find a bike, the Skytrain broke down. Two other times, I had a swollen ankle that kept me near home. Another time, a friend arrived unexpectedly in town, causing me to cancel my plans. But today, the stars were finally aligned, and shortly after noon, I arrived at the shop and started trying bikes.

Supposedly, you never forget how to ride. But in my case, that’s a half truth: in my first effort, I managed to stay upright, but I wobbled like the backside of a duck.

Fortunately, my inner ear and muscles soon started half-remembering the skills I hadn’t used in years, and within twenty minutes I was no longer disgracing myself quite so badly and could almost look over my shoulder without veering out of control. If I couldn’t turn on a dime, I could just about manage the maneuver on a baseball diamond.

I did, though, need to go back and try the first bike again. The first time I tried it, I was too busy clinging to the handle bars and trying not to yelp with terror when the bike store employee gave me a push.

I had come with a definite idea of what I wanted – a refurbished bike, with racing handle bars, and a good gear ratio so I wouldn’t bang my chin with my knees when pedaling on the flat. But a slightly used hybrid (half mountain, half road) was almost the same price, gave a better ride with regular handle bars, and gave me more options for the kinds of riding I was likely to do. So that’s what I ended up buying, even though twenty-one gears seems a ridiculously large number.

Then it was time to accessorize. When I was a teenager, I just hopped on my bike and rode. In contrast, today the law requires a helmet and a bell at the very least (never mind that I would forget all about the bell and most likely shout on any occasion when it might be useful). If I ride at night, I need a rear reflector. A basket and lock were necessary for quick hops to the store. I also wanted fenders, since the idea of my back being spotted by mud didn’t appeal – and, living in the Lower Mainland, sooner or later, I knew I would be riding in the rain. Still, somehow I fought the madness and managed to keep my spending down to only ten dollars more than I had planned.

“How are you going to get home?” the store clerk asked.

I had planned to take my new purchase on the Skytrain and only ride a couple of kilometers home, but in a fit of bravado I said, “I’m going to ride it.”

“Good for you! Way to go!” The clerk enthused. But when he asked me where I lived, I couldn’t help imagining that he looked glad to think that he was unlikely to be on the road while I was. He’d seen me testing bikes.

Since home was ten kilometers away, I was already repenting my rashness. Yet I couldn’t back down without condemning myself as an empty boaster, even if nobody except me would know. So I set off, my hands a little uncertain on the gears, worrying that any moment I was going to end up curled in a ball, like the centipede who become uncoordinated when asked how he walked. So long as I didn’t think too much, I kept telling myself, I could trust my old reflexes to get me home – even if I took three hours to get there, and walked most of the way.

But you know what? Within a kilometer of leaving the store, I was having the most fun I had had in over a year. Like walking, cycling keeps me in touch with what’s happening around me, but it has the advantage of letting you travel reasonably quickly.

Moreover, unlike a car, a bicycle is a machine that enhances your muscular effort. Where a car simply carries you, a bike improves your efficiency, helping you to climb a hill more easily in lower gears, and to travel farther with each revolution of the pedal in higher gears.

The result was a wild joy in my heart, of a sort that only the best of runs can provide. I felt strong and unlimited, as though I wanted to sing but too many songs were clamoring to be sung for me to know which to voice first.

Thirty minutes later, I was regretting the end of the trip, and only the knowledge that I had to get other things done kept me from prolonging it.

I’m sure that my muscles will pay the price tomorrow. But I’m going out for a ride tomorrow, too, hoping to recapture more of that strenuous pleasure from my teen years that I’d forgotten.

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Once every decade or two, something I am into becomes popular. The situation is rare enough that I am still recovering from my chagrin when the local TV news used The Pogues’ “Fairy Tale of New York” as background music to an account of a dinner for the homeless a decade ago and from everyone knowing the plot of The Lord of the Rings when the movies were released. But by far my most frequent moments of unintentional trendiness and the resulting breakup of my routine revolve around exercise.

Since I’m built like a cement mixer, you might not realize by looking at me, but I have been a regular exerciser all my teen and adult years. Any day in which I don’t burn a minimum of seven hundred calories running, swimming, or cycling, I count as a slack day. I’m the sort you see doggedly jogging in a snow storm, or being unfashionably sweaty at one end of the gym. I consider exercise a necessary balance to all my hours at the keyboard, and a form of meditation besides. Unlike many people, I like exercise, and the heavier the better.

The trouble is, people are always discovering exercise. That means that the shoes I need periodically sprout velcro buckles and thick tread more suitable for a tank, or blossom in outlandish colors – anything so that their prices can double. Functional sweat tops disappear, replaced by tailored suits made of synthetic fibers that cause me to break out in a rash, and the gyms are always crowded in the first few weeks of January until the newcomers find the courage to break their New Year’s resolutions (much to everybody’s relief).

All this is superfluously annoying when all I want is ankle and arch support in my shoes, natural fabric, logo-free gear and a quiet place to sweat. But, this time, the fashionistas have gone too far. Noticing the popularity of basketball among males under twenty five, the sports stores have decided that all they need to carry for any sort of exercise is basketball shorts – baggy shorts that fall to the knees, and that generally amount to free advertising for an American team.

The least of my problems with the stores only selling basketball shorts is that I look ridiculous in them. Most of my height is in my torso, and I’m considerably below two meters tall. Wearing basketball shorts, I only look like a kid who’s growing too quickly for the length of his trousers. That’s how I feel, too.

But what I really object to is that basketball shorts are completely unsuited to strenuous exercise (and, for all I know, that includes basketball). They might be barely tolerable for the genteel weight-lifting that most of the men at the gym do, in which ten reps are followed by twenty minutes of conversation. But on the pavement or on the saddle of a bike, nothing is more unsuitable.

When I’m working up a sweat, I want my legs as unencumbered as possible. I don’t want them tangling in folds of loose fabric that bind them and prevent them moving freely. That is almost as bad as wearing sweat pants while doing strenuous exercise.

Yet because of the whims of fashion, a day is fast approaching when I won’t have the simple clothes I need to continue doing what I’ve done for decades. Within a few months, unless I abandon exercising altogether, I’ll be forced to choose between three unsatisfactory alternatives: wearing what’s easily available and feeling confined and uncomfortable; shortening a pair of shorts with one of my unsatisfactory hemming jobs (assuming that the synthetic fabric allows me to do that), or else ordering pairs of rugby shorts online and enduring the chafing of the thick material.

Probably, I’ll end up ordering the rugby shorts. But I resent having to make the extra effort simply because trendiness has touched down like a tornado in an area that I happen to frequent. My best hope is that it will move on before my present crop of shorts falls apart, and I can go back to being unfashionable for another ten years.

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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?

 

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 the results before they can see the results in the mirror. Then figure on six months before the results really kick in.

In other words, 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 any time. That means that you are likely to get bored sooner rather than later. Some people combat the boredom with music players, but you might also 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 boredom 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?

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