Scott H Young

How to Start a Fitness Regimen


Obesity is reaching alarming figures in Western countries today. I have heard figures sited as high as 60% for the overweight population. Despite this, the statistic is that nearly eight out of every ten people are not meeting the basic requirements for activity. Fitness and healthy living is important for maintaining energy levels, keeping the immune system strong and living longer lives. I have seen figures that say that more than eighty percent of all cancers are directly linked to lifestyle. Drowning in our own opulence, we have highly automated lives where extra physical activity must be added on top of our schedules in order to stay healthy.

Health and fitness is one of my favorite subjects. I exercise for at least an hour every day and usually closer to two hours. I usually accumulate about 35-40 km of running each week and I use a local gym five days a week for an hour each. The longest I’ve currently run is 15 km, but I’m hoping on running a marathon sometime in the next year. I can currently do twelve chinups, sixty pushups and three hundred sit ups at a time, and I am still focusing on improving.

Staying fit and healthy are critical for my ability to do almost anything else. I often hear people gripe about how they don’t have enough time or energy to exercise. This is nonsense. You don’t have enough time or energy not to exercise. An hour of exercise each day often doubles my productivity from when I have been completely sedative. Fitting exercise into your daily routine is crucial.

So, how can you start your own consistent fitness regimen? If you are already exercising to some extent, then you may be wondering how you can make that exercise more consistent. I believe in focusing on lifelong fitness without all the gimmicks. Fitness must be an element of your life that you maintain for yourself, not just for a great beach body.

Start Simple

Look through any magazine and go through any store and you will be bombarded with advertisements for health and fitness trying to convince you to buy a particular product in order to get that perfect figure. Sometimes it is a pill, sometimes it is a complex device with the express purpose of getting you to do a sit up. Treadmills, elliptical machines, diet pills and fancy health club memberships are unnecessary. These things can be great in improving an existing fitness regimen, but they cannot form the foundation. Fitness is one of those few things that actually becomes less effective with more technology.

I can’t help but laugh whenever I see some bizarre sit-up device advertised. Especially when they simultaneously promote how easy it is and how effective it is for building abdominal muscles. First of all, the sit up is one of the most basic and simplistic exercises available. Secondly, the reason a sit up builds your abdominal muscles is because it is difficult. It has been scientifically shown that simple full-body exercises like push ups, chin ups or crunches are more effective then using a device. Now I just have to hope Google doesn’t serve up ads to make a hypocrite out of me. ;)

The second and subtler part of this first step to lifelong fitness is that you should make your fitness routine as easy to follow as possible. I’ve read a few fitness books and a lot of fitness articles and quite often they promote this insanely detailed and complex strategy to get in shape. Although I have no doubt that these programs would probably work if successfully executed, that is a big if. Starting with a really basic strategy for fitness can allow you to shift it into your life more seamlessly.

If you are thinking of including running in your fitness program, here is a good start. Just run for thirty minutes every day. Don’t put any pressure on the distance you have to run or the speed, just commit to thirty minutes. You will find on lazy days you may run very slowly, but at least you will do it. Committing to run ten miles each day, may cause you to abandon your program whenever you don’t feel you can do it. Committing yourself to the simplest possible strategy to implement fitness is essential to ensure it sticks.

This also means flexibility with your fitness program to insert into your life. You may find it impossible to get a full hour of exercise each day, so you might have to split it into two thirty minute sections. You may decide to include a brisk walk up the stairs in your office each day. A little fitness is better than none and a simplistic strategy to provide that fitness is even better.

Find Exercise You Love

The real reason people don’t exercise has nothing to do with not having enough time, it has to do with not getting enough enjoyment. With the national statistic of seven hours of television each day, on average, there is plenty of extra time to take thirty or sixty minutes and devote to an exercise program. The real problem is that most people find exercising boring, painful or even embarrassing. By linking those sorts of emotions to exercise, it is very hard to imagine a lifelong commitment to it.

The truth is that exercise doesn’t have to be going to the gym or running outside (although those are two of my favorites…) Exercise can be dancing, martial arts, sports, hiking, swimming or anything that involves moving your body. Finding exercise that you absolutely love to do is essential for a lifelong commitment.

So when you start building your fitness regimen, you may want to experiment with different forms of physical activity. Brainstorm a large list of all the things you do enjoy that are related to fitness. Finding exercise you love is half stubbornness and half creativity. If you commit that you will stick to your fitness plan and keep experimenting until you find something you absolutely love to do, lifelong exercise becomes much easier.

Maybe the key to enjoying your exercise doesn’t lie in changing activities but just changing something about those activities. One of the most popular ways to make exercise more enjoyable is to listen to fast music. Running becomes much more interesting when you are listening to fast music or an audio program. You may also decide that combining your exercise with social or volunteering activities gives you the enjoyment to keep doing it. Going to the gym with friends is often more interesting than when you are just by yourself.

Condition Exercise as a Must

Is exercise a should for you or is it a must? Do you say to yourself that you should exercise, or must you exercise? The difference in that answer will make the difference in your health, and ultimately your life. Conditioning exercise as an absolute must in your life is necessary to ensure it sticks long-term.

Start by conditioning the habit to exercise just like any other habit. Set yourself up with a 30 Day Trial period whereby you must stick to whatever strategy for fitness you have settled upon. Make sure that this is a habit that you can easily stick with. If your strategy is too complicated or too specific, it may be harder to keep. If your strategy is flexible but still captures the essential need for physical activity then you will have more control over keeping that schedule.

The next step is to ensure exercise reaches a higher priority in your life. Don’t tell yourself that you should exercise, say that you must. Setting an unbreakable standard for exercise will allow you to condition the habit of exercise until it is consistent. Once you’ve exercised with your daily schedule for an entire year it may be harder not to exercise than to exercise.

You also need to raise your standards and see not exercising as something unacceptable to yourself. You need to see exercise as something that is an essential part of your day, no matter what. I know for myself I see exercising like I do bathing. I don’t suddenly stop showering once I go on a vacation, so why should I stop exercising.

The steps to starting your own fitness regimen or making an existing one more consistent are simple. First, start with a basic strategy. Don’t buy complicated equipment or fancy pills in the hopes they will motivate you. Start simple. Secondly, find exercise that you absolutely love to do. This could mean completely switching the type of physical activity you do. You could even make minor adjustments such as listening to music or going with friends. Finally, condition your habit of exercise until it is an unbreakable standard in your life. Do these steps and you will be along the path to a lifelong commitment to health.


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13 Responses to “How to Start a Fitness Regimen”

  1. Peter Kua says:

    As the old maxim goes, nothing beats a hard workout if you wanna stay fit. I had a pretty tough time when I first started yoga as many postures required flexibility, and I was as stiff as a stick. But the longer I stuck to it, the easier it was to practice. And the more enjoyable it became.

  2. Scott Young says:

    Great to hear it, keep it up Peter.

  3. pj says:

    Scott, your a long winded young man, but with great substance. Keep up the great work! As for fitness, I must say this is something that I find as a decisive factor to my overall well-being on a daily basis. It seems to dictate if I will be successful or not. A few days gone by without a workout, and every other part of my life tends to be neglected as well.
    I invested in a 14dollar chin up bar a few months ago, and it has turned out to be the best dollars i’ve ever spent on physical fitness. I can not walk past it without pumping a few out. I’ve found it a great way to start my day, and since I work out of my home, a great way for a quick stress relief during cold-calls. I’m up to fifteen at a time now, and hope to get to twenty by the end of summer.
    Again- I love your blog Scott, thanks for your great incite

    PJ

  4. Scott Young says:

    Thanks for the comments, pj.

    Good to see you improving!

  5. Eric says:

    This is a good reminder for me to get started! :)

  6. Dave says:

    One suggestion I’d make is to hire a personal trainer. They will keep you focused and show you proper technique.

  7. Scott Young says:

    Thanks for the comments, Eric.

    @Dave, good advice. I haven’t used a personal trainer before, so I can’t vouch for their services, but it would definitely be another way to help.

  8. anthony says:

    In your opinion is running between 40-50 miles a week ”over running” and is this harmful to your health as in over exertion,thanks just asking,

  9. Scott Young says:

    anthony,

    No idea. I’m not a doctor.

    My guess is that it probably won’t kill you, but I’m not sure it is good on your joints. You might want to mix up your fitness regimen to include swimming or cycling which causes less joint stress.

    If you want a real answer you should probably ask an expert.

  10. Deepak says:

    Scot ,

    Interesting real time facts on healthy regime

    Very Helpfull

    Thanks !!! :-)

  11. [...] If you don’t exercise regularly, I would suggest incrementally improving the amount you are already doing, so if you don’t exercise at all, starting with a half hour, three times a week would probably be good. Moving it up as you get more accustomed to the exercise and you can make it a part of your daily routine. If you want to start an exercise program, I wrote about it here. [...]

  12. [...] …how to start. [...]

  13. charlotte s. says:

    Hi Scott, your advice was helpful. I have joined several gyms over the years, and never went…hate gyms. I love to walk, and usually choose the beach and walk on the sand a total of 5 miles in just about an hour. I’d like to get it to a 40 minutes for 5 miles. Since last year I have gained about 15 pounds, I have been emotionally overeating, and have done nothing in the way of exercise. Is it a good idea when I begin walking again to carry 1lb weights in each hand while walking the 5 miles, and maybe light ankle weights? I am am a 48 year old female up now to 146 lbs at 5’1″. I want to lose 20-22 lbs by the end of May. With my walking regimine 4-6 days a week, along with a sensible diet, can I expect the weight loss goal?

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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