Before you put on the gym shoes and start exercising, you need to devise an exercise plan. The first step of the plan should be to make a decision to change. In this step you need to recognize and acknowledge that a change needs to be made and then make the decision to take action.
To aid you in the decision making process do a self-assessment. Ask yourself questions that will increase your awareness of your current physical condition and needs. Be honest. Do you need to lose weight? Do you wish you had more energy? Are you at risk for developing a chronic health condition such as diabetes or heart disease? Carrie of Sterling Heights, Michigan accomplished this first step when she realized the health benefits obtained from weight loss. She then decided to recommit to an exercise routine.
Making a decision to change not only requires you to recognize areas that need improvement, but also requires a willingness to incorporate strategies that aid in the achievement of your fitness goals. You need to take an active role to ensure successful adherence in the long run. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, then commit to scheduling at least 30 minutes of exercise into your day (refer to my posting "Exercise Recommendations: An Overview" for government guidelines on physical activity).
The second step of the exercise plan is to set fitness goals. The goals you choose should be ones that you can reasonably accomplish. In addition, you have to be willing to make the sacrifices and effort needed to accomplish these goals. Your goals should be challenging, yet attainable. Setting small, achievable goals will increase your chances of sticking with your program. For example, if you have never exercised, setting a goal to include a 10-minute brisk walk during the day is more realistic than expecting to run five miles on your first day.
Set measurable goals, especially if you are exercising for the first time. For instance, challenge yourself to get in three exercise sessions per week initially. As this becomes routine add another day until daily exercise is automatic. A goal that can be measured allows you to track your progress and to see that your attempt at change is successful.
When setting your goals allow for some flexibility. That is, once you start working toward your goal, do not get discouraged if you encounter setbacks. It may be that you need to reassess how realistic the goal was in the first place. Although it may be tempting to quit altogether remind yourself that the achievement of fitness is a lifelong journey. Even if it means some days you have to take smaller steps toward your goal than on others.
Note: A physician's approval should be obtained prior to beginning an exercise program, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Labels: decision to change, fitness goals, self-assessment