Get Checked Out Under the Hood
The first step is to see your doctor before starting any new physical activity. If you are over 40, or been sedentary a long time, it’s best to face reality and get cleared by a physician. A standard check-up can unveil potential risks related to sudden engagement in physical activity and knowing you are good to go will prevent health concerns from impeding your progress.
Define Your Fitness Goals
Put your goals in writing, be specific and be realistic. “Lose weight” is the most common goal in starting an exercise program and it’s hard to stay motivated when it doesn’t happen right away. Keep in mind that if it took you a year to pack on extra pounds, it may very well take that long to lose them. Since it’s hard to maintain resolve with such a long term goal, break your plan up with realistic short term attainable objectives.
Establish Self Rewards
To keep yourself motivated, your plan should include rewards for achieving established benchmarks. Best is to work in rewards that further inspire you to achieve your overall goal: a new pair of shoes or exercise outfit, new equipment or workout DVD, or a gym membership.
Start Easy & Start Slow
It’s not wise to suddenly try to go from couch surfer to marathon runner. Walking is generally the best place to start – it’s something you already know how to do and no equipment is required other than a decent pair of shoes. Avoid the temptation to make up for “lost time” – gradual increase in time and intensity is the way to go with all forms of exercise.
An exercise program is often best adhered to when you have someone else joining in your endeavor. Chances are you have a friend or relative that would also benefit from an evening buddy walk. If you need to go it alone, tell your support system of family and friends about your intentions and ask for their psychological support.
Be Prepared for Roadblocks
Roadblocks can come either from within, or from other external sources. Dismiss the internal excuses that come to mind which can impede your progress. Overcome external obstacles by devising alternative plans. If cold and rain threaten to wash out your daily walk, plan B might be to stop by a local fitness center to investigate, or go walk the mall and browse for future rewards along the way.
Accept Derailments and Get Back on Track
If you miss a few days, a week or even longer due to unforeseen derailments, don’t beat yourself up about it. Get back on track and keep moving forward. While you can lose a fairly significant percentage of conditioning in as little as 10 days, if you get right back to it within 2 weeks, you can regain your previous level of conditioning in a shorter amount of time.
Adjust your written goals and objectives and dismiss negative thoughts – it happens, it’s not failure, it’s real life.
Seek Professional Help
If you have no idea about how to proceed with any of the above, or if you find yourself falling short of established objectives, you should consider enlisting professional help.
Success in anything requires learning. If you are not self motivated to educate yourself with reading and research, or if you find yourself bored, in a rut, or just in need of inspiration, hire a trainer to be your guide.