This is a guest post from Liz Muirhead, who blogs at Looking Good (for a mom). She’s one of my fitness inspirations, so read on!
Liz is a 34 year-old full-time working mother to two small children. She works as a financial analyst, and as well as blogging, she sings, does voiceovers, and volunteers in what little of her spare time she has left. Liz’s obsessions with fitness and nutrition started in 2008, when she was fed up with how she looked and decided to do something about it! Her favorite exercises involve lifting free weights, which she started doing over twenty years ago, and working out with kettlebells, which is her newest passion. Since starting her blog earlier this year, Liz has used it as a forum to share her experience transforming her body from a size 8 to a size 2 and improving her health as a way to motivate and inspire moms and others to do the same for themselves. Visit Liz at her blog and look for Lizanneh on Twitter to see what she’s up to
So you’ve decided that it’s time. You want to change your body, or reclaim the body you once had. But with that daunting task ahead of you, how exactly do you get started? Perhaps you’ve seen someone with the body you want at your local gym, so you’ve watched what she is doing for exercise…and thought, “no way would I even survive that” or “who has time to do all of that?!”
But there’s no denying that exercise is important not only to look good but to stay healthy and live longer.
When starting a new exercise program, your enthusiasm can make you want to jump right off the diving board into the deep end. But imagine if you were not a swimmer…the terror and agony of trying to survive after could leave you never wanting to swim again! By the same token, jumping right into a challenging exercise program can leave you exhausted, sore, and unmotivated to work out on your next scheduled day.
I’d like to offer you an alternative approach. Although you might be excited about getting started, hold yourself back a little. Put that enthusiasm to work planning your workout progression. To return to the swimming analogy, plan out how you’ll start by dipping in your toe, and then wading, swimming in shallow water, and finally swimming in deep waters. How does this translate to an exercise program?
Start with something simple, that you can do each and every day. It can be as simple as going for a walk or doing a few push-ups. Your exercise shouldn’t take more than about 15 minutes per day. After a week, you should have started working your way towards making exercise a habit. You shouldn’t be sore, or exhausted, but you’ve probably had to figure out how to fit in your exercise when your schedule has been complicated, or you’d rather just go to bed.
Now, you want to add a series of progressions to your workout to make it more challenging, and also slowly lengthen the amount of time you spend exercising. Listed below is an example of how someone might start and progress through several weeks. You could do these exercises anywhere from three to six times per week (always have at least one day of complete rest):
- Week 1: After waking, ten jumping jacks followed by ten push-ups from the knees. In the evening, walk briskly around the neighborhood (about ten minutes).
- Week 2: After waking, 10 jumping jacks followed by ten push-ups from the knees and ten bodyweight squats. In the evening, start off by jogging one minute, then walk five minutes, and repeat (total of twelve minutes).
- Week 3: After waking, 15 jumping jacks followed by as many push-ups from the toes as you can, and then more from the knees until you’ve done ten, followed by 15 bodyweight squats and a 30 second plank exercise. In the evening, start off by jogging one minute, then walk three minutes, and repeat two times (total of twelve minutes).
- Week 4: After waking, 20 jumping jacks followed by as many push-ups from the toes as you can, and then more from the knees until you’ve done 15, followed by 20 bodyweight squats and a 30 second plank exercise. In the evening, start off by jogging one minute, then walk two minutes, and repeat five times (total of fifteen minutes).
By the time you’ve made it through a month of these workouts, you’ve made exercising a habit, and you’ve improved the condition of your body and cardiovascular system. Plus, you’ve eased your way into working out, so that each time you added something else, you were building a foundation on which your next series of workouts would be based.
If you’re at this point, you might be ready to tackle a more formal training program. For running, you’ll find the Couch to 5K Program is a great way to work your way up to running a complete 5K race. Meanwhile, you can get a great (and free) bodyweight workout from Men’s Health contributor and personal trainer Craig Ballantyne here.
Before you know it, you’ll be that person in the gym that other people want to emulate!