Starting to Exercise


By tuning in to your body wisdom, you can learn how to exercise to suit your personal needs. Just as you have learned how to eat based on your body's signals, you can learn how to exercise by listening to your body's instinctive knowing.

The hardest part about starting a personal exercise program is often just that—starting. For many of us, it's pretty intimidating. We become more self-conscious of our bodies and fear that we'll somehow “fail” at exercising. Your body is designed for motion and exercise. You'll do fine. To help you get off on the right foot, so to speak, the next few sections cover some things to consider.

Start Slow to Win the Race

If you start out at a level that is too tough for you, you might experience lots of pain and virtually no gain. Be sure to honor the current state of your body and your fitness level before you dive in. If you're out of shape, build up your strength and stamina. Remember that you're into exercise for the long haul, in essence, for the rest of your life. You can afford the time it takes to get your body into shape. When a person goes too quickly, the ensuing bodily aches and pains can prevent further exercise … and destroy motivation. Don't let this happen to you!

Remember the race between the tortoise and the hare? The tortoise started slowly but eventually won the race. When it comes to exercising, start slowly and build up your “speed” over time. You don't need to compete with anyone!

Clothing to Sweat In

Wear clothing appropriate to the type of exercise you're doing. Go for comfort and practicality. Some forms of exercise require more fitted leotards and tights. Some are fine with loose-fitting T-shirts and gym shorts. Forget how you look in exercise clothes and go for practicality and comfort. You're going to look better day after day.

You don't need to think that you are supposed to compete with all the beautiful and buff bodies at the gym. You are there to take care of yourself, just as they are. Wear what works and what feels comfortable.

Remember the Sunscreen

Exercises done outdoors—biking, hiking, running, walking, and so on—are a double treat for many of us because we get the added benefits of sunshine and fresh air. But use sunscreen. Your skin isn't designed to be cooked, not even browned! Skin cancer is a serious problem these days, and it isn't selective. It will attack the skin of a buff athlete as quickly as anyone else.

Pain Isn't Required

Forget the famous exercise motto of “no pain, no gain.” It's great for jocks, jockettes, and gym junkies. At the beginning, just do the exercises and avoid the pain. Right now, you are easing into a life-long exercise program.

Always listen to your body for when it is time to stop an exercise and when it is time to push harder. This will prevent overdoing it and also under-doing it. In some exercise classes, instructors keep yelling for you to “Push it!” or “Go harder!” Unless you like being provoked, either ignore the instructor, listen to your body, or find another class. It's absolutely not essential for you to overexert yourself to the point of being exhausted or sore.

Many elegant exercise choices available today produce terrific strength and tone with virtually no pain.

Body of Knowledge

An exercise physiologist can suggest alternative methods for different exercises to compensate for any medical or bodily conditions you have.

Doctor's Checkup

It's always a good idea to check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program, especially if you have a particular health concern, such as a heart condition or a bad back. Doctors almost universally encourage regular exercise. If you plan to engage the services of a personal trainer, work out in a class, or exercise with a group, make sure that the group leader knows of any physical limitations you may have.

More on: Exercise Tips


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Healthy Weight Loss © 2005 by Lucy Beale and Sandy G. Couvillon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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