I made my first trip to the beach with my family recently and I was surprised at how many people were out enjoying the sun in spite of the cold water. For many people, though, beach season is a source of anxiety. You’re forced to peel off the layers that have kept your body under wraps. It can be tempting to try and jump into fitness as fast as possible, but there are some key things you should think about so you don’t go overboard. Before you start skipping meals or jump on the treadmill, I wanted to run through how to best get started on getting fit for the summer this year.
Start Off Slow
Whatever your activity of choice, the temptation is to pick up where you left off in the fall. Maybe you used to run three miles a day or be able to lift a certain amount of weight. But unless you’ve been staying in shape all winter, you’re going to have to start out low and go slow. Make your first workout way easier than you think it should be and scale up the next one based on how you feel.
It’s tempting to think that if you’re not pushing yourself to the maximum every time, you’re wasting your time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your body needs time to adjust to new levels of exercise. If you push it too hard too fast you’ll probably end up very sore and potentially even injured. Both will prevent you from getting fit. Make the first week or two easy enough to get back into the rhythm. Once you feel comfortable, you can step it up to the next level.
Value Your Rest
Another temptation when you start up your exercise regimen is to neglect your body’s need for rest. New movements, harder workouts and faster speeds all require more of your body than it’s used to giving. While the workout is important, it’s what happens afterward that matters the most. The time in between workouts is when your body adapts and builds the necessary muscle to be able to tackle your next round of exercise. If you’re working out too often without resting, it never has time to recover or improve.
Sleep is another key aspect of rest that often gets neglected. I’ve had patients come in and tell me that they’ve tried doing more exercise, but that it makes them too tired. Then I find out they’ve removed an hour of sleep each morning to get their workout in. Sleep is important for several reasons. It helps your brain learn new skills, which means it’s essential for all physical activity whether you’re trying out volleyball for the first time or playing golf with friends. On top of that, research is showing that sleep helps your heart recover faster after workouts and keeps your blood pressure more regular during and after exercise.
Find Something You’ll Actually Do
I regularly have patients ask me what the best exercise is for them to do. The thing is, most of my patients aren’t exercising to begin with and looking for the best exercise distracts them from just getting started. No matter who you are or what your health situation, the best exercise is the one you’ll actually do. You have to find something that you enjoy and that you’re willing to stick with even when it might be tough. If you hate running, resolving to run five times a week for the next month is unrealistic. You just aren’t going to love it enough to keep it up. Instead, pick an activity or exercise that you really enjoy. If you can’t think of anything, sample a bunch of different types and go with the best one. The summer is a great season to take a few fitness classes or to join a sports team. Remember, the best way to boost the fun factor of exercise is to do it with friends!
Set Yourself a Goal
The key to staying motivated when you’re getting fit is having a goal and a way to measure your progress. That goal should be a stretch and require a decent amount of effort to achieve. For example, you might aim to run a 5K race or set a goal of four visits to the gym per week for an entire month. Think about what markers you can use along the way to see whether you’re on track to achieve your goal and how you’ll motivate yourself if you start to fall behind. Setting goals and tracking your progress will help to motivate you when training gets tough.
Ready to get started? Start by finding out your fitness level and check out the fitness page on my website for a wide variety of ways to get your body into shape. My videos with Shaun T are a great way to get your heart rate up and body moving.