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Are you thinking about taking on a new fitness challenge?
Here's how to get from the couch to the finish line
YOU LOOKED FABULOUS for your wedding. You got
bikini-ready before going to Hawaii. You even shed a few pounds
last summer for family portrait day. But if nothing's on the
horizon keeping you motivated to stay in shape, you may find
yourself slipping out of your healthy routine and back into your
Weight-loss goals don't need to be forced upon you-you can make
up your own by signing up for a fitness event you've always wanted
to try. Whether it's a half-marathon, tennis league or bicycle tour
de [wherever!], you'll have a goal to set your sights on and
something to work toward for the next few months.
The first step toward your fitness goal doesn't actually involve
any steps at all. Before you even think about hitting the pavement
or picking up a racquet, take some time to think.
"The very first step is to assess why you want
to do this," says Gregory Florez, a spokesman for the American
Council on Exercise. "It should be for yourself and no one else."
You'll be more likely to stick with it when training becomes
Next, take stock of your fitness level. "Take a realistic look
in the mirror, and assess your current state of health against your
goal," Florez says. "Realistically determine how long it will take
you to get there."
Lastly, break out your schedule. "Figure out if you have time to
do it or if you have to make the time," suggests Mike Bracko,
Ed.D., a fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine. "When
are you going to train? Are you going to wake up early or train
after work? What time of day is best?"
Enter your training schedule into your calendar, and stick to it
just as you would any other appointment.
Now that you've done your homework, it's time to hit the track,
field or court. But don't go it alone.
"Engage a professional to get you started," Florez suggests.
"Get some professional assistance, even if just in the beginning to
get you started and build a training program for you."
Bracko agrees. "A personal trainer will help you train
properly," he says. "Hire one for a few sessions in the beginning,
or check in every couple of weeks throughout your program."
A professional can help not only with your goals but also with
reaching them safely.
"A lot of people just get too anxious and think they have to
train hard," Bracko says. "Train at various durations and
intensities. Don't ever do long, hard workouts all the time."
And don't skip the flexibility and strength training either.
"Studies show people who run and weight train have lower risk of
injury," Bracko says. "In tennis, you'll be able to hit the ball
harder. And if a muscle is stronger, it's less likely to get
Another way to prevent injury is to have the proper equipment.
"Don't skimp on gear," Florez recommends. "Make an investment in a
good pair of shoes, clothing that's breathable and other equipment
that's germane to your sport."
You've trained, and now the big day is right around the corner.
What to do?
"Ask other people who've done the event what to expect," Bracko
suggests. "A day or two before the event is a good time to get a sports massage. You might
want to schedule one for about 24 hours after as well."
On the day of, have your clothes and equipment laid out and
ready to go. And don't try anything new, Florez emphasizes.
Instead, visualize your performance and think positively.
"Understand that you've done all the training and prepared
yourself as well as you can," Bracko says. "You will be successful
in the participation of that event. You might not win, but you've
prepared and you'll do the best you can."
-By Shelley Flannery