Many of us want to get in shape, but what exactly does it mean and how do you do it? Getting in shape is an individual experience, depending on your age, preferences, lifestyle and other factors. A mom with four kids may have very different goals from a mountain climber, for example.
But, at its heart, getting in shape simply means getting your body strong enough to do what you need it to do day after day. A mom with 4 kids may need to get in shape to have energy, stress relief and the patience to raise 4 kids.
A mountain climber needs to build strength and endurance for all the muscles he’ll use while hiking.
For the average person, it really means working your body more than you are right now. Any time you do more than what you're used to, your body grows stronger, getting you in better shape than you were before.
If your goal is to get in shape, you'll need a few basics:
to burn calories and help your heart and lungs work more efficiently to build lean muscle tissue while strengthening your bones, muscles, and joints to improve your range of motion, and rest so your body can recover and grow stronger.
Here's how to start.
Cardio exercise includes any rhythmic activity that gets you into your target heart rate zone. The options are endless, including walking, running, aerobics, cycling, swimming, and dancing. You can even use daily chores like raking leaves or shoveling snow if you can keep the movement consistent enough to raise your heart rate. How to get started:
- Choose any cardio activity that’s accessible and enjoyable.
- Schedule your cardio workouts for at least 3 days a week.
- Begin your workout with a comfortable 5-10 minute warm up to gradually increase your heart rate.
- Increase your intensity by going faster, adding hills, resistance or incline (or a combination) until you’re just out of your comfort zone (Level 5 or 6 on the Perceived Exertion Scale).
- Maintain that pace for 15-30 minutes or for as long as you can, adjusting your intensity as needed to stay at Level 5 or 6.
- End your workout with a cool down and stretch.
- Each week, increase your workout time by a few minutes until you can work continuously for 30 minutes a session.
- Progress by adding more workout days, trying new activities and/or adding more intensity.
Sample Cardio Schedule:
Monday: 20-Minute Basic Cardio and Total Stretch
Wednesday: 10-15 Minute Beginner Walking or Cycling and Total Stretch
Friday: 20-Minute Basic Cardio and Total Stretch
The other part of your workout program is strength training where you'll work all your major muscle groups. How to get started:
- Choose about 8-10 exercises, targeting the major muscle groups, including the lower body, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and abs.
- If you’re a beginner, do 1 set of 15 reps for each exercise. Choose weights that allow you to complete 15 reps – the last rep should be hard, but not impossible.
- Do your strength workout 2-3 times a week with at least one day of rest in between. each week by adding a set (until you’re up to a total of 3 sets per exercise), using heavier weights or trying new exercises.
Rest and Recovery
It may surprise you, but a big part of getting in shape is giving your body rest. While you can often do cardio on consecutive days, your muscles need more recovery time from lifting weights. Give yourself at least a day of rest between strength workouts and schedule regular rest days whenever you feel tired, sore or your performance is suffering.
If you want to get in shape but don’t want to break the bank, never fear. You don’t have to invest in a costly gym membership. You don’t need to buy the latest bike, wall technology, high-tech treadmill or elliptical machine for your home. You just need some ideas — and motivation.
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Exercise physiologist Christopher Travers, MS, suggests six ways to exercise that won’t strain your budget. If your doctor says you’re healthy enough for exercise, there’s no better time than now.
Walking for 30 minutes a day can help you lose weight, control your blood sugar, and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce stress. Can’t do 30 minutes? Three 10-minute walks per day work just as well.
Cost: Invest in good walking shoes, which range from $60 to $120 at sporting goods stores and online. Running shoes work, too, but can be more expensive. Good shoes will serve you well, but be sure to replace them every 400 miles or twice a year, whichever comes first.
2. Suspension trainer (TRX)
Suspension trainers provide an inexpensive, complete full-body workout and use minimal space. Most trainer’s kit comes with a set of bands along with foot anchors and handles to accommodate different exercises. These resistance exercises help you develop flexibility, balance, strength, and joint stability all at the same time. Anyone can use TRX systems.
Cost: A typical suspension training system can cost anywhere from about $40 and up, depending on how big of a system you want to build. But you can bring them with you anywhere so you don’t have to invest in the cost of a gym membership. That means you get your money’s worth after a couple of months of use.
3. Exercise balls
Using an exercise ball will help you keep your abdominal muscles, back and hips strong. It can also help you improve your balance and agility. Use the exercise ball for stretching after workouts, too. You can find good exercise ball routines online.
Cost: Exercise balls come in different weights and materials and run from about $8 to $50. Printing out an online exercise ball routine will just cost you printer ink and paper.
4. Dumbbells or kettlebells
Dumbbells and kettlebells can help you gain strength or maintain it. Start with the weight range that works best for you without straining too much. When you feel ready, increase the load or workout time. Be careful, though — using weights incorrectly can lead to injury. Use your weights in front of a mirror to check your posture. If you have questions, consult an exercise expert.
Cost: Depending on their weight and design, dumbbells and kettlebells range from $10 to $75 in stores.
Forget past memories of gym class and focus on how well you’ll tone your body with push-ups, crunches, squats, lunges and leg lifts.
Cost: This is the least expensive way to exercise. All you need are comfy workout clothes. You can lie on a clean towel or purchase a yoga mat for as little as $7 in stores.
6. Online exercise videos
When it comes to video workouts, there’s something for everyone. Pilates, yoga, kickboxing and even dance. A good combination of repetition and variety is always key when it comes to sticking to a good program. Try different options and vary them to keep yourself interested.
Cost: There are so many free options when it comes to online videos that keep you in shape — and more and more online workout classes are populating your favorite sites by the day. Choose what you like then tag and save a collection. Reuse every day.
“Most exercises are easily accessible and affordable, and you can do many of them right from your own home,” Travers says. “If you’re really planning on staying home to workout, you can even have inexpensive mats or workout gear or equipment shipped directly to your house. It really doesn’t matter where you exercise or how… just as long as you do it — and do it often.”
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How long does it take to get in shape? Anything can be done in three to four months, three to four weeks or even something as short as thirty days. With the right mindset and dedication during your workouts and throughout the rest of the day, you can transform your body and mind.
Here is How Long Does It Take to Get in Shape: Beginners Guide
In this blog I am not only going to share with you how long it can take to get in shape, but also give you insight on how to do it.
Welcome to this blog focusing on the correlation between exercising and mental health. Today I will be answering one frequently asked question: how long does it take to get in shape?
I’m not here to discuss this just because it’s spring, and summer is just around the corner. I’m not here writing this just because we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel after this pandemic that led to most of us struggling to stay fit and motivated. I am here because this is something that many people struggle with – anytime throughout the year, despite the circumstances.
That said, for whatever reason you arrived here today, I’m glad. It shows a great first step in a positive direction – a step on a path toward taking better care of yourself because you deserve it. You deserve to feel good about yourself and be happy but believe me when I say I understand how it is to not always feel this way. It is not always easy to believe in yourself enough to finally start or to keep going.
There are countless reasons why so many of us are afraid to try to get fit. Still, there are a few of these reasons that we all have in common, even if at times we forget that we are all more alike than we think. If you are here reading this because you have tried so hard but always seem to fall off track and back into old habits, I get it. If you are here because you are too afraid to start, I get that too.
While getting in shape and staying in shape certainly take a substantial amount of motivation, positivity, and self-belief, I have found that becoming too emotionally connected to our physical health makes fitness harder to maintain. This has nothing to do with the significant impact that physical health has on our mental health because I’ll actually cover some of that too. What I mean to say is, it might help you to just look at the facts.
If you haven’t yet found a solution to your fitness frustrations, maybe this time you look at your physical health more objectively, as something attainable if you put in the work. Rather than constantly forming negative opinions about ourselves if we get off track or believing that the way we look defines who we are, this time, let’s just focus on the science of it and allow the benefits, both body and mind, to follow. Make sense? I have a good feeling that this blog will help you recognize the possibility and discover your potential!
Being healthy and in good shape is not about how you look or the number on the scale. What matters is that you feel good about yourself and learn to appreciate your body. Regular exercise with endurance and strength training combined with a balanced diet will help you develop a healthy body and self image (that includes your mental health) and get in shape. In this article we’ll take a closer look at what fitness nutrition is and it can help you reach your goals.
Carbohydrates should be your main source of energy (approx. 55% of your caloric intake per day) , especially if you exercise regularly, because they keep your motor running. These foods are high in carbohydrates:
- Grain flakes
If possible, choose whole grains. They keep you full longer, provide more vitamins and minerals, and keep your blood sugar stable.
The choice of carbohydrates and and regular, balanced meals are important for preventing your blood sugar from fluctuating. High blood sugar levels cause your body to release more of the hormone insulin. Insulin stores sugar and fat in your body cells while at the same time preventing fat loss. After an intense training session, however, it is a good idea to eat a snack containing carbohydrates and protein .
Be careful to limit your intake food and drinks containing sugar (sugar in hidden forms, like pre-packaged muesli). They contain empty calories and are low in nutrients.
Fruit and vegetables
The World Health Organization recommends the “5 a day” rule: Every day, you should eat two portions ( one portion is a handful) of fruit and at least three portions of vegetables – the more colorful and varied the better.
An easy way to do this is to just add more fruit and vegetables into your daily meals. Make your meals as colorful as possible. Cut up an apple in your cereal, dip carrot sticks in hummus for a quick snack, eat a colorful salad for lunch, blend up a smoothie in the afternoon, or add chopped tomato and onion to your scrambled eggs. Get creative with food. Always think about what you can add to a meal instead of what you should take away (such as to cut calories).
No Crash Diets
Do you want to get in shape and lose weight? Don’t bother with crash diets. You’ll end up facing the yo-yo effect. Your goal should be to lose body fat long term. By reducing your weight slowly – 0.5 to 1 kg per week – you’ll be able to keep it off.
Every meal should include a source of protein because the macronutrient protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle. It’s up to you whether you prefer to combine animal and plant protein or get your protein from vegan sources .
Sources of plant-based protein:
- Soy and soy products
- Grain products
Sources of animal protein:
- Meat and meat products
- Milk and dairy products
Make sure to get enough protein, but don’t overdo it: A daily protein intake of 1 to 1.5 g per kg of body weight is optimal if you want to get in shape and you exercise regularly.
Calculate how much protein you need:
Fat is the last of the three macronutrients in our fitness nutrition guide. 1g of fat contains more than twice as many calories as 1g of carbohydrates or protein , which is why it should be consumed in small amounts. Fat is important for the body to be able to build cells, produce hormones, and absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Fat also intensifies flavors of food .
Get your healthy unsaturated fatty acids from high-quality vegetable oils (flaxseed oil, safflower oil, and olive oil) , nuts , seeds, fatty fish and avocados. If you want to get in shape and stay healthy, limit your daily fat consumption to 1g per kg of body weight .
An important part of fitness nutrition is making sure you’re properly hydrated – and that doesn’t only apply to athletes. Quench your thirst with non-carbonated water, mineral water, and unsweetened fruit or herbal tea. Spice up your water with a fresh sprig of mint or a slice of lemon or orange.
The daily recommended fluid intake is 35-40ml per kg of body weight , although of course you can drink more when temperatures are high. You also have to consume 1.5 times more fluid to replenish the fluids lost due to sweating during your workout.
Do alcohol and exercise mix?
Caution: alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation and dehydrates you. Small amounts of beer, wine, and spirits usually don’t have a significant impact on your performance. However, drinking too much can be seriously detrimental to your fitness progress.
The most important thing you need to get in shape is patience. Long term success doesn’t happen overnight. A balanced, intuitive diet and regular exercise that’s fun will make you feel good about yourself, which will help you stick with it.
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Wanting to get into shape can be simultaneously exciting, confusing, and frustrating. There are so many marketing sharks out there looking to prey upon people trying to lose weight that it can be genuinely difficult to decide what is healthy and what isn’t; what you need to get in shape fast and what is just another piece of garbage fitness gimmick.
So amongst all the white noise, how does one get in shape fast, cheap, and relatively easy?
Workouts to get into shape
“You’ll never regret a workout”. Exercising is absolutely essential to getting into shape fast. It also keeps you youthful, healthy, attractive, and mentally sharp.
You don’t need the luxury of a gym membership to get fit, but you do need a well rounded routine consisting of these three aspects of fitness:
Cardio workouts are one of the best ways to create a caloric deficit and ultimately end up dropping off extra pounds. It encourages heart health, proper blood circulation, and a lean body. Everyone should aim for at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity, most days of the week in order to keep heart disease and extra bodyweight at bay, but if you are looking to get lean, you will see results faster if you bump that daily tally up to a full hour. Again, you don’t need a gym for this aspect of fitness; walking and jogging outdoors, mowing the lawn, and gardening are all examples of things that “count”.
Strength training is an aspect of health that you can’t afford to neglect, no matter if your fitness goal is to lose weight, slim down, build muscle or gain strength. Adding strength training workouts to your routine 3-4 days a week will increase your metabolism, strength, and bone density, and help you lean out or gain mass, depending on the weight and reps that you use.
You don’t need a gym for strength training, either. Bodyweight exercises are sometimes even more challenging than those using machines or dumbbells. What you do need is a strength training routine that works muscles in a way that will help you avoid injury while you develop proportionate, lean muscles. Fitness Blender Workout Videos are an excellent example of routines that you can do at home without any equipment.
Flexibility is an essential part of what allows you to stay active throughout your entire life, which is in turn essential to maintaining a high quality of life…and a healthy body weight. If stretching is not exciting enough for you, put it into a context that is easier to stick to; yoga or Pilates, for example.
Eating well to get into shape; tricks and tips to drop pounds faster
When it comes to getting fit, eating healthily is just as important as working out.
Cut out refined foods and fast foods
Aside from the fact that most refined foods are horrid for your health, they aren’t going to do you any favors when it comes to getting back into shape, either. As often as you possibly can, opt for fresh foods over boxed or packaged ones, and whenever time allows, cook your meals from scratch. Make this change and you will likely notice an immediate drop in bodyweight, if not just from a reduction in overall salt intake; packaged foods tend to be loaded with sodium.
Eat multiple, small, preplanned meals
Ditch the 3 large meals a day and/or any plans of fasting in exchange for smaller, more frequent meals. When you eat small meals every few hours, you keep your metabolism high and a frenzied hunger at bay. Preplanning meals helps you make smart diet decisions and avoid situations where you find yourself either munching all the way through making dinner or pulling into the nearest fast food drive-thru.
Balance carbs, proteins and fats
There are many diet plans out there that have vilified one or more of these critical diet pillars but all of them are necessary in order for your body to function. Stick to the recommended 60% carbohydrates, 20% proteins, and 20% fats.
Track calories in order to create a snapshot of your consumption
Using a food log is a good way to get an idea of whether or not you are creating a caloric deficit and whether or not you are eating a balanced diet conducive to getting into shape. For even further insight into the calories consumed, calories burned equation, consider investing in a calorie counting weight management device to help you stay motivated towards your goals.
Aim for sustainable diet changes
Whatever you do, stay away from fad diets. You may lose weight in the short term but you are far more likely to gain once you’re finished with any drastic fad diet plans. “Diets” don’t work; healthy lifestyle changes are what are going to get you into shape and keep you there.
Eat to nourish the body
Think of food as fuel. Take care of your body. Make dietary choices that nourish your body and make you feel good. Listening to your body makes it easier to get in shape, too; eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you feel full
There is a constant stream of new fitness tools, weight loss pills, and fad diets, but the truth is that the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in. If you’re looking to lose weight or get fit, don’t let yourself be fooled by any program that delivers anything else outside of a balanced nutrition plan and regular exercise routine. In other words; don’t take weight loss supplements of any kind, don’t fear carbohydrates, and don’t let anyone convince you that exercise does nothing for weight loss.
If you buy into anything at all, buy into a healthy lifestyle that you can sustain. Keep this in mind; if you cannot maintain whatever it is that is helping you drop weight, you will not be able to maintain your weight loss or your fitness progress.
This article was co-authored by Pete Cerqua. Pete Cerqua is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. Pete is also a five-time best-selling author of books including “The 90-Second Fitness Solution” and “High Intensity Fitness Revolution for Women/Men” published by Simon and Schuster and Skyhorse Publishing. Pete has over 20 years of personal training and nutrition coaching experience and operates the 90-Second Fitness flagship studio in New York City.
There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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Changing your body composition takes time and commitment to healthy lifestyle habits. It’s difficult to make significant changes in body composition in a short amount of time. However, over just a few weeks of exercising and eating a nutritious diet, you may be able to see some positive benefits in your weight, body composition and overall strength, and with perseverance you will feel more energy, satisfaction and an improved sense of well being. Start your journey to get in shape by including regular aerobic exercise, strength training and flexibility training. In addition, be sure to support your new exercise routine with a well-balanced diet to fuel your new workouts and get your body in shape.
Basic hiking trails are designed to be accessible to a wide range of people, and they don’t require much physical fitness to tackle. If you want to try serious backpacking like a fourteener in Colorado, you’ll need to be physically fit.
Hiking short local trails is the best training for longer hikes, but some gym time is essential for improving your stability, strength, and resilience for rugged terrain. As part of your training regimen, try to include some short hikes so you can allow your body to adapt to the different types of terrain and inclines. It also allows you to get used to carrying and using your hiking gear. If possible, increase your distance by 10% each week to help develop your endurance.
Most people recognize that cardio is an essential component for efficient hiking, but a strong core and upper-body strength are also important. Try these nine easy ways to get in shape and get ready for the hiking season.
1. Go for a brisk walk.
If you are a novice hiker, start your training regimen by walking around your neighborhood, local park, or beach. Make sure to walk fast enough to drive up your heart rate and work up a sweat.
Although walking up and down hills is great for recreating the feeling of hiking, look for a sandy place to hike as well. Walking in sand helps build up key leg and ankle muscles that can help prevent sprains once you’re out on the trail.
2. Take the stairs.
Hiking involves some uphill and downhill inclines, which can be hard to practice if you live in a flat area. Walking up and down stairs mimics the types of motions required while hiking and is a great way to build leg and core muscles.
3. Work on your core.
Your core muscles are essential to maintaining stability and balance on rugged terrain, so they’re just as important as leg stamina. While you don’t need a full six-pack to tackle a multi-day hike, by the end of each day your back and stomach muscles will hurt if they’re not conditioned.
Crunches and planks are great exercises for building core stomach muscles. Once you have these basic exercises mastered, try leveling them up with variations that incorporate weights and other equipment.
4. Get used to your backpack.
Carrying a heavy backpack can drain your stamina fast. This is especially true if hiking by yourself, since you’ll have to carry every piece of gear you might need on your trip.
Building your core muscles helps, but your shoulders, neck, and legs also need appropriate training. Start by wearing a lighter version of your backpack while doing step-ups or walking up stairs, and then gradually add five pounds at a time until you can handle the full weight that you anticipate carrying during your hike.
5. Try resistance bands.
Resistance bands are an excellent way to build up muscle strength. They strengthen your muscles through their full rotation and extension, helping build strength that can prevent injuries.
Wear resistance bands while performing lunges and squats to add an extra level of difficulty to your exercise routine. Another excellent resistance band exercise for improving glute muscle and joint strength is the lateral band walk.
Place the resistance band around your legs just above the knee. Stand with your legs hip-width apart. Then, position your body into a squat position with your back straight and core engaged. Step to the side with your left foot, and bring your right foot to meet it, keeping tension in the band. Repeat three times, and then side walk in the other direction, leading with the right foot. Perform 8-10 sets on each leg.
6. Do lunges.
Lunges prevent conditions such as Hiker’s Knee, improve your posture, and strengthen your core when done correctly.
Standing, side, and walking lunges are all great for hikers. Start by doing short sets of eight per side, and then increase the number of sets and slowly add weights for a better workout. Do not allow your knee to extend farther than your foot to avoid injury.
7. Get a jump rope.
Jumping rope is an excellent exercise for hikers trying to avoid post-hiking fatigue. Hiking requires a healthy heart and lungs, and a good cardio workout helps improve your body’s ability to get enough oxygen and pump blood quickly. Jumping rope for 10 minutes is the equivalent of a 30-minute jog at 6 mph, so it’s an efficient alternative to hitting the pavement.
8. Incorporate push-ups.
Push-ups are essential to being able to carry your backpack long distances. Even if you don’t have any problem with just carrying your backpack, taking your heavy backpack off and putting it back on can cause injuries if your shoulders and arms aren’t strong enough.
If you can’t do a full push-up yet, you can do a knee-supported version instead of standard push-ups. You can also do one at an angle by placing your knees on the floor and your hands on a bench or another surface slightly above the ground. This takes some of the weight off your shoulders and arms so you can gradually build up your upper body strength.
9. Use functional training techniques.
To prepare for hiking, you need to strengthen the muscles that you predominantly use on your outdoor adventures. This targeted approach to exercise is known as functional training. The main muscle groups used during any hike, whether steep or flat, are your glutes and core. These muscles stabilize your spine and pelvis and create a driving force to help you scale any elevation.
One of the best exercises for working these two muscle groups simultaneously is the Side Plank with Hip Abductor. Lie on your side, lift your hips, and raise yourself on your elbow to form a diagonal line from the floor to your shoulder. Raise your top leg to create a line parallel to the floor from your shoulder to foot. Hold for 20 seconds, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Perform 4-6 sets each day, gradually increasing the holding time by 10 seconds each day to build up your strength.
Ready for Adventure
Hiking can be challenging for those who aren’t in great shape. If you haven’t been on a hike in a long time, put extra effort into preparing for your journey. Even a strenuous single-day hike can leave you sore and worn out if you’re not careful.
By getting into shape ahead of time, you’ll make it easier to enjoy the hike. Easy exercises like crunches, lunges, and even long, brisk walks can all play a part in your routine. What’s important is that you put the work in and get your heart rate going so your body is ready for the task.
When it comes to getting in shape, there are no real secrets or shortcuts. The path to a fitter you is paved with many hours doing fitness activities. No matter what your gender, creating better health and a shapelier body involves picking activities you enjoy, and doing them as often as you can.
Video of the Day
Assess your current fitness level so you'll be able to track your changes over time. Run, jog or even walk a mile, and time how long it takes you. Count how many sit-ups, pushups and pull-ups you can do. Measure your waist, chest, hips and thighs using a soft measuring tape. Then write all of that information into a fitness journal, along with the date. Two weeks from now — no sooner — do this test again, and then again in six weeks. If you've been sticking to a fitness routine, you should find that you're making significant changes.
Find a friend who wants to take this journey with you. Having consistent social support has been shown to be a strong indicator of success in fitness programs, and may motivate you to show up when you were thinking of skipping out. It can also encourage some friendly competition to see who meets their goals faster.
Carve out as much time as possible for getting in shape — but don't worry if you only manage 15 minutes over your lunch break. Around 30 to 60 minutes of cardio, five days a week is ideal, but do what you can. Pick activities that you enjoy among the highest calorie-burning exercises such as running, swimming, aerobics, Zumba, dancing or jumping rope, if you can — if none of those appeal to you, any type of movement will help you get in shape. Women's lives tend to be filled with child-rearing and household responsibilities that make it difficult to do a full hour of exercise — and that makes some women feel overwhelmed, suggests a 2002 University of Michigan study on barriers to women's fitness. Don't beat yourself up — do what you like to do and you're more likely to feel good about it and stick with it.
Work strength training into your routine two days a week, in keeping with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' physical activity guidelines. The best-case scenario: hire a trainer or use circuit training machines or free weights to do a total-body workout that puts all major muscle groups through a full range of motion. If you're among the many women who don't want to go to the gym for fear of others seeing their bodies, take your strength training routine to your living room, before or after work. Get a set of dumbbells and do weight-bearing exercises, including bicep curls, butterfly chest exercises, lunges and squats, as well as pushups and sit-ups. All you need is one set of about 12 repetitions of each exercise, or to the point of muscle fatigue. Within a few sessions, you should start to see a difference.
Reward yourself when you complete a workout, no matter how long the workout. In that University of Michigan study, researchers found that women were more successful in sticking to their exercise programs when they created a "pleasure response" to exercise. That doesn't mean you should go out and eat a banana split every time you work out — reward yourself with something healthy, such as a smoothie, an extra episode of your favorite show, or something else you enjoy.
Things You’ll Need
You want to get in shape fast — but your "fast" might not be realistic. Making significant changes to your body is going to take time, and that might not fit into your current level of "getting in shape fast." Remember that a safe amount of weight to lose is about two pounds a week, reminds Weight Watchers. Within a few weeks though, you should start to feel more energetic, stronger and more content overall — those are the sure signs that you're getting "in shape."
There’s never a bad time to get your life and yourself into good shape, but there’s something about the renewal of spring that really brings that desire out.
That might be because you want to get outside and enjoy the nice weather, boost your confidence before hanging out at the beach this summer, or get serious about establishing a habit that’ll keep your brain healthy and can add years to your life.
Whatever your rationale is, getting started can be daunting — and turning all this into a regular habit can be even more difficult.
Business Insider has interviewed a number of fitness experts who have provided a number of tips that’ll help you out if you’re trying to get fit.
Here’s what professional coaches, trainers, and fitness experts recommend.
1. Pick a race or an event to train for.
Working towards something can make it easier to outline specific goals to get you started. Some people might decide that a marathon would make them feel like they’ve accomplished something special. Others might enjoy the variety offered by a triathlon. Or perhaps an obstacle-style run like a Tough Mudder sounds interesting.
If you have to train for a race, you’ll know exactly what you need to do, which can make planning your workouts easier. And the accomplishment itself could have transformative effects on your life, according to Dr. Steve Graef, a sports psychologist at Ohio State University.
“If you’re able to experience growth and challenge in an area that is unrelated to your day to day life [like a marathon], it’s very beneficial,” Graef says. “You can bring that confidence and ability to handle pressure into whatever you do.”
2. Put your workouts on your schedule for every week
If you are going to sign up for something like a triathlon, you don’t necessarily need to start with a coach, according to Dan Arnett, a professional coach who has competed in world championship races and Ironman triathlons. “What you need is a plan,” he says.
Put your workouts on your calendar so you start every day knowing what you are going to do. If you just plan on working out whenever you get around to it, you’ll find yourself skipping more sessions than not.
3. Get seven to nine hours of sleep a night to make muscle building and fat burning easier.
“If you don’t sleep — especially good sleep — you don’t give growth hormone a good chance to hit its peak,” says Shawn Arent, the director of the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers University. That’s essential both for building down muscle and for breaking down fat in the body. Plus, it’s easier to resist cravings and make smart decisions if you are well-rested. It might sounds hard, but it’s worth trying to make sure you are getting enough sleep.
4. Don’t use a scale to measure your progress.
You’ll probably put on weight instead of losing it, especially at first, according to Arnett. Your body adds muscle mass at the start, which makes you weigh more, even if you lose extra flab around the waist (even more so if you are a man, since it’s generally easier for men to build muscle). If you’ve got significant weight to lose, it should come off eventually. But don’t look for an immediate decrease on the scale — especially if you haven’t altered your diet.
Focus on how your clothes fit instead, he says.
5. You still have to eat well.
“People expect to be able to change their diet” Arnett says.
But most of us can’t eat whatever we want all the time, even if we are working out. Most people are usually are getting enough calories, so there’s no need to suddenly start carb-loading.
Those training for an ultra race like an Ironman may need some additional nourishment, but they still need to eat healthy — and a person training for a first race won’t get close to that level of calorie-burning.
So go ahead and enjoy the occasional cheeseburger or ice cream as you ordinarily would — but keep it occasional.
6. Accountability matters — work out with a friend.
“I used to meet a buddy of mine at 4:30 [am] in Central Park,” says John Honerkamp, a coach with the New York Road Runners and former professional runner. “I knew she would be there waiting for me.”
It’s a lot harder to skip a training session if you are going to leave a friend out to dry.
7. Make things as easy for yourself as you can.
If you are going to run in the morning, put your shoes and clothes out beforehand — you can even sleep in your running clothes, says Honerkamp. The hardest part is almost always getting out the door.
8. If you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, switch up your training plan.
For a while, researchers have thought that some people are “nonresponders,” meaning their bodies don’t respond to certain types of exercise. But a recent study found that while some people don’t respond to some types of training, switching up their plan (from endurance training to high intensity training or vice-versa) helped them improve.
To check your baseline, pick a spot with several flights of stairs and walk or jog up briskly. Check your pulse. A few weeks into your workout, do the same test at the same place — you should see improvement if you’re getting more fit. If not, change up your regimen.
9. Take advantage of the latest fitness science and do some short but intense workouts.
“Time is everything for people,” says Jason Barone, regional clinical director of Professional Physical Therapy. “High intensity training is kind of perfect for the busy schedule — you don’t need a gym, you can do it at your home, you’re looking at about a 20 to 30 minute workout.”
These are workouts you can still fit into your schedule on a busy day and a growing body of research shows that for many measures of physical health, these fitness routines can be just as good as workouts that take two to fives times as long.
10. Don’t hurt yourself.
If you’ve ever experienced a rotator cuff or ligament tear, you already know that the most frustrating way to derail your fitness progress is with an injury. “It’s good to push the body, but you need to listen to it as well,” says Barone. “Be aware of warning signs . don’t push through pain [especially a sharp twinge or tightening], that might mean you need to take it easy.” You want to make sure you don’t put yourself out of commission.
11. Do something fun.
A number of these experts all share one key thing — find something you enjoy. Some people love running, some people hate it. Others enjoy weight lifting or soccer or rock climbing. Ideally, according to generally recommended guidelines, you should be doing both aerobic activity and strength training, with a mix of vigorous and moderate exertion. The best way to get there is to find an activity or group of activities you like enough to keep doing.
And even after you accomplish your goal, make sure to find something new and fun to work towards. If you run a marathon but then sit on the couch for the next few months, you’ll eventually fall back to where you started.
“If people engage in these types of challenges, doing something they never thought was possible, [they should] continue to do that, continue to have check ins over the course of a year, over the course of their life,” says Graef. You want to make this a lifestyle, not just a short stint.