How to Get Fit and Stay Fit
Stick to your New Year’s resolution to get fit by being prepared. Before you jump into an exercise program, brush up on the basics. These tips will help you develop a safe, fun routine for the long haul.
Warm-Up and Cool-Down
For best results, start each exercise session with a warm-up to heat up your muscles, and make them less likely to tear. Get your blood flowing by walking at a moderate pace, cycling on an exercise bike, or circling your arms and marching in place.
End every session with a cool-down, during which you gradually reduce the intensity of your exercise. This prevents blood from pooling in your veins, which could make you dizzy. Follow your cool-down with some stretches to loosen up the muscles you’ve just worked.
Dress for Success
Choose clothes that allow free movement. Stretchy materials and elastic waistbands are ideal. Don’t head out for a walk in street clothes, like jeans, that rub against you as you move. Dress in layers, especially if you’re exercising outdoors, so you can remove your outer garments as you warm up. For your first layer, choose something made of a high-tech fabric that wicks moisture away from the body. Avoid cotton, which absorbs sweat, leaving you feeling clammy.
Don’t Forget to Drink
Keeping hydrated is important before, during, and after exercise to prevent dizziness, cramps, exhaustion, and even collapse. Drink a tall glass of water at least 20 minutes before your workout, and keep sipping as you exercise. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink: by then, you’re already dehydrated. Instead, down another glassful of water after your workout.
Start Slow—But Think Big
Many people start out gung ho with an overly ambitious exercise program, push themselves to the point of sore muscles or injuries, then get discouraged and quit. A better tactic is to think in terms of smaller goals that build on one another. Work to just beyond your present fitness level, then gradually increase the duration, frequency, and intensity of your activities.