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Achieve your fitness goals to help you look and feel great

Virna Lichter CPR/AED, ACE Personal Trainer & Proprietor Energia Wellness Studio

Getting in shape requires lifestyle change. Just like kicking a bad habit such as biting fingernails or smoking, getting in shape and maintaining a healthy daily regime is something that requires more than a 30 or 60-day plan. It’s all about daily choices, attainable goals, and staying in the right mindset. Sure we’ve all had that week of extraordinary motivation; hitting the gym everyday and kicking that fast food breakfast habit, but it wasn’t long till you found yourself back to your same old habits.

The biggest thing people wanting to get in shape need to keep in mind is that you’re not only seeking to look better, but you should seek to feel better too. Perfect abs is a great aesthetic pleasure to reach for, but what if you also considered a goal of stronger immunity and getting sick less often? It’s not all about image or how many pounds of muscle you’ve gained or lost, it’s about bettering your overall health.

We’ve compiled a well-versed and explanatory list below of what exactly to do and not to do for those serious about taking on the challenge of making healthy changes in daily routine. Keep in mind that these are recommendations that should not be accepted blindly, but enacted after speaking with a fitness expert to customize a safe plan for each individual. If you don’t have immediate access to a fitness expert, have a discussion with a friend or colleague that’s serious about health and fitness and see if they are willing to assist and recommend fitness tips to you.


Do

Do stretch before and after you work out

Just like cold pizza dough, cold muscles won’t be as pliable to work with as warmed ones. Not only will you improve your range of motion, but you will prevent injuries. What’s worse than getting into a routine and having to stop suddenly due to injury? Avoid straining and tightness in muscles and strategize for a better workout in general. Stretching after a workout will only thwart off soreness later and make stretching less difficult for the future.

Do bring a bottle of water to every workout

Hydration, hydration, hydration. Want to keep up your energy levels and feel refreshed? Then stay hydrated. While chugging water after every set isn’t the best decision (feel bloated much?), drinking one bottle to one and a half bottles of water for every hour of working out will keep you on the right track. And while you’re at it, why not go green and use a reusable container?

Do workout with a friend

It’s all about motivation and accountability. Who else will keep you in line when you’re tempted to skip out on the gym and get a milkshake instead? If they can’t do it, neither can you. You will each serve as a support system to the other and finally see those consistent results you’ve been striving for.

Do have a motivational slogan in the back of your mind

When you’re running and feel that soreness coming on or lifting a weight and 10 reps sounds a lot better than 12, have a motivational quote ready to repeat when you’re about to lose all your intensity. “No pain, no gain”, “Pain is weakness leaving the body”, or the simple “Just Do It” could actually give you that extra boost your looking for.

Do make goals that are realistic and attainable

You’re not going to lose all that weight that you’ve put on in the last year in a mere 2-4 weeks. Be realistic, choose a date further than closer and work by percentages, not guesses. Shoot for ridding 3-5% of your body fat by next season. Experts recommend a loss of 1% body fat per month or no more than 1-2 pounds lost per week as the safest and healthiest method to slim down. It’s all about escalating through progress and finding a happy medium.

Do expect to be sore, especially for beginners

Muscle soreness comes with working out. Muscles are being stressed and stretched more so than what they’re typically accustomed to and in return they will tighten up and cause discomfort. Even die hard gym buffs face soreness from workouts, it’s unavoidable. But you know how you can alleviate and prevent from being sore? Stretch and apply heat. As mentioned above, you can never stretch enough… the more you stretch, the less prone you are to being sore or enacting injury. And when you do have sore muscles, applying heat to the area relaxes tightened muscles and promotes better blood flow and circulation.

Do mix up cardio and strength training

In a follow-up to sore muscles, it’s important to rest your muscles after working out. The main rule of working out is that you don’t exercise the same exact muscles as you did yesterday. Interchange your workout routine to where one day is cardio, one day is arms and back, and another is legs and abs. You can even cut it to two different routines, whatever you like best. Don’t exercise the same muscles within 48 hours of each other, otherwise you could overwork yourself and cause injury.

Do start slow and focus on progress

You never want to overwork or to over intensify your workouts. Especially when you’re just starting out, focus on a small goal and add on as you progress. If you want to learn to jog, start by interchanging jogging for 1 minute and walking for 3. The next time jog for a minute and a half and walk for 2 minutes, and continue on this trend. The first couple weeks of working out should be a learning stage where you realize what works best for you.

Do get the best out of your headphones

Mix up your music choice and keep a fresh playlist. You can even create a playlist with a specified length so you don’t have to keep checking the time. If music isn’t doing it for you today, try a podcast or an audible book. If you’re really starting to see working out as a longstanding habit, don’t hesitate on investing in the perfect pair of workout headphones.


Don't

Do not get stuck on a treadmill

Beginners seeking regular exercise often get stuck in a routine of similar duration and similar intensity for every work out. Change up your routine by doing something different every day. Whether it’s warming up on an elliptical or bike machine instead of the treadmill, it’s important to not seemingly stick to the same mundane routine. If you don’t feel like leaving the house or sitting on a makeshift bike, jog or bike around your neighborhood instead!

Do not be afraid to work out every day

Working out every single day of the week is just about the best thing you can do to stay motivated and see results. It’s all about habit forming and consistency. While you don’t want to tediously work out for 2-3 hours every day, allow certain days to be shorter and less intense than others. Get a good cardio workout on Monday, Wednesday, Friday by jogging or biking, then dedicate Tuesday and Thursday to weight lifting. Mix it up on the weekends by doing yoga, zumba or something simple and related to fitness. (Notice how you don’t even need to leave the house if you have the proper tools!)

Do not obsess over post-workout food and drinks

Don’t focus on proteining it up right after a workout. While it’s important and simple to stay hydrated with water, limit the amount of sports drinks or energy bars you scarf down in response. If your workout lasts less than two hours, you shouldn’t need those extra calories or protein to recover what you’ve lost. Most importantly, if you’re still dedicated to refueling afterwards, read the nutrition labels on what you’re eating or drinking to make sure it’s actually helping.

Do not lift too much weight

Start slow and build up. (Like we said... focus on progress).If you’re white-knuckle-gripping the bar and clenching your teeth, you’re wasting valuable energy. Relax the muscles you’re not using and instead put all your focus on the ones you are using. In addition, never “jerk around” when lifting weights as it’s a huge potential risk for injury. If you notice yourself having to “swing” your momentum in order to fully lift something, you’re only hurting your muscles, not helping.

Do not have careless posture

Multitasking while working out is a gained right, not a given entitlement. Slouching while leafing through a magazine or book while on an elliptical isn’t helping your performance nor is slumping over when curling dumbbells on a bench. Not focusing on proper posture discourages deep breathing, causing less blood flow and less focus, and results in “checking out” both mentally and physically. Get in the habit of sitting and standing up straight when working out to allow your muscles to work at full capacity.

Do not ignore soreness that lasts more than 48 hours

While you should be able to sense whether a soreness is standard procedure or a potential problem, if you find yourself in physical pain past 48 hours of your last workout, it may be a sign of an overworked muscle. Especially when it comes to neck and back pain, you never want to strain yourself. If you skip out on the gym due to soreness, don’t skip out on stretching. Stay in tuned to what your body is telling you and don’t overdue or over intensify your workouts.


Summary
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By following these simple tips you will be able to achieve a fitness goal that you can stick with and the results that will make you feel and look your best. But if you need a little motivation to get you in shape, you may want to consult with a personal trainer. Either way, remember that getting in shape and achieving your fitness goals is up to you and requires you to be dedicated and motivated.


More expert advice about Fitness and Exercise

Photo Credits: Fitness und Sport am Öschberghof by Flickr: Hotel Der Oeschberghof ; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Virna LichterCPR/AED, ACE Personal Trainer & Proprietor

Virna is originally from Brazil and came to the U.S. to study at University of California, Berkeley. She has been working in the fitness industry for over 15 years and possesses a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, and is certified as ACE ...

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