Create a plan
Libby Norris, a fitness expert on "Canada AM" and the owner of Inspired Energy, recommends writing down an exercise strategy to help you find your ideal fitness routine before you join a gym or sign up for classes. "The first thing in your plan? Identify your goals," says Norris. "What do you want out of this fitness program?" Whether your goal is to lose weight or feel more energized, it's important to focus on your exercise objectives. Having a goal to pursue gives you a reason to stick with your fitness routine.
Next, identify what motivates you. "Is it being in a group or having solitude?" asks Norris. Your motivation will help you pinpoint the physical activity that's most appropriate for you. "If somebody joins a Zumba class, but they want time by themselves because they have a crazy, stressful job, that's not the right choice for them," says Norris.
Also ask yourself if music gets you motivated, or if you prefer a quiet, meditative atmosphere. Do you like working out indoors or outside? Does a structured environment (like a fitness class) make you eager to work out, or is an informal arrangement (running solo or swimming pool lengths) more your style? Identifying your motivation "helps to dictate what you [should] end up doing," says Norris.
Page 1 of 2 -- Did you know that your smartphone can be used as a tool to help you find a new fitness program? Find out how on page 2.
The third and final part of your plan is evaluating your schedule. "How much time do you have to dedicate to [exercise]?" asks Norris. Look at frequency, duration and what you can realistically handle time-wise. "Start off with what fits into your schedule right now. If it's 10-minute spots throughout the day, that will dictate what you do. Go for a walk at lunch or climb the stairs during TV commercial breaks," says Norris. A few minutes of exercise a day is better than none at all – and there's always the chance that those 10 minutes might extend to 15 minutes or longer. If you can carve out more substantial time for exercise, you're ready for the next step.
Do what you like
Think of the physical activities you enjoy or are eager to try. "If you want that high cardio feeling but find running boring, look at other options that give you a similar outcome like a group cycling or kick-boxing class," says Norris. There are plenty of exercise choices.
One way to try different activities without making a big financial commitment is by downloading smartphone apps. Many of the popular names in fitness, including Nike, Jillian Michaels and Shape magazine, have apps that are either free or cost just a few dollars. "I love when people start with [fitness apps] because they become a better educated fitness consumer," says Norris. Thanks to your smartphone, you can try running, yoga or weight workouts at home. When you're ready to advance to the next level – such as hiring a trainer or signing up for a class – you'll know exactly what activities you enjoy.
Want more information about your chosen athletic pursuit? If you're keen on a gym or a specific class, stop by and interview the training staff. Ask questions regarding hours, costs and services, so you can make an informed decision on whether to sign up. Norris stresses that you should "visit at a time when you would likely work out." If you'd like to exercise at 6 p.m. and all the machines or spots are taken, you might want to find a less hectic venue. Websites can also be helpful. "If you look online, make sure [the expert] is qualified and certified, and that it's a credible source that's not just trying to sell you a product," says Norris.
And don't forget to ask your friends. If they love their workouts, perhaps you can join them. You'll be adopting a healthy pursuit and "it's a great way to make it social," says Norris.
Congratulations! You've now found your chosen fitness routine, but Norris has one last piece of advice. "Don't be afraid to try new things," she says. "You always want to mix it up and keep your body guessing. If you do the same routine repeatedly, you'll start burning fewer calories. Mixing it up helps you avoid plateaus, stay motivated and [introduces you to new] things you might like."
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