Preparing For That First StepPrint
However some people try to make it otherwise, running and other fitness oriented activities are not generally very complicated enterprises. They are, after all, figuratively, if not literally, a matter of putting one foot in front of the other – over and over again. But as simple and natural as such pleasures can be, to the uninitiated, the prospect of starting for the first time
or after a long period of inactivity, the prospect of starting can be as daunting as any hurdle in life.
Here are some of the time-honored steps that most experts recommend when asked,
“How do I get started?”
Ask your doctor, especially if you are over 35, fat or smoke cigarettes.
Have yourself checked out. To do it right, you should probably have a full stress electrocardiogram plus an analysis of your blood to determine your cardiovascular risk level or anything else that might be lurking in the wings. If you have been sedentary for five years or more, you are due for a physical exam anyway. Spring for it.
Go to a good running or fitness oriented sports store. There are plenty around in most places. There are also plenty of good running shoes that can be used for a variety of sports and exercise activities. Expensive ones are not necessarily going to be better for your feet or for your performance. Pick shoes that feel comfortable on your feet over the kind of socks that you plan to wear when you are out in the field, so to speak. If you shoe shop late in the day, you need to take into account that your feet will be somewhat larger than they will be right after breakfast. Choose a color that you can live with day after day.
You can wear any clothes you have that work for you and won’t be an embarrassment to you or your family. Bundle up when it’s cold, and when it’s hot, shed to the same sort of common sense point. Later on at events or expos or sales, you can pick up just about any other gear and accessories you will ever need.
Treat yourself tenderly. Even if you were a great athlete in school, your
time away from it may have left you unprepared for anything like a rapid re-entry. As a rule, plan to do one week of very slow jogging or walking for every year you have not done any significant exercise. If you are also overweight, continue this slow startup regimen until you are within 10 or 15 pounds of your weight at 21 or what you think of as your ideal weight, whichever is the lower.
Seek out other runners or exercisers. Try to pair up with someone who is roughly at about your level of development one or more times a week. It will help you keep your commitment to yourself. Races and fun runs are terrific places to find kindred spirits. Ask questions. Subscribe to one of the magazines in the area of activity to which you are the most drawn. Join a local club if you wish, and throw yourself into it with abandon.
To truly and honestly pursue your new-found purpose, and to enjoy fully the benefits that will flow from your new, exercise-induced, fitness, you need to maintain and achieve and maintain relatively lean body. This rule is somewhat less true of swimming compared with weight bearing activities, but remains a worthy objective nonetheless. If your diet is haphazard or is weighted towards steaks, fries, donuts and ice cream, you may be taking in a lot of fat and simple carbohydrate calories that go directly into storage when you don’t use them promptly. Start by cutting out or off all the fat you can plainly see. There will be plenty left to satisfy your need for this highly rich fuel. Lean toward vegetables that are raw or streamed. Rigorously avoid hydrogenated or trans-fats altogether. If you are a carnivore, opt for fish, skinned poultry and lean cuts of other kinds of animal protein. Take in plenty of water every day or mix fruit juice with seltzer if you like the fizz. And finally, avoid both sugared and diet soft drinks except, maybe, for rare ceremonial occasions.
Scheduling may be your most persistent obstacle to a new, fitness directed lifestyle. Most of us are bound up with too many things to do already. So running or any regular exercise program is going to have to entail priority setting, some juggling and lots of hard determination and focus. Look at your week realistically. Where can you most easily and conveniently fit in an hour time block three times? Five times? Keep yourself flexible and take your opportunities when they present themselves, but mostly try to plan ahead and, above all, hang on.
If you have been away from your physical side for a very long time, there is a good chance that you have become desensitized to the simple and subtle messages that your body regularly sends to your brain. In the days after you begin, you may feel some muscle soreness.
If it is really painful, rest until it eases up, then start up again more slowly. Your body is already beginning to adapt. It gets easier and a lot more fun.