Exploring the Many Roads to Fitness
If you are just getting started on an exercise regime, or if you have trouble getting into exercise because you find it boring or unpleasant, there are quite a lot of things you can do to spice up the part of the day you’ve dedicated to fitness. There’s no reason to stick with something that makes you unhappy or resentful — exercise comes in many forms, and there’s bound to be one that will suit you mentally as well as physically.
There are three basic aspects you need to consider when trying out exercise plans. The first is cardiovascular fitness, or endurance, which is gained by engaging in an activity which will get your heart rate within a target zone and keep it there for at least 20 minutes. Most people think of running, cycling, or swimming when they think of doing cardio, but these are by no means the only ways to get your heart pumping. Taking the dog out for a brisk walk, attending an aerobics class of some sort, or playing a sport like tennis is a good way to get in that target range, and have fun while doing it.
The second part of fitness is strength — toning and increasing the power in your muscles. This is done through resistance work, but don’t think that you have to lift barbells in order to get strong. Resistance can come in many forms, using anything from fit-balls to elastic bands, or even just your own body weight. Using gravity in conjunction with special toning movements (such as those found in Pilates, or even plain floor work like abdominal crunches) can build muscular strength very effectively, while avoiding excess muscle bulk. The best part is that toning happens relatively quickly, and even with just a few minutes a day, you can start feeling and seeing results within a week or two.
Flexibility is the third aspect of fitness, and one that is often overlooked. People often neglect stretching because the results are not openly visible, but stretching is important in any exercise program. Increasing your range of motion and agility is a goal in itself, but it also contributes to increased abilities in both strength and cardiovascular fitness, as well as helping to prevent injury. Many flexibility exercises, such as tai chi and yoga, also help increase coordination, and can give a tremendous sense of well-being.
If trying to fit all these things into your fitness regime sounds complicated and difficult, there are some activities which combine cardiovascular exercise with both strength and flexibility work. Yoga, for instance, is not all about twisty poses — there are many different types of yoga, and some of them are quite vigorous and can get the heart rate elevated while toning muscles and stretching the body. Ask at your gym or local studio which types of classes might be right for you, and you’re sure to find something that will cover all the bases.
You may have heard this a million times, but it’s true: fitness does not have to be soul-destroyingly hard work. The trick is to get into a program you really like, and the only way to discover that is by experimenting. There’s nothing wrong with playing the field, so to speak, where exercise is concerned — not only will you get fit, but you’ll have a lot of fun finding the combination of activities that fits both your lifestyle and your mindset.