Just Begin | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Just Begin

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She was sitting in the driver's seat of the car with the windows up. The two-inch ash dangled on her cigarette. I thought she must have been waiting on someone.

I was wrong. By the time I programmed my elliptical machine for weight loss and opened my water bottle, I noticed that the woman in the car had come inside the gym—with her oxygen tank in tow. While I exercised, I kept glancing in her direction hoping no one would have to perform CPR.

To my surprise, the woman finished a cardio workout on the bike and lifted weights. Realizing she might not live the healthiest of lifestyles, I could see she was clearly making an effort to move in a healthier direction.

Whatever the reasons, you have to begin somewhere, and starting an exercise program is different for everyone.

Vanity opened my gym membership. I had been a waif most of my life, but after four children I was beginning to thicken up and sag down. So I decided to join a local gym. I was excited. Finally, I had a reason to buy sexy little workout clothes and a sporty gym bag. I started reading fitness magazines. I got fired up seeing beautiful models with flat abs and toned arms. The articles claimed results in just four weeks. I was ready to morph into a wonder woman.

In the dressing room, though, glimpses of reality started to show through. First of all, I was not looking so sexy in spandex pants and bra tops. Needless to say, after trying on a few of the pricey workout ensembles, I thought it best to just wear a tank top and sweat pants. I did find a hot little gym bag though, so off I went to my first workout.

For those of you who are aggressive and focused workout warriors, I know what you're thinking: Did I realistically think that in four weeks I could get a sleek, toned, well-defined, cut body? Get off the floor and stop laughing at me! At least I was in the gym trying. Sadly though, after four weeks, nothing much changed except my butt looked bigger. Where was I going wrong?

I began to get frustrated. Was this worth my time? I wasn't seeing results I wanted. I soon found myself making excuses for not exercising, like I needed to dust the baseboards or clean out closets, and of course my favorite: watch "Days of Our Lives." I deemed all "projects" more worthy of my time. I dropped back to sporadic workouts. My motivation waned. Then I wondered whether hiring a trainer would help; so I did.

It worked. The trainer taught me how form and posture were important and that by combining strength training with cardio I could better achieve the results I was looking for. I learned healthy nutrition was an intricate part of getting the shape I desired. In just a few weeks of consistent and committed instruction, I started seeing positive changes. It was exciting. I was feeling motivated again.

Of course there have been several side affects that came with this fitness plan. My cholesterol levels are wonderful. My blood pressure and heart remain in great shape, and I have a better overall feeling about myself and my life.

I won't lie and tell you that I have the exact desired look I wanted. Reality still reigns. I'm a 40-something mother of four, and looking like a 20-something fitness model is maybe just a little more than an elliptical machine can achieve. But hey, a girl can keep trying.

You can begin your exercise program right now. Don't wait until you quit smoking, have healthier eating habits or can fit into cool sports gear. Even if you have health issues, don't let that be your excuse, either. Check with your doctor, and find out what you can to get started. Look for the motivation you need to stick with your plan.

A good friend of mine, Mindy Giambrone, an exercise physiologist says, "The reason most people don't exercise or quit exercising is because they set unrealistic goals and don't prioritize."

"Keep it simple," she says. "Pick an activity you enjoy like walking, jogging or biking. Do it for just 30 minutes five days a week and keep your heart rate in your targeted zone. This will allow you to burn fat and condition your heart safely. Giambrone says, "Be open to different forms of exercise as your life and schedules change."

Easing Into A Fitness Program
• Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
• Set goals. Do you want to lose weight, run a marathon or just get healthy?
• Start small. Squeeze in five or 10 minutes of exercise throughout the day.

Ready For A More Formal Exercise Program?
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Wear the right attire.
• Challenge yourself slowly.
• Consider adding strength training to your aerobic exercise.

Online Resources
How exercise can help your mind
http://www.mindbodyfitness.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_exercise_can_help_your_mind

Health benefits of exercising
http://www.hcd2.bupa.co.uk/fact_sheets/html/exercise.html

Starting an exercise program
http://www.wikihow.com/Start-Your-Own-Exercise-Regimen-and-Stick-to-It
http://www.primusweb.com/fitnesspartner/library/actrivity/startexercise.htm

To find you target heart rate, visit http://www.iucar.iu.edu/geninfo/walking/heartrates.htm.

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