Thursday, January 13, 2011

Top Five Fitness Tips

Holy cow, friends! The gym is buzzing! All week long, we've had a steady flow of people. Lots of new faces have been added to the mix, which I can only assume is the direct result of our very new year and it's resulting resolutions. It's great, really. Of course, the usual crowd still exists. They work just has hard, new year or not. Is it like this at your gym, too? Are you one of the newbies? (If so, congrats to you for treating yourself to a membership!) My advice to you, dear newbie, is to stick with it. Don't let your attendance slowly diminish as the year goes on. Or heck, as January goes on. STICK WITH IT! You can do it. I promise.

To help you, and to help all of you dedicated fitness fanatics, I thought it'd be the opportune time to share with you my top five fitness tips. Some will be familiar, others might be new. Whatever you do, really seriously take note. I share them with the best of intentions.

I know, I know. You've heard it all before. But this time, I strongly encourage you to absorb every component of that equation. If you want results, you're really going to have to work for them. Now when I say "diet," I don't mean deprivation. I simply mean to pay attention to whatever it is that you eat. Take stock, make sure everything you put in your mouth is good fuel for all those hard workouts. And really, make sure it's good fuel for your body in general. Just like a car doesn't function without gas, your body can't function without nutrients. You wouldn't substitute orange juice for gas, it would ruin your car. So why substitute healthy and nutritious food for, well...all that other crap at the grocery store? It ruins your body. And besides, if you don't give your body what it needs, all that work at the gym will be for nothing, really.

Enough with the excuses! There is absolutely time for you to squeeze in a workout. Well, for the most part. I understand certain things come up. But what I don't understand is the "too tired after work to do anything" or the "too many errands to run" thing. Do you really enjoy flipping from channel to channel for an hour straight? Do you really, truly need to run out to that store tonight? Wouldn't your time be better spent on an elliptical, treadmill, or at the weight bench? Maybe in a fitness class? Debunk your own excuses, really take a look at what you're doing with your time and I promise you...I firmly believe you'll find some time to squeeze in a workout. (Our government recommends 150 minutes of physical activity each week, including strength training twice a week. I'd say that's pretty reasonable. Kudos to you if you sneak in more!)

You might be lifting that big 'ol weight, but if your form is even the slightest bit off, it doesn't count. Proper form is always more important than how much you're lifting. You might be bench pressing more than you ever have been, but if your lower back comes off the bench as you extend your arms toward the ceiling—that means your chest muscles are needing some extra help, which means they aren't truly moving all that weight you've loaded onto the bar. It's not about the weight, it's about how your muscles respond to it. If they're challenged, and only if you can maintain proper form, only then are you doing everything right. And of course, only then will you minimize your risk of injury.

Take it easy. Don't feel like you have to hit the gym every single day of your life! Your body will need some rest. Especially in between strength sessions. When we lift, we break down our muscles. Their process of regrowth is what repairs the breakdown and ultimately makes us stronger, longer and leaner. Enjoy your rest days. Schedule a movie or curl up with a book. Give your body (and consequently, your brain) a day to simply just be. You won't erase your efforts at the gym, but you will help yourself return to it with gusto.

You were absolutely built to feel good. The gym isn't just for the big-and-bulky muscle types, so forget about that stereotype. It's not a place of judgment or intimidation. The machines aren't hard to use. They may look like torture devices at times, but really—they're fun! I promise. Now is the time for you to embrace YOU. I've had so many people come up to me and say "I don't know what I'm doing, but I want to learn" and it never gets old. I love newbies. I love their energy, and even the bit of intimidation and fear I can sense in them. Because as soon as they spend one hour or two in the gym, they wonder why it took them so long to pop in. So, really. Believe in yourself. You can hit the gym, you belong there just like everyone else. Regardless of what you look like, regardless of what you wear. Regardless of everything. Remind yourself of this each and every time you think you can't. Because you can. You can get fit. This is January, the start of the new year. So make it your year.

Tomorrow, I promise more trip pics. I fear this post is long enough!

Question: Is your gym as busy as mine? If you recently joined up, what did your first time on the fitness floor feel like? Were you intimidated? Excited?

REMINDER! Don't forget to enter my YouBars giveaway! You just might win a free box of customized goodies. (Contest ends at midnight EST on Friday, January 14, 2011).

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