10 guidelines for getting in shape and staying in shape

1. Hire a trainer: Everyone has made attempts to achieve fitness goals and fallen short. Success in setting up and implementing a fitness- or weight-loss program has many facets. A personal trainer will guide you by setting up a personally designed program for your needs and goals and teaching you the correct order of the exercises, how to properly perform those exercises and the exact weight and repetitions that should be used for ultimate success. A professional trainer will also teach you the program and hold you accountable to the program and your workout schedule while motivating you toward your goal.

2. Set short and long-term goals: Some people will tell you not to set unrealistic goals. What exactly is an unrealistic goal? If we believe in ourselves and we have a great trainer and great program, then we can achieve almost anything in a given period of time. The key is to set both short and long-term goals. Here’s an example:

Let’s look at a woman who wants to lose 50 pounds. A short term goal might be to lose 20 to 25 pounds in six to seven weeks. The same woman can set a goal of losing the entire 50 pounds within 16 to 18 weeks.

3. Don’t overdo it: The most common cause of injury is exercising too aggressively, the “too much, too soon” syndrome. Start any new exercise at a relatively low intensity and gradually increase your level of exertion over a number of weeks. Your trainer will guide you and implement an effective program.

4. Control your movements: If you can’t control your movements then slow down. Rapid, jerky movement can set the stage for injury. As you move your limbs, keep the muscles contracted and move them as if you are pushing against some resistance. There are five parts to a perfectly effective exercise movement and your trainer will teach you how to perform them.

5. Watch your form and posture: In most activities, stress can result from poor form. Keep your back aligned, with abdominal muscles contracted, buttocks tucked in, knees aligned over feet. This is particularly important when jumping or reaching overhead.

6. Don’t bounce while stretching: This “ballistic” stretching can increase the chance of muscle tears and soreness. Instead, perform “static” stretches, which call for gradually stretching through a muscle’s full range of movement until you feel resistance. This gradually loosens muscles without straining them.

7. Use good footwear: Wearing improper or worn-out shoes places added stress on your hips, knees, ankles and feet — the areas that are affected in almost 90 percent of all sports injuries. Choose shoes suited to your activity and replace them before they wear out.

8. Avoid high-impact aerobics or excessive aerobic or cardio exercise: Most aerobics instructors and many students suffer injuries to their shins, calves, lower back, ankles and knees because of the repetitive, jarring movements of some aerobics routines. Excessive aerobics or cardio will burn muscle or the quality nutrients needed for the muscle to recover from your strength training workouts.

9. Warm up with light weights when strength training: It is important that you warm up properly when strength training. Use a conservative weight for one or two sets before challenging the muscle group that you are working. This will prevent injuries and allow you to progress and make improvements in strength and muscle while losing fat and getting in shape.

10. Replace fluids lost through sweating: This is particularly important in hot weather, when you can easily lose more than a quart of water in an hour. Neglecting to compensate for fluid loss can cause lethargy and nausea, interfering with your performance. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to drink at regular intervals when exercising. Thirst is satisfied long before you have replenished lost fluids. Water is the best choice. Do not fall victim to the high-sugar and high-carb drinks, sports drinks or “energy and nutrient replacement drinks.” They will sabotage your weight loss program.

*Results may vary from person to person.

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