Fitness: The Second Step


The first few weeks of a fitness and diet program are most critical. As was stated in Fitness The Next Step and Guidelines for the Next Step in Fitness many enthusiasts attempt unrealistic reclamation projects which put undue stresses on their bodies and their lifestyles.

If the first week of the new program was reasonably successful, then a simple assessment will verify that position. Did you get to exercise at least twice during the week (preferably 3 times) and did you consciously cut down on high fat snacks and food choices at least 2 days during the past week? If you did these things, how do you feel about it? Was it a struggle or was it fairly comfortable to do? Do you feel better about yourself than you did when you started the program?

If you answered yes to 3 or 4 of these questions, you are really doing well. If not, re-group; begin with the basics and try to make small, gradual adjustments in your exercise and diet habits.

During this critical second week it is important to understand that reality will soon be setting in. You may begin to realize that fitness and health are long term endeavors and that consistency and patience are vital attributes. You may not feel as disgusted with yourself as you did right after the holidays and you might begin to think that you're not in such bad shape. Remember, your body is going to try to induce you to "leave well enough alone". However, it is important to think about long term goals and the continuation of the newly chosen lifestyle habits.

If you're feeling motivated, the next step in the progression might include some of the following:

1.    Either increase your exercise days to 4 (instead of the suggested 3 for week 1)

2.    Increase some or all of your exercise sessions from 15 minutes to 20 or 25 minutes per session.

3.    Get a calorie counter booklet which breaks foods down into fats, carbohydrates and protein and begin to get an idea of the different elements of the foods you are eating.

4.    Look into joining a health club or getting yourself a new piece of home exercise equipment in the near future. If you stay on your program consistently for a month, it might be a good time to act on these suggestions.

If you find that your program is difficult or so obligatory that it's uncomfortable, some re-thinking might be helpful. Perhaps the activity that was chosen for the exercise program was NOT the best. Try to think of another activity which you might prefer. Maybe, an aerobics tape or a video calisthenic's program might be more up your alley. Don't close your mind. There are an abundance of different vehicles available for the seeker of fitness programs.

Some of the men might be more inclined to do some form of resistance training. As long as the program is conservative and moderate, this is a fine way to "get into" exercise. Some women might find a yoga or stretching program a subtle way to become involved in physical activity. Remember, almost ANY structured program of consistent physical exercise is better than none.

If your efforts are continued throughout this second week then much of the "break-in" discomfort and adaptation will be behind you. It really doesn't take such a long time for the body to realize that something "new" is going to be expected of it. If the exercise application has been gradual as was suggested in the first installment, then the response should begin to become obvious with regard to the ease of the effort and the beginnings of some subtly apparent physical changes.

The short term goals for this second week are the continuation of the first week's efforts with some comfortable increases in exercise and diet efforts. The most important element to consider is the regularity of the lifestyle changes and the ability to deal with any small "failures" which might occur on a daily basis. Remember, one day does not change the course of our overall fitness plans but each day is an opportunity to reclaim some control of our destiny. Keep working at it.

Exercise #1. Some home exercise devices such as this cable system can be very effective ways to begin resistance, muscle toning programs.

Exercise #2. A yoga or stretching routine might be another way to begin a moderate exercise regimen.