New year, new you? Dominating your fitness high ground

  • Published
  • By Col. Jennifer Moore
  • 21st Operations Group commander
So, it's that time of year again! The New Year is here and you're beginning to realize the holiday parties and eggnog have taken their toll on your waistline. Or maybe you've just been suffering from too many hours in the office and too few hours in the gym. Never fear! The New Year is all about making a fresh start and setting out to reclaim your sleek physique. After all, it's tough to dominate your high ground when you're too busy holding down the couch.

You can be sure that you aren't alone in your quest for fitness and a new you. This January, millions of Americans will crowd gyms determined to get themselves back in shape. Unfortunately, by March, things will return to normal as folks find themselves frustrated or bored with their workout programs and inevitably fall off the fitness bandwagon.

Believe me, I speak from experience here. There's no doubt that getting into shape or back into shape is hard work. I've set those goals and committed myself to a new routine only to find that within a couple of weeks, my excuses of why I shouldn't go to the gym irrationally outweigh the good reasons I should. But I've also triumphed, sticking with a training program to reach a fitness goal and experienced the satisfaction that comes with knowing I've done something both difficult and worthwhile.

With that in mind, I'd like to share a few tips, 10 of them in fact, to help you get started and stay on a fitness program in 2012.

Tip #1: Pace yourself. As my grandmother used to say, "Start out like you can hold out." Be honest with yourself and your current fitness level. You may have ran a marathon five years ago, but remember, that was five years ago. It'll take time to get back to that level. Begin your new fitness efforts modestly and stay within your capabilities. Nothing will put a stop to your get fit plan quicker than a strained hamstring, extreme soreness or a serious injury.

Tip #2: Find an exercise buddy. One of the best ways to stay on track is to have a friend to exercise with. On the days when you just don't feel like working out, you'll be much more likely to go to the gym if you know someone else is counting on you or expecting to see you there. Accountability is a good thing, especially when it comes to keeping to your workout schedule.

Tip #3: Be consistent. I can almost guarantee that if you try to find time each day for the gym, you're much less likely to work out. Instead, plan ahead and try to work out at the same time each day. You may find early morning works best or exercising after work helps you relieve the stress of the day. Whatever time works for you, schedule it and stick to it. Soon it'll be a habit and you'll only miss it on the days when life interferes with your gym routine.

Tip #4: Reward yourself. You know what they say about all work and no play! The same is true for exercising. If you drive yourself to the point that exercise is drudgery, there's no doubt your exercise routine will be short lived. Set fitness goals and reward yourself for achieving them. Give yourself a good reason to enjoy that bowl of chocolate chocolate-chip ice cream with rainbow sprinkles every once in a while.

Tip #5: Keep it simple. There are plenty of routines out there that will rival calculus in their complexity. It doesn't have to be that way. Simple is the best way to start out because you're more likely to stick to it. There will be plenty of time to add complexity to your workout once you've earned the nickname gym rat.

Tip #6: Record your progress. Just like it's tough to recall all the great work you've done for your OPR or EPR, if you don't write it down throughout the year, it'll be difficult for you to realize just how far you've come with your fitness if you don't keep a fitness journal. A simple calendar is all you need. Just jot down notes each day when you're done. You'll amaze yourself with your progress after just a few weeks.

Tip #7: Be realistic: Unless you possess tremendous powers of discipline, it's unlikely you can set a goal to work out six days a week for an hour each day after you've spent a full day at work. If you can do that, stop reading now. You don't need my advice. If you're a mere mortal like the rest of us, plan for three-four days a week for 30 minutes at a time. You'll likely find your exercise sessions grow over time once they become a habit. In the meantime, be realistic about how often you'll really be able to make it to the gym.

Tip #8: Make it fun. Believe it or not, working out shouldn't be a drag! You used to work out all the time as a kid, you just didn't realize it because back then we called it "playing." Remember running around the neighborhood with your friends? Well, working out can be just as much fun now as it was back then. Find activities that interest you, whether it's running, biking, swimming, snowshoeing, weightlifting... whatever!

Tip #9: Set goals. There's an old saying, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." Give your workouts some purpose by working toward a goal. Maybe it's as basic as running three miles or swimming 500 yards. Maybe it's as ambitious as running a marathon or completing a century bike ride. Whatever the case, set goals and bask in the sense of accomplishment you'll feel when you reach them.

Tip #10: Mix it up! Variety really is the spice of life and your exercise routine. Spending all your time in the weight room may make you look more like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but your heart won't appreciate it so much. On the flip side, running 20 miles a week will give you great aerobic conditioning, but your upper body strength may suffer. The Air Force is looking for you to be well rounded in your fitness with strength and endurance. Mix up your routines and exercises to find better balance and overall fitness.

There's nothing profound in the tips I've given you, but I guarantee there's a lot of truth and proven results in them. Now there's nothing left for you to do except get up, get out and get on with dominating your fitness high ground in 2012. See you in the gym and on the trails.