Spring inspires us to make changes. We want to be our best so we can make the most of our time, the warmer weather and the great outdoors.

We want to “get fit”. Although we’re usually sincere and have a wide variety of reasons for doing so, we don’t always succeed. Make this the year that you achieve your fitness dreams!

Before beginning an exercise program, advise your Doctor that you are embarking on new activities. Safety first.

Think about what type of exercise and activities you enjoy. If you choose something you don’t like, you won’t continue or succeed. Do you enjoy the social aspect of exercise and recreation? Consider joining a group program in a gym. Maybe a hiking group, cycling club, rowing lessons. If you are more independent, consider a personal trainer, small group training or a more solitary type of exercise. You can plug in your music, hit the weight room, cycle in the forest, paddle along the beach, jog beside a waterfowl park and do your own thing at your own pace.

Goal Setting is the first step. Your goals must be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Being “fit” means different things to different people. Here are some tips to get you started:

Do you want to lose fat? Walk faster? Farther? Recover from, or prevent illness? Walk 18 holes on the golf course? Be able to spend more time in the garden or on the tennis court? Look and feel better in your summer clothes?

Now that you have something specific in mind, find a safe, effective starting point. Measure your current strength, speed, weight, endurance, etc. so you can re-measure your progress in a couple of months. Consider a Basic Fitness Assessment. Don’t expect to see changes in a week. Measurable changes take a month or two. Be patient.

Choose the correct type of exercise. Indoors or outdoors? Maybe you’ll need the advice of a trainer. Or find a good book with current information on what to do and how. Do you need aerobic exercise? Should you be strength training? Functional exercises are practical, often use your own body weight and ultimately train you for the specific activities that you are trying to improve.

Decide how often you’ll be able to exercise so you can enjoy improvements – but be realistic. 2 times a week is a good start. If you do too much too soon you’re setting yourself up for failure. How much time you can spend? With the right exercises and intensity, 30 to 45 minutes is often enough.

Get the proper gear so you can avoid excuses. Footwear that fits you properly is essential. A suitable bicycle in good condition is a must. Do you have rain gear that will allow you to get out rain or shine? A watch, a pedometer, an iPod?

A good stretching routine following exercise is essential. Not only does it improve your flexibility, decrease muscle soreness and prevent injuries, it can be your relaxing reward for a job well done!

Shirley Garrett (Leaps and Bounds)

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