Find a place to exercise that has professionally trained staff and people who care about helping you. Exercise should bring you joy -- not fear. However, intimidation can't be underestimated for many entering a health club after a long layoff or for the first time. Intimidation is real and prevents more people from achieving their fitness goals than any single physical limitation. Walking into a gym setting and coming face to face with high-tech equipment and people who appear to be fitness experts is enough to send you and your commitment packing.
Not always as it appears
Most of those regulars at the gym were once just as intimidated as you are now with challenges to overcome. This is the time to ask for help and guidance because this is what health clubs and gyms do for a living. Complimentary orientation programs for new members are standard, so take advantage of this service. They will help you select the appropriate machines, classes, fitness equipment for your needs and then guide you based on your current fitness abilities and goals.
Buddy up for support
It's great if you have a friend or workout partner who plans to go with you because this weaves in the extra support and strengthens your commitment. Two people automatically defuse attention from someone feeling insecure and make the entire experience more enjoyable.
Physical activity anywhere
Nothing is written that exercise must happen only in a gym. You can be active almost anywhere. Your own home or in your neighborhood are likely choices that immediately remove the fear factor and make moving just between you and your body. Take the first step and you'll see that exercise can be completely on your terms and within your comfort zone.
To make strides toward a fitter body, plan to be active most days of the week depending on your comfort level in the beginning. Spend at least 30 to 45 minutes being physically active. On cardio days you can walk, swim, hike, cycle or dance. And on muscle-strengthening days, you can lift weights, use resistance machines or bands -- or, better yet, your own body weight.
Follow a sensible, progressive workout plan so that you are not overtraining.
Track your progress
Record your successes in a way that works for you. Take advantage of online programs, use a notebook, or keep a journal. Being accountable by writing things down has proved to increase the chance of success. This may be the single most important step toward your happiest birthday ever.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," at www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.