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Michael Stefano, FDNY captain and author of The Firefighter's Workout Book, has been training with NYC firefighters and men and women from all walks of life for almost 20 years. In addition to his book, Stefano offers Customized Workouts Programs.

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The Six Secrets of Successful Fitness
by Michael Stefano

Years of creating exercise routines for people from all walks of life has helped me zero in on some of the common practices of those who seem to have no problem sticking with their program, maintaining a high degree of fitness, and making it look easy!

This same group of individuals also enjoy a relatively steady body weight with a much lower body-fat percentage, and rarely fall prey to illness or injury. I call these my Six Secrets of Successful Fitness, and they can become your MANTRA (see acronym below) or slogan to a more effective fitness program.


M is for Moderation
Everything in moderation, including exercise. Don�t expect a body that�s been inactive for years to suddenly jump to full capacity without the chance of something really bad happening. Start slowly, increasing intensity levels or workout duration gradually and in small increments. This will keep you injury free and coming back for more.

A is for extra Activity
Don�t rely completely on an exercise program to make up for an otherwise inactive lifestyle. Losing weight and getting in shape should be more than a formal exercise program, but rather a lifestyle change. Get involved and give up your couch potato status. Walk instead of taking the bus. Take the stairs. Join a bowling league. Whatever it takes, just get up and move.

N is for Never miss
Create a schedule and stick to it. If a missed workout is unavoidable due to an illness or emergency, reschedule, but don�t skip it altogether. That�s not to say you can�t schedule an occasional day or week off. We all need vacation and time away from our normal routine. Be realistic with your original approach, and missed workouts will become a much smaller problem.

T is for Try different stuff
Variety is the spice of life and can be the key to success in the gym. If you follow the same program day in and day out for years, your body will adapt, and the challenge will diminish � so will your results. Mix things up from day to day and week to week. Machines, free weights, push ups, swimming, jogging, walking, and the list goes on and on. There�s surely not a shortage of options. Change things up as often as you can.

R is for Resistance exercises
I�m a big fan of both aerobic (cardiovascular) and resistance (strength) training, not to mention stretching, but a successful program can sometimes eliminate cardio, especially if your strength training is done with light weight, high reps and short rest. BUT you will NEVER change the shape of your body without the addition of some resistance work. Working with weights (even very light weight or body weight) will change your shape!

A is for added Awareness
Pay attention! Don�t saunter in and out of the gym without being present and focused on what you�re doing. Track your reps, sets, and weights. Be sure to know how to find your target heart rate, and work within that level. Making timely adjustments based on the changes you see and feel will keep you progressing, as well as help avoid injury.

Body builder or distance runner, there are certain principles that govern exercise which seem to maximize the long term affect of any program. Quite often these can be just simple adjustments that produce dramatic changes.

Approach your program cautiously, progressing steadily, but slowly. Don�t rely completely on a few minutes of exercise to burn the bulk of your daily calories � incorporate other activities into your life as much as possible.

Stick to your schedule, and get into the habit of making up for any missed workouts, but be realistic when originally setting up your program. Mix things up, and be sure not to stay with only one program option forever and ever, but always include at least some resistance work. And no matter the activity, pay close attention to what you�re doing and the effect it�s having on your body.

Captain, Author, Fitness Pro Mike Stefano MICHAEL STEFANO is the creator and author of the Firefighter's Workout (Harper Collins 2000). Mr. Stefano is a health and fitness writer and contributor to eDiets, eFitness, & Firehouse.Com. In addition, Michael's articles have appeared on AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! His workouts have been featured in magazine and newspapers from around the country, as well as in numerous network and cable TV segments. He also offers a customized version of his amazing program, via a comprehensive 15-point fitness profile form.

"My program is a no-nonsense approach to exercise and weight loss that will not only get you fit, but will also fit into your life".


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