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I can list dozens of reasons why you should workout, not one of which is more motivating than the way you see yourself every time you glance in the mirror. Lower cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, more energy, disease protection are valid reasons to begin a fitness program, but it's the big fatso in the mirror that will convince you that it's time to peal yourself off the couch and do something.
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Luckily, exercise that allows you to lose weight and look great ALSO helps rid your bloodstream of all those nasty fat and cholesterol supplies. In addition, the right type of exercise will relax the walls of your arteries reducing blood pressure, turn your heart into a super-efficient pump thereby extending its lifespan, enhance the ability of your body to process insulin staving off Diabetes, build functional strength and endurance, provide extra energy, elevate mood, reduce stress, and I could go on and on.
Being out of shape and overweight is not just about appearance. Unhealthy trends that start early can progress into full blown medical problems in the years to come. Any injury and illness can also paralyze your workout regimen, as an unhealthy, unfit body can't train like a conditioned individual. The viscous cycle continues as pain or lack of energy can keep you on the sidelines.
But at any age and at any condition there's always a starting point, a place where exercise is do-able for you.
Line of Intensity
Anyone that's ever sprinted a lap around the track or performed a quality set in the gym, knows that when exercise gets a little tough you have to make a decision. As lactic acid burns up on the insides of your muscle fibers, or you're too winded to speak, you need to decide whether to push forward with another rep or rest.
No matter how conditioned (or unconditioned) a person is, success is achieved by ALMOST hitting that line of intensity. Pushing past it involves unnecessary risk that could ultimately jeopardize your program.
Work to the level of burn or fatigue that's acceptable to you. You should feel tired after exercise, but not totally drained. After an hour or so, you should have completely regained your energy levels, but still be able to sleep really well that night. On the day following intense exercise, it's okay to feel a little muscle soreness, but it shouldn't be so extensive as to limit movement or give you a sense of overall malaise.
Previously, I used the term quality set. Intensity can only take a back seat to perfect form, which is the sole way to create quality exercise in general. From aerobics to Yoga, perform each movement as it was designed, without cheating, following the guidelines of the discipline involved. Intensity is best achieved while working within the limits of each exercise.
So where does all this leave you? First and foremost, get on a fitness plan that's flexible enought to be molded to your lifestyle, goals, needs, etc. Within the parameters of that plan, using trial and error, find your line of intensity on every aspect of the program. At first record what you're doing to help re-create the same, or slightly harder conditions every session. The establishment of a workout journal can be an invaluable tool, especially at the beginning of your program.
If you're really out of shape, you may simply need to walk for 10 or 15 minutes on a daily basis. Eventually however, you'll need to structure a program based on your goals, limitations, equipment, time, preferences, experience, and willingness to work at it. Success is then achieved by finding your line of intensity and pushing it regularly. Remember to always talk with your doctor before you get started.
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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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