The Never-Too-Late Fitness Plan

Have you heard friends or family say, “Oh, it’s too late for me to become fit”?  Maybe said it to yourself?   Sure you and I may never compete in the Olympics, but we can build a body that will support activity, keep our body fat in check, and have the flexibility and strength of those who are much younger.
Don’t believe it?  Just ask anyone who is fit.  They’ll tell you, if they’re honest, that becoming fit and staying that way takes time, but they don’t even want to consider the alternative.
For the next three or four minutes, as you read this column, just forget about the concept that it’s too late for you.  Why? Because it is not.
Here are some tips to get going while being realistic so that you can commit your mind and body to healthier living from this day forward.  And forever.
Step one:  Don’t do it alone.  If you have a significant amount of unwanted body fat, make an appointment with your health professional.  If the physician is not compassionate and helpful, find another doctor.  Find a thoughtful and supportive friend, maybe even one who could be your exercise buddy and share your woes and goals.  If you have a dog, look no further for a great workout pal.
Step two:  Don’t fool yourself.  Getting fit and staying that way takes patience and tenacity.  Understand that you may never be able to fit into your wedding dress, high school band jacket or military uniform in the same way you did five or forty years ago.  Over the years our bodies change.  Just ask any new mom about the changes her body has experienced.  Even though you might not weigh what you did years back, you can still be strong, flexible and have good endurance regardless of your age and abilities, including those who are wheelchair bound.
Step three:  Pick an activity and make it your own.  Then get started.  Walking is THE best form of fitness for most people, because it can be done anywhere and at any time.  Make walking fun.  If you don’t like or feel comfortable walking alone ask your spouse or a friend to join you.  Vary your routine and the terrain.  Always carry your cell and let someone know where you’re headed.  Set realistic goals.  This could be:  I’ll walk every morning before work/school.  Or:  I’ll walk 20 minutes after work.  Studies show that if you tie a new habit, in this case walking, onto an old one, you’re more likely to keep the new habit.  In the morning, do your normal routine and then go walking.  In the evening, organize preparations for dinner and then go for a walk.
Step four:  Keep your feet happy; they can make or break the best fitness intentions.  Choose shoes that are right for your sport and fit your foot.  Athletic shoes should never have to be “broken in.”  Don’t be surprised if you must pay more than you do for ones you wear to the office.  Try on a few brands and do so while wearing the socks you’ll put on when you walk.
Step five:  Be systematic about your progress just like you’d chart progress on a project at work.  But this time you are the project.  Keep a record of your health goals.  A fitness journal works well for this and you need not share it with anyone.  Why?  You might want to write out a few gripes and complaints and that’s strictly your business.
Step six:  Dress for fitness success.  The best way to get into the habit of eating smart and exercising is to have the right clothing.  Select clothing that makes you feel good, regardless of your age or weight.  No one will make fun of you—most will be jealous that you’re doing something great for your health.
Step seven:  Make food work for your healthier body.  Foods that are fatty, filled with ingredients that sound like the language from a science fiction movie simply don’t fit in with your new, healthy body.  If you’re serious about getting back your health and fitness level, choose lean protein sources, and make sure you’re getting enough calcium and whole grains and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, too.
Step eight:  In a magical world, one might be able to click their fingers and suddenly be fit, trim and youthful.  In our reality, that takes time, effort and tenacity but think back.  You’ve accomplished some challenging things before, right?  Do it again.
Be good to yourself.  Applaud your success, even if it’s just that you passed up donuts for an apple.  In two weeks, you’ll feel better.  In six weeks you’ll notice seriously improvements in your health as you become even more determined to stay fit for life.

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