I’m a big advocate of the slow-and-steady approach to getting in shape. By gradually incorporating exercise into your life, you set yourself up for long-term success. This three-month workout plan will help you get there.
If you’re new to this, the best thing you can do is walk. A lot.
The great thing about walking is that even for the out-of-shape it’s a reasonable way to get you in the game quickly. It’s low impact, so you can do it every day, or at least most days, and quickly build up your mileage. This will depend on age, body weight and genetics, but push your speed and your distance to areas where you’re getting winded, but not experiencing lasting pain.
If you think walking is boring, another great thing to get into is cycling, which is a sport you can get into quickly. Don’t forget to keep pushing your capabilities to keep your body adapting.
Another great exercise to start now is some form of resistance training. Anyone of any fitness level can do this, and there are multiple options. How hard you go depends on your level of fitness, but it’s a great activity for beginners because you can adjust the amount of weight lifted very easily.
Options for resistance training include anything from a Pilates class, to exercise videos (try the 10-minute workout video above), to hiring a personal trainer to design a weightlifting program for you to do at the gym.
Push as safely as you can without hurting yourself, getting your body ready for the intensity of the coming months.
If you haven’t done the cycling thing yet, I really recommend it. There are a few reasons to love cycling: It’s low impact, gets your heart pumping and fun — you can cover lots of ground and feel the wind rush against your face (but wear a helmet).
With Month 1 being the foundation-laying month, Month 2 becomes the “feel the burn” month. Hopefully your body is adapting itself to more exercise now, so you’ll need to start pushing it at four levels:
1. Frequency: Work out more often each week.
2. Intensity: Go harder. Push your heart rate and your muscles.
3. Length of time: Did you use to exercise for 20 minutes? Go for 30. Then 40.
4. Difficulty: Were you walking? It’s time to try going from walker to runner. Just make sure you have the right running shoes for your feet, a supportive sports bra and remember to stretch.
We’re in the home stretch, and you’ve learned a little about yourself. You’ve got an idea now of what your body is capable of. It’s time to start testing how far you can push it. It’s going to hurt — the good kind — but it’s also going to be a time where you find out what you’re made of.
I’m a fan of aiming high and this is your time to aspire to be awesome. It’s time to embrace that inner workout warrior lurking in your DNA. It’s time to kick some ass.
Month 3 is about setting ambitious physical goals. Were you running 5Ks last month? Awesome. By the end of this month, plan to run a 10K and set an ambitious time. Enter a race or make it a contest with a friend — whatever motivates you.
Did you do the intermediate step class? Now it’s time to go for the advanced. Is the 45-minute spinning class tolerable? Try the 75-minute one. Do you feel your muscles getting stronger? Think you’ve got a personal best bench press in you? Work with your trainer to set an ambitious goal and make it happen. Sick of the commute hell? Ride your bike to work. Bored at lunch? Sneak in an extra workout. Got kids? Do something physical with them.
Month 3 is about going to a different place mentally, about your body. It’s a time when figuring out how far you push is forefront in your mind. This doesn’t mean ignore everyone else, but each day starts with thoughts about how you’re going to physically test yourself.