From the Couch to Consistency
Your 90-Day Plant to Better Health
Wouldn’t life be much easier if everything difficult we had to do could just be turned into a movie montage? Crack some raw eggs into a glass at 4:00 a.m. and punch some beef and a few quick cuts later you’re on your way to becoming heavyweight champion of the world. Do some home improvement projects for an eccentric Okinawan and the next thing you know you’re the All-Valley Karate Tournament champion.
Movies are great in the way that they show us the possibilities; they inspire us to believe that anyone is possible of great things. But the downside is that the hard work gets skimmed over. Actually, that would make for a pretty terribly long and boring movie, so it’s up to us to remind ourselves that good things take time and effort.
So think about all the times that you’ve decided that it was time for you to make a change and start exercising regularly for better health. I bet you didn’t have a Mickey Goldmill or Mr. Miyagi in your corner to tell you to chase a chicken to help with speed and agility or to paint a fence to help you block a punch! You just went to the club a couple times and….well, roll the ending credits.
What if you had your next 90 days planned out? Well, get ready for lights, camera, ACTION, because here’s your beginner’s guide to becoming a consistent exerciser! Just follow this guide and you’ll be a gym regular in no time flat!
Day 1: Here it is, your big day! We want to make sure you don’t overdo it since this is designed for someone who’s been extremely inactive and is just looking to start moving. Make sure you have some really comfortable shoes and clothing you can easily move around in- being comfortable is key to you continuing to show up!
Day 1 is all about getting you moving and getting the blood flowing into your muscles. It’s simple: do your favorite cardiovascular exercise for 20 minutes. You can do a brisk walk on the treadmill, bike or row at a strenuous pace with 45 second intervals of easy pedaling/rowing when you get tired, etc. Feel free to combine two or more types of cardio, but make sure you’re doing them in a block and not taking long breaks between them. The main thing is we want to get your muscles elastic by getting some blood into them.
Now here’s the other important thing about Day 1. We want to stretch those muscles right after you finish your 20 minutes of cardio. You are going to be able to stretch your muscles more than you can when you haven’t done any physical activity, but be sure to not go past the point of gentle sensation in your muscles. Great job! You’re finished. That wasn’t too hard, was it?
Day 2: Take the day off! You’ve earned it. But we won’t begrudge you if you want to take a nice walk.
Day 3 or 4: Back to it! Do at least as much as you did on Day 1 and try to do a little bit more; 25 minutes is your goal for this day. Stretch out again and you’re set!
Day 5 or 6: Do another 25 minutes of cardio and stretch again. Pat yourself on the back for finishing the first week! You might already feel your mood improving just from the three simple workouts you’ve had this week. Remember that feeling! It’s easy to forget when you get in a funk and miss some workouts.
Week 2: Get in 3 to 4 days of cardio of 30 minutes or more in length and be sure to stretch afterward. Are you seeing a pattern? Stretching is so important to improving and maintaining our ability
We’re going to add a little bit of strength training to our regimen this week, just a little to break the ice; do these exercises on two of the days where you’re doing cardio (but not on back-to-back
days). Bodyweight exercises are a great way to start out and help build a base that will transfer over to incorporating weights into your workout.
+ Bodyweight squats – This deceptively simple exercise is a great way to build functional strength. Make sure to brace your core muscles as you squat down, and be sure to engage your glutes when pushing yourself back up, pushing through your heels and keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground. Hold onto the bar of a Smith machine, some other bar parallel to the floor, or suspension training straps to offer a bit of assistance if necessary, but don’t use your arms to pull yourself up in lieu of using your lower body and core muscles. Do as many bodyweight squats as you can, then give yourself a 90-second break before doing another set of bodyweight squats. Repeat this once, i.e., do 4 sets of bodyweight squats.
+ Push-ups and planks – If you have enough upper body strength, do push-ups with the same intervals as we did for the bodyweight squats. If your core isn’t already fatigued, hold a plank for as long as you can.
Great job! Make sure you get your stretch in, especially for your back and abdominal muscles.
A quick note before we move on: make sure that you are getting plenty of nutrition and sleep during this program. It is meant to get you up and moving, not necessarily up and moving and losing weight immediately. Moving more should eventually lead to weight loss (it should certainly lead to your clothes feeling looser!) but it’s not the focus right now, and feeling hungry and not getting enough sleep are always things that will make you feel less than your best.
Weeks 3 and 4: Now you’re rolling! Stay in the groove. While you might be itching to do more at this point, remember that we’re trying to build consistency. Be wary of doing too much, too fast, as this can lead to burning yourself out. If you want to do more than what’s prescribed in Week 2, try adding some simple accessory work, like dumbbell curls, triceps extensions, ab crunches, etc. Have fun with it!
Month 2: Now that we’ve built up some consistency, let’s try building some variety into your workouts. If you are working out at a health club that offers classes, consider substituting one of your cardio workouts with an aerobics class; a dance class can be a fun way to change things up. But remember to be mindful of what you are capable of. While it’s good to be pushed out of your comfort zone, don’t feel obligated to do the entire class if you are getting a much more intense workout than you are used to. Also, if there are movements that you know would irritate some sort of nagging injury, just skip it! Odds are that your instructor and classmates don’t care (and probably don’t even notice).
Diversify your weight workouts as well. While you still want to make sure to be doing compound movements that target multiple muscle groups like squats and push-ups, try different ways of doing the movements. For example, lunges are a great way to work the legs but also help build core strength and balance.
Remember, the biggest thing is to maintain your consistency! If you’re bored with your workout, you’re unlikely to stick with it. If your workout leaves you sore (in a bad way), then you’re unlikely to stick with it. Listen to your body and strike a balance between trying to improve and staying engaged.
Month 3: Congratulations on all the great work you’ve put in! Now that you’ve gotten to the point where you’re showing up regularly, set a 30-day goal for yourself. Make sure that it’s something that you can reasonably achieve over the next 30 days, something that inspires you but also not something so grandiose that you’ll be killing yourself to try to reach it. Perhaps simply staying consistent is inspiring enough at this point!
Some ideas for your goal:
+ Lose 4 pounds through consistent exercise and minor healthy modifications to your diet, e.g. cutting out or scaling back on soda and/or alcohol
+ Increase the distance traveled during your cardio workouts while spending the same amount of time doing it
+ Increase the amount of squats/push-ups you can do
+ Try at least 3 new types of lifts/exercises a week
Day 90: How did you do on your 30-day goal? Great job if you were able to reach your goal, but it’s ok if you didn’t reach it! Use this information to examine how you should set your next 30-day goal. The important thing is, as always, to keep showing up! Your body will thank you.