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Fitness 101: How-to guide for beginners

By Cory Maxwell

Starting a fitness program can feel overwhelming — especially for those who haven’t made exercising a priority. But getting in shape will not only get you looking and feeling better, it will greatly improve your health and well-being.

As a nationally certified personal trainer, I regularly meet people who want nothing more than to get into shape. Problem is, they have no idea where to start.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Get a doctor’s approval before starting any exercise program.

• Write down long- and short-term goals. Your long-term goals might be to exercise daily for the rest of your life and lose 50 pounds. Your short-term goals might be to lose 10 pounds and an inch off your waist in the next couple of months.

• Post your goals where you will see them every day.

• Start slowly. There is no need to go too fast too soon.

Realize that the more active you are the more likely you are to lose weight and gain lean muscle mass — anything that gets you moving (such as walking) is better than being sedentary.

• Take a break if you feel pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea while working out. You may be pushing yourself too hard.

• Trade junk food for healthy food. Your diet is crucial to your losing weight, gaining muscle and getting healthier. As much as possible avoid fried food, sugar, white flour and artificial ingredients. Eat plenty of healthy whole foods such as lean proteins, whole grains, legumes and “good” fats.

• Drink lots of water every day.

• Eat five to six small meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar nice and even. Keep track of what you’re eating to avoid mindless munching that can pack on pounds.

• If you can afford it, enlist the help of a personal trainer at your local gym. Most gyms have at least a couple of trainers on hand to create a simple workout and diet program for you.

Here’s what to look for in a personal trainer:

– Education: A personal trainer should be certified through a reputable fitness organization, such as ACSM, NSCA or ACE. An exercise science or other related college degree isn’t necessary, but the more education your trainer has, the better your workouts will be.

– CPR: Your trainer should have an updated certification in CPR and/or first aid.

– Experience: Make sure your trainer has several years of experience, especially in relation to your goals. For example, if you’re a bodybuilder you want someone knowledgeable in that area.

– Specifics: If you have a specific medical problem, injury or condition (such as being pregnant, heart problems, diabetes, etc.) make sure your trainer has education in these areas and will work with your doctor.

– An active listener: A good trainer will listen closely to what you say and make sure he or she understands your goals.

– Attention: A good trainer will be focused only on you during your sessions.

– Tracking progress: Top-tier trainers will regularly assess your progress and change things if necessary.

The Bible says our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). We should do everything we can to keep our bodies in good working order and as healthy as they can be. Working out and eating healthy foods are key ways to achieve such a standard.


CORY MAXWELL is a certified strength and conditioning coach with 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.

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