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Spring in to fitness with eight steps to success

Spring is in the air. Yippee. It’s time for new growth and renewal, time to plant the seeds of a healthier, happier lifestyle. If trees can bud, if buds can flower, you too can blossom this springtime.

So clean up, fix up and listen up as I run through some simple steps that will lead you to more energy, less stress, fewer aches and greater strength. And if you lose some unwanted pounds in the process, don’t be surprised.

  1. Set realistic goals. It’s a mistake to rush into your Spring Tune-up Program with unrealistic expectations. You’ll only set yourself up to fail.

What you want to do is feel successful from the get-go, so set moderate, achievable goals for yourself. And take pleasure in small victories.

  1. Keep a fitness journal. It may sound hokey, but keeping a fitness journal is a great way to get yourself hooked on a fitness program that will last beyond the warm-weather months. What do you write down? Whatever you want: goals, times, distances, mood changes, new eating patterns, aches and pains.

What you write isn’t nearly as important as developing the habit of paying attention to your health and wellness. Keeping a journal is a great behavior-modification tool. Start yours today.

  1. Find a training partner. You don’t have to go it alone. If you want company and conversation on the road to fitness, join a group, sign up for a class or hunt around for an interesting friend who wants to train, too.

Enjoy the camaraderie, but don’t think of it as competition. Living a healthy lifestyle means learning to go at your own pace.
Enjoy competing against yourself, striving to do a little better this week than you did the week before.

  1. Know the basics. If you want a spring fitness program that produces results, physically and mentally, you must follow certain minimums: You need to do some aerobic activity at least three or four times a week, at least 30 minutes a session, with time for a warm-up and cool-down, working at an intensity that keeps your pulse in your target heart zone for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Don’t overdo it. The biggest pitfall of all is rushing into a spring fitness program and trying to do too much, too soon, before your body is strong or flexible enough to handle the challenge. That’s how people get injured.

Take your time. Enjoy the process.

  1. Listen to your body. If you can learn to listen to your body - what it needs to prosper, when it needs to rest, why breathing is so important - you’ll sail through your spring and summer workouts, not to mention the rest of your life.

Take pain, for instance. Your fitness routine shouldn’t hurt. Yes, improvement may involve some level of mild discomfort as your mind and body adjust to new challenges, but overall, your workouts must feel good or you’ll get bored or burned out or injured, and quit.

The old slogan about “No pain, no gain” is no use to anyone who wants to develop a healthier, happier lifestyle. Your body already knows that. You just have to listen.

  1. Find your own. This spring, explore all the possibilities and find a sport or activity that brings you joy. If it’s a classic aerobic sport like running, biking or swimming, that’s great.

But, if fun for you means ballroom dancing or inline skating or aikido or exploring new neighborhoods with your backpack and your dog, go for it. Your path to a healthier lifestyle is your own. You need to find activities that leave you happy, energized, challenged.
You can’t copy your neighbor’s fitness plan.

  1. Eat clean and healthy. This is another paragraph that could be a book. This spring, nurture new attitudes about eating and drinking. I call it clean eating.

The focus is on real food - tasty, healthy, unprocessed - in moderate but filling portions. No more gimmicky diets. No more denial and suffering.
When you combine all that with regular exercise, you will lose a pound or two a week and - the best part - never gain it back.

Write Marilynn Preston in care of The Light, 565 Pearl St., Suite 300, La Jolla, 92037.