Recapping a year’s worth of exercise and fitness tirades

Keep working out. Our bodies are not designed to sit around all day.

Hooray for the new year, and for your renewed commitment to health and wellness. Yup, you’re heading back to the gym, the track, your trainer, your group exercise class — and who knows, maybe this year you will actually see results.

Allow me to assist. Below is a recap of the scads of columns I wrote last year regarding working out and how to achieve your goals. Let’s review:

Use your mind, not just your body. Mentally focus on what is is you want to achieve. On a daily basis, envision exactly how you want your body to look and feel. Keep that vision in your head as you eat, as you sweat through your workouts, as you fall asleep at night. Mentally visualizing your success, then taking action with effective workouts and healthy eating will create the healthy body you desire.

Schedule your workouts. Put them on your calendar like any other appointment or important task. If you don’t, you’ll likely blow them off.

Get your cardio in about four to five times per week. Include at least two high-intensity interval workouts, alternating 30-60 second bursts of aerobic exercise with lower intensity recovery periods. You’ll burn more calories over a shorter period of time. Added bonus: Interval training burns more fat and calories in the 24 hours after a session than a steady-paced workout does.

Lift weights. Aim for at least three times per week. Strength training has helped keep me and my clients lean and strong. You have to build muscle to increase your metabolism and burn fat. If you already strength-train, keep adding weight (in small 2- to 5-pound increments) to an exercise until it becomes challenging to perform 10 reps. Ladies, you will not bulk up, I promise you.

Up the intensity of your workouts. This is a must if you are endeavoring to change the size and shape of your body. If you have been performing cardio for awhile, try the interval method I just mentioned, or work aerobically for a longer duration of time. If you are building muscle, go heavier as you get stronger, or shift to more challenging exercise formats. (Suspension weight training, anyone?)

Change it up. If you typically work with weight machines and the stationary bike, switch to dumbbell lifting and a cardio workout on a treadmill, elliptical or, my personal favorite, the stairmill. Better yet, take an exercise class where a trained professional will keep your muscles and cardio endurance challenged with exercises you are likely unfamiliar with. By switching up your workouts, you stay physically — and equally important — mentally stimulated, which leads to better results.

Respect your injuries and limitations. Don’t force your body to perform lunges when you have cranky knees or 50 pushups with a torn rotator cuff. I forbid my clients to perform exercises that cause unnatural pain. I don’t care how many calories you might be burning. It’s unkind, and it’s the opposite of self-care. Take care of your body the way you would your child’s body — with the utmost love and respect. Your body will thank you for it.

Don’t work out when you are sick. Skip exercise if you have a fever, chills are nauseated or have a head cold. I tell clients who are recovering from illness to wait to resume exercise until they have at least 80 percent of their usual energy. When you reach this point, perform a gentle workout and monitor how you feel every 10 minutes. If you feel worse than when you started, your body is not ready. Stop immediately and give yourself more time to recover.

Ditch the scale. Weight loss is never a straight line downward. It’s a lumpy, bumpy slope with peaks, dips and plateaus throughout — especially if you are building muscle via strength training. I say forget the numbers completely and gauge your success by how you feel and how your clothes fit. To hell with the scale: The thing is evil and creates unnecessary hysteria, particularly in women.

Above all, keep moving. Inertia breeds inertia, and our bodies are not designed to sit around all day. Exercise in any form strongly impacts our physical and psychological sense of well-being — and the more you move, the more your body will want to move.

I’ll squat to that.

Catherine Bongiorno is a personal trainer, nutritional therapist and owner of Lift To Lose Fitness & Nutrition. Email her at info@lifttolose.com or visit www.lifttolose.com for more information.

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