Editor's note: This guest blog was provided by our sponsor, Western Dairy Association. Don't miss our Twitter Chat on this topic on Feb. 4, 2014 at 7-8 p.m. MT. Follow along with #healthyCO. For more details click here.
Consider preparing for a long road trip. You pack your bags, map your trip and stop on your way out of town to fill your car with a tank of gas – not special gas, but gas from the same station last week before you drove home from work.
Exercising, especially starting a training routine, can have many parallels to starting a long road trip. Proper preparation is essential to avoid any road trip disasters: choose the right travel companions, schedule your lodging, pack appropriate clothes, eat before you ever get “hangry” (behaving angrily because of your hunger), and rest when you need it.
In the same way, before beginning an exercise regimen:
1. Make a Game Plan.
Write down your fitness goals and choose one to really focus on. Make sure your goal is specific, measurable and realistic. Next, whether your goal is to walk for at least 30 minutes, five days a week or to run your first outdoor race, plan the steps to success. Use a calendar to mark the days that you will exercise and use the same calendar to track your success. Remember to consider barriers that may interfere with your plan and brainstorm ways that you will tackle those obstacles.
2. Choose a Buddy.
Many people maintain motivation when they make exercise plans with a partner or group. Decide who you want to exercise with by choosing an equally motivated partner with similar fitness goals. Choosing the wrong person to train with can be as frustrating as choosing the wrong person to travel across the country. If exercising by yourself is your preference, download some of your favorite music as a good promoter.
3. Pack Appropriately.
Injury can be the biggest stumbling block people face as they begin an exercise routine. Ensuring that you have proper socks, shoes and supplies to exercise safely is key to success. Packing your pantry and fridge is an important step as well. Milk, cheese and yogurt, canned and frozen fruit and vegetables, whole grain pastas, breads and tortillas, frozen lean meats, and canned and bagged beans are all great foods to have on hand at all times.
4. Fuel Your Body.
For a less glamorous analogy, remember that your body runs like a car, it simply will not run without fuel – and food is fuel. Fortunately, research shows that while good nutrition is key for performance, athletes do not need a diet different from what is recommended by MyPlate guide for eating. In other words, the fuel that your body needs every day is not different than the fuel that you need while you are exercising.
In order to maintain your body’s lean muscle mass (even if you are hoping to lose weight), continue to eat balanced meals and include each of the Five Food Groups in your diet. For more information on the Five Food Groups and proper proportions, visit choosemyplate.gov.
Keep in mind that when you are in an exercise routine, your body is burning more calories than it does when you are not exercising regularly. Let your body decide serving sizes based on your hunger cues. In order to maintain proper nutrition, avoid indulging in one particular food group when you are hungry (you are better off eating two sandwiches than eating one sandwich with triple meat for example).
When engaging in intense exercise for more than an hour, use tips from Eating for Peak Performance to determine additional pre- and post-exercise nutrition needs.
5. Rest When Necessary.
Know your limits and listen to your body. A general rule of thumb is to rest 24 hours in between exercise.