New to fitness? Tips for starting (and sticking with) an exercise program

By: Tamara Grand. Visit her blog at: connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

It’s finally spring in the lower mainland. The birds are singing, the cherry trees are a-bloom, winter coats and boots have been returned to the storage closet, and shorts and tank top season is only a few short months away. Gulp!
If you’re one of the many people who never got around to their New Year’s Resolution to start an exercise program, April is the month to do it. Three months is plenty of time to firm up and shed a few pounds before baring it all at the beach.
Whether you're new to exercise, or simply returning to it after a two-week, two-month or two-year hiatus, it's important to pace yourself and be realistic in your expectations of what your body is capable of.
All too frequently, I see new exercisers start out with a bang, only to lose their momentum after a few short weeks. In their enthusiasm (and sometimes desperation) to shed weight, gain strength and get healthy they run too far, lift too heavy, workout too frequently and attempt exercises far too challenging for their current fitness level. Unable to maintain their new routine due to time constraints or injury, they slowly reduce the frequency of their visits to the gym and often give up entirely.
When I start training a new client, I give them a program that I know they'll feel successful doing. Something that will challenge them, but not too much.
I also give them the following advice;
·      Go slow. Less is more. Start with 15-20 minutes, 3 times a week. Leave your body wanting more. Not being able to comfortably sit on the toilet for a week is not the sign of a good workout.
·      Warm up before you workout. Light calisthenics, stair climbing and walking will all warm up your muscles, lubricate your joints and gradually elevate your heart rate. Warm ups are great for injury prevention and will make the remainder of your workout more enjoyable.
·      When weight training, start with body weight, full range of motion exercises. Pay attention to form. Don't sacrifice good body mechanics for the sake of a few more reps or a slightly increased load. Progress comes with time.
·      Limit the number of exercises you perform. Having to learn more than 5 or 6 new exercises at a time is a recipe for disaster. Instead, focus on getting really good at a few. You'll be doing longer, more complicated programs before you know it. If you don’t know where to start, hire a personal trainer to create a program specific to your needs.
·      Stretch after every workout. Slowly, lengthen each of the major muscles you worked. Hold stretches for 15-30 seconds each. Don't bounce; ballistic stretching often leads to injury. Stretching helps to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. Most gym-goers don't stretch nearly enough.
And finally,
·      Congratulate yourself for starting and sticking with your fitness goals. Before long exercising will be a much anticipated part of your day! Really!