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The 4 Steps to Creating a Successful Exercise Plan

Your body is a gift, and the right kind of exercise celebrates that fact.
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Last time we talked about the body as a gift. Exercise is one concrete way of treasuring our bodies. So let's talk about how to start–or continue–an exercise plan that's right for you. To do this, we'll focus on the who, what, when and where of exercise.

WHO? The “who” is you! Will you exercise alone, with one friend or many friends? Some people get energy from being around others, whereas others find it exhausting. Exercise shouldn't be another stressful chore, but a means to relieve stress so that you feel more alive and ready to fulfill your responsibilities. Explore which way helps you relieve stress best by trying different routines. You really can’t make a “wrong” decision here.

WHAT? What should a workout look like? Research shows that you should get at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise a day to get your heart and lungs properly working; 40 minutes is ideal. Anaerobic exercise–like lifting and sprinting–builds bone density and cartilage, protecting joints from wearing down. It takes more energy to maintain muscle, so you burn more calories per hour when you're stronger. Supplement 20-40 minutes of cardio with 2-3 days of strength training. You'll feel the difference and your joints will thank you.

WHEN?  Starting the day with exercise keeps your metabolism moving for the rest of the day. While some prefer to workout in the morning, others can only exercise in the evening. Decide when you will normally exercise each day. Sometimes this may change, but sticking to a regular schedule helps form a habit of exercising. The European Journal of Social Psychology published a study showing that, while the average time to form a habit was 66 days, forming more complex behaviors like exercise takes longer (up to 264 days). So stick with it!

WHERE? Maybe there is a gym close to home or work that is affordable and has interesting classes. Ask for a tour of the equipment and layout of the facility to see if it's right for you. There are also exercise Meetup groups that take place all over, or you can start your own! My favorite–outside!–is always available. Perhaps you're blessed to live by water you can jog past. Hills provide great hiking and climbing opportunities. One wonderful thing about exercising outdoors is the chance to experience the beauty of our surroundings.

While the weather is still mild, resolve to conquer the four “W’s” over the next couple of weeks. You'll be improving your health while learning more about yourself and others. And remember to keep it all in perspective: fitness that fits is a gift that keeps on giving.

chill out music

Kate Gallagher

chill out music

Kate is a graduate of the National Personal Training Institute in Vienna, VA and recently started her own personal training business, Uniquely Fit.

She went into her studies with the  whole person–body and spirit–at the forefront of her mind. She hopes to help women see their bodies as gifts that reflect who they are as unique individuals.