By Kim Duke, NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer
How many New Year’s Eves have you spent sipping champagne and vowing to get more fit in the coming year? And how many times have you failed to follow through?
“December 31 over a drink is too late to set goals and make promises,” says Justin Price, owner of The Biomechanics, a personal training and wellness coaching facility in San Diego. Fall, on the other hand, is a great time to start a fitness program because “you’re going to create good habits for the holiday season and the upcoming winter months,” says Price.
Chris Freytag, a fitness instructor and fitness expert with Prevention magazine, agrees. “With the change of seasons comes a renewed time to rethink and restart. What’s so special about January?” she says. Besides, says Freytag, a mother of three, moms with school-aged kids “think of September as the new year.”
Here are some ways to start making the most of the season. And who knows? This year, you might be in great shape before that New Year’s Eve party rolls around.
1. Take advantage of the weather. Fall can be a treat for the senses: the crisp air, apple picking, pumpkin carving, a gorgeous canopy of fall foliage and the crunch of leaves underfoot. These months are a great time to exercise outdoors and enjoy cooler temperatures. “Walking, hiking and cycling are all awesome in the fall,” says Todd Durkin, MS, fitness coach and owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego. Discover park trails and take in some new scenery, whether you’re walking, biking or in-line skating, he suggests.
Or, if you live near the beach, get out and play volleyball, throw the Frisbee around, or play a vigorous game of fetch with your dog. “It’s a great time to do beach activities because it’s so much less crowded,” says Price. If you’re near a lake, try kayaking or canoeing for an excellent whole-body workout and a great change of pace.
And remember, it doesn’t have to seem like exercise to be a great workout.
2. Integrate exercise into your life. You already know the obvious suggestions: park farther away from your destination; take stairs instead of elevators; take a walk during your lunch break. Here are a few that are less obvious:
If you’re spending the afternoon taking kids to soccer practice instead of reading a book or visiting with another parent, “why not walk around the outside of the field while they practice?” suggests Price. “Or (if you feel comfortable) warm up and cool down with the kids.”
Or, try “walking meetings,” like those Price and his colleagues at Biomechanics often hold. “We go for a walk, we brainstorm and we figure out who’s going to take what responsibilities,” says Price. “Things get achieved much more quickly,” he says, and everyone feels better for doing it.
3. Rejuvenate yourself. Fall is the time to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit, says Durkin. Get a massage after your run. Learn to meditate. Take an art class. Treat yourself not just with exercise but other activities that promote wellness, he says, so you can feel good physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
4. Remember the 30-day rule. “It takes about four weeks for the body to adapt to lifestyle changes,” says Price. That’s why people who give up on their fitness programs tend to do so within the first 30 days. So, when the alarm goes off in the morning and it’s darker and colder, don’t roll over and hit the snooze button.
“Try to stick with a program for a month,” Price says. “After a month, behavior patterns will have adapted and it will be much easier to stick with it after that.”