Why do humans like rules?
Rules strongly influence actions and interactions. They provide principles and procedures for conducting yourself in a particular activity. And they can lead the way to successful lifestyle change.
As fitness icon Richard Simmons says, “I have rules about eating, exercising and rules about staying positive. And these rules are sacred to me.”
While you embark on your path to a healthier lifestyle, consider these 10 fitness commandments as a travel guide.
1. Thou shalt not skip Monday.
What you do on the first day of the week can set the tone for the rest of the week. Make that tone a positive one by not skipping your workout. A good way to keep the habit going? That sense of accomplishment you feel afterwards is a great motivating factor.
2. Thou shalt not go three days without exercising.
When you take a long break from exercise, the gains you’ve made in cardiovascular endurance and strength inevitably decline.
The more fit you are, the longer you can go without a decline in performance. However, in those who are new to exercise, the decline only takes a matter of weeks. Christmas break, anyone?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. You can divvy up the week’s requirements however you’d like.
3. Thou shalt not overlook strength-training.
A common mistake people make is only focusing on cardio exercise, like walking or biking. But since muscle mass declines with age, it’s more important than ever that individuals supplement their fitness routine with strength-training. The CDC recommends that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. Newbies can start small with resistance bands and work up to weight machines and free weights.
4. Thou shalt vary thy routine.
Your body’s muscular systems and other physiological systems adapt to a workout routine in only six to eight weeks, according to American Council on Exercise (ACE). What does that mean for you? If you don’t change up your routine, you’ll reach a plateau in your fitness level. Plus, doing the same thing over and over again can get pretty dull.
Instead, rotate in different aerobic exercises, vary your strength-building movements and make time to improve your flexibility and core strength.
5. Thou shalt keep track of what thou does.
Results are the measurements of one’s success!
Fitness tracking as an inspirational tool can be very effective — seeing how close or how far you are to your personal goals can motivate you to squeeze in more physical activity or take a few more steps. Not only that, but it helps paint a picture of your progress over time.
6. Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s physicality.
Everyone’s ability level is different. If you can’t run a mile, run two blocks. Work out at your own pace and to the best of your ability — slowly but surely, you’ll see improvements! Remember, you are your only competition.
7. Thou shalt have a day of rest.
Keep a workout Sabbath by taking a few days off a week. Your muscles need rest and recovery time. Instead of a full-blown workout on your off-days, do some simple stretches.
Hint: Your rest day can be any day of the week, not just Sunday.
8. Thou shalt properly nourish thy body.
Within the first 30 to 60 minutes after a workout, you should be eating a snack or a light meal. Choose a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates. For muscle building, aim for 10 to 20 grams of protein.
9. Thou shalt love what thou does for exercise.
When you love a certain activity, it becomes a lot less like work and a lot more fun. If you don’t know where you start, think about what you loved doing as a child. Did you spend all summer in the lake? Try a water aerobics class. Love to gab? Join a walking group to boost your heart health while you catch up with your girlfriends. If tennis or golf is more your speed, try an athletics-focused muscle-building class.
If you do something you enjoy doing, then you will stick with it.
Also, don’t be afraid to look outside the box. You might discover a new love for tai chi or racquetball!
10. Thou shalt not give up.
Now and again, we fall off the wagon. Whatever the reason, it’s important not to get discouraged and give up on our goals completely. The most important rule is to try, try and try again.
A previous version of this blog was initially posted on healthwaysfit.com.