Since you all probably know why it’s important to get your workout on, let’s get down to the question of exactly what it means to be fit. You might think that being fit means having six-pack abs or super toned arms, but it’s actually about much more than that. (How you look isn’t a very good way to judge fitness at all!)
Just because someone appears to be healthy doesn’t necessarily mean she’s truly fit. True physical fitness comes down to three basic components: aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, and flexibility. Together, these three aspects combine to make your heart healthy, your skeletomuscular system strong, and your joints limber. Without these three things, it’s darn near impossible to have a healthy and fully functioning body! All three of these can be measured to provide you with a quick and easy sense of where your fitness ranks at the outset. To test your aerobic fitness, take your heart rate for one minute both before and after you walk a mile. Also note how quickly you were able to walk. For strength, do as many push-ups (real or modified, where you have your knees on the ground) as you can. To test flexibility, see how far you can reach with your legs out in front of you. Be sure to record your “before” stats so you can see how much you progress over time!
To support the fitness trifecta of cardio, strength, and flexibility, you need to make sure that your weekly exercise routine includes all three of these essential pieces. It’s not nearly as overwhelming as it may sound. We’ll break it down bit by bit and tell you how to fit it all in, what to avoid, and how to track your progress! All of the workouts you need to get started are included in this book.
THE WARM UP!
Warming up before a workout is a must! You want to slowly get your heart rate up and get your muscles moving—it’s kind of like preheating the oven before you bake cookies. Doing so helps to prepare your body for exercise, which helps to decrease the risk of injury, improve your performance, and just make exercise feel better.
A proper warm-up should last anywhere from two to ten minutes, depending on how long your exercise session will last. If you’re going out for a ten-minute power walk, a two-minute warm-up is fine. If you’re about to play tennis for an hour, you’ll want to dedicate ten minutes to warming up. The whole point of a warm-up is to prepare your body for the specific movement you’ll be doing. A good place to start is to walk or march in place for a few minutes. If you feel weird marching in place, gently move your body in the same ways you would in your actual workout. If you’re about to play kickball, do some easy kicks, try some light jogging, and move your arms like you’re pretending to throw a ball. If you’re doing some weight lifting, walk in place for a few minutes to get your heart rate higher and then go through the motions of lifting weights—either using a lighter weight or using no weight at all.
You may think that a warm-up has to include stretching, but you actually don’t need to do a lot of static stretching (like touching your toes). If you like stretching, feel free to hold your stretches for a few seconds, but no longer than that. The goal here is to loosen and lubricate your joints and move them through a full range of motion. That way, when it’s time for your “real” workout to start, you’re ready to rock it!
Once you’ve gotten those muscles warm, you’re ready to get into the meat of your workout—cardio and strength!