Fall is a super season for shaping up, experts say.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Marcel Regimbald
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, creator of The BioMechanics Method®, 2006 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and corrective exercise expert.
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.
Here are 10 ways to start making the most of the season.
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, MA, CSCS, fitness coach, 2004 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, California.
In places where snow falls early, try cross country skiing or snowshoeing. 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.
2. Think outside the box. Always wanted to learn to tap dance? Attempt to box? Master the jump rope? Ask any schoolchild: Fall is a great time to learn something new. Many classes at gyms and elsewhere get started in the fall.
3. Be an active TV watcher. Many people get geared up for fall premieres of their favorite television shows, says Chris Freytag, an ACE-certified health coach, author and contributing editor for Prevention magazine. "If you're going to sit down and watch hours of TV, get moving," she suggests.
While you watch, you can walk or run in place, do standing lunges, do tricep dips off the couch, or lift weights. During commercials, do push-ups or sit-ups.
4. 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. Some less obvious suggestions include arranging a walking meeting or opting to walk around the field during children’s sport practices.
5. 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.
6. Remember the 30-day rule. "‘It takes about four weeks for the body to adapt to lifestyle changes," says Price.
"Try to stick with a program for a month," he says. "After a month, behavior patterns will have adapted and it will be much easier to stick with it after that."
7. Strive for the 3 Cs. Freytag calls commitment, convenience, and consistency "the three Cs", and says having all three will lead to a successful fitness program.
"You have to start planning exercise, just like you do everything else," Freytag says.
Choose a gym close to home and find a time when you're not likely to be interrupted.
8. Deal with darkness. The best way to enjoy fall is to exercise outdoors. But it is getting darker earlier, and staying dark later in the morning, so be smart and safe.
If walking or running during dark hours wear a reflective vest and carry a flashlight. When cycling, affix a light to your helmet or bike.
9. Dress in layers. When exercising outside, layer your clothing. Before your body warms up, you may feel chilled, but once the blood gets pumping, you'll feel overdressed.
Freytag suggests three layers: "The inner layer should be a moisture-wicking fabric, so it wicks away sweat and you're not chilled. The second layer should be a warmth layer, and the third layer should be a protective layer (like a windbreaker or rain slicker, depending on the weather)."
10. Find your motivation. "People are motivated by different things," says Durkin. It's important to first discover what your individual goals are, whether it's losing weight, strengthening and toning, or preparing for a race or event, he says.
Choose something you'll enjoy doing and will be likely to keep up, whether it's walking or hiking with a friend, working with a trainer or taking part in a "boot camp" class.