HEALTH When you need to get in shape, just remember to do it right

Fitness by the numbers seems so simple.
New things have a way of petrifying us. Our skill at procrastination or our exaggerated fear of failing can leave us stuck at "get ready, get set, I'll do it tomorrow."
Starting an exercise program is one of life's little adventures not worthy of all the pre-event neurosis. It literally can be as easy as one, two and three.
Get a check up. Make sure your doctor looks you over, knows what you're planning to do and has the opportunity to give you his or her approval. That includes a discussion on all medications you're taking and how they might affect your heart rate, ability to exercise, breathing, etc.
Start walking. No athletic prowess, rhythmic timing, or punch/kick coordination required for this aerobic activity -- just a supportive pair of shoes. Pace yourself just fast enough to cause a little heavier breathing, but no so fast that you can't talk while you're moving.
As for distance and time, don't worry about how far you can't go or how long it takes you to get there. When you're just starting out, there are more important considerations like, "Wow! I'm off the couch, actually perspiring, and doing something good for myself."
While keeping that aerobic -- winded but able to speak -- pace, aim to walk 15 minutes away from your starting point and 15 minutes back to your starting point.
If 15 minutes seem uncomfortable, shoot for 10. If 10 feels uncomfortable, try for five. Do what you can and every other day; add one more minute to each part of your walk until you're up to a total walk time of 30 minutes.
Some marching in place or a little pre-walk walking to get your muscles warmed up should precede each walking expedition. After five to 10 minutes warming up, stretch out your thighs, calves, and upper body.
And while it may be tempting to skip the warm-up and stretch, taking these steps can make your workout more comfortable and improve your level of performance. Stretching will also help you maintain a good range of motion within each joint.
Do some resistance work. Starting off it doesn't have to be anything too elaborate. Push-ups, squats, lunges, abdominal crunches, and low-back extensions, are enough to hit your primary muscle groups.
If you're unfamiliar with how to perform these exercises pick up a good exercise guide at the library or your favorite bookstore.
There you go. One, two and three easy steps to get you started right now.
XWellness specialist Eugenie Jones writes for The Sun in Bremerton, Wash., and may be reached by email at

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