Start low, go slow

Simple, short-term goals key to reaching fitness goals


As a Physical Therapist, I’m a firm believer that a strong core is the key to everything. I’ve seen a direct correlation betweenhaving a weak core and back pain, rotator cuffissues, running injuries and more. These basic but functional exercises are a great addition for runners, cyclists, swimmers, cross fitters, triathletes, yogis,and more. I put 90% of my patients on a core strengthening programbefore we do anything else.
— Laura Fromdahl,
Physical Therapist, (Fit Chics Founder, Triathlete)


Easier said than done for most weekend athletes. All it takes is a little motivation and a little inspiration … the perspiration will follow. And who knows? Maybe what begins as a simple goal of getting fit for a short-term physical overhaul can become a lifestyle change that lasts decades.

Fitness goals are like any other life choices we all make. They are different for everyone. A 20-something woman might want to look better in her “skinny” jeans. A 30-something man might want to lose some belly fat after years of neglect since college. Forty-somethings might want to get back into shape now that the kids are older and becoming more independent of them — and they have the time to do it now. For the over 50-somethings, the goal may be simply to get healthier because a good diet isn’t nearly enough or an unexpected illness disrupted their daily routine and changed their outlook on life. And the doctor is telling them it’s time to shape up … and he means it.

“Everyone has different fitness goals, life experiences,” said Walter Thompson, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate studies and research and regents professor of exercise science in the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “Our lifestyle choices impact us the greatest.”

The experts agree that short-term fitness goals have to be realistic.

“The real key is to identify what is meaningful to you,” said Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise in San Diego. “Make it a ‘smart’ goal, a measurable goal that is achievable and relevant.”

Added Denise Davis, fitness and wellness coordinator at Wardle Family YMCA of Beaufort County in Port Royal, “You want your goal to be tangible, a realistic approach.”

In other words, you are not going to lose 50 pounds in one month. You are not going to run a marathon after two months of training, and you’re not going to have six-pack abs after conditioning once a week for three months.

But simple short-terms goals can be have dramatic positive effects. Exercising with regularity can make walking up the stairs effortless for those who previously labored doing the same activity, Dr. Thompson said.

“The activity of our daily lives is made easier,” Dr. Thompson said. “There are practical outcomes of exercise.” He added that he asks his clients to “give it a week and tell me if you feel any better.” After a week of exercising, he reports, they tell him they do feel better.

“Moving efficiently and effectively is essential to life,” Dr. Bryant said. “In my mind, it’s about functional activity in life.”

The experts also agree to start small with your dreams. It’s easy be become disillusioned, disappointed and discouraged if your goal is too lofty — and you fail.

“Start slowly and make small changes,” advises Tina Marie Devlin, wellness coordinator at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. “Work on that and make it a habit…real change takes time.”

Added Dr. Bryant, “Start low (expectations) and go slow.”

So, what exercise and fitness programs are the most popular these days?

More than 3,300 professionals in the health and fitness industry responded to the seventh annual worldwide survey of “Fitness Trends for 2013,” conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

The survey, authored by Dr. Thompson, who is also on the board of trustees at ACSM, reveals that body weight training appears on the top 20 list for the first time at No. 3. Integral workouts and high-intensity training is a trend “that can stay,” Davis said. Tabata, for instance, can involve about 20 seconds of heavy impact activity, such as burpees, followed by 10 seconds of light activity for eight rounds. She credits Tabata for improved strength, flexibility, endurance and muscle development. Three minutes of walking slow and 30 seconds of power walking repeated for 30 minutes can achieve cardiovascular and calorie-burning results.

fitnesOther workouts on the fringe worth considering are obstacle races, jumping shoes, jumping rope, fencing, indoor surfing, trapeze class, acrobatic pole movements, the hula hoop, aerial yoga, mini trampolines or “bounders,” and crossdisciplining.

The results are in. Exercise and fitness make you feel better, look better and enhance overall well-being.

“Being fit is being healthy,” Davis said.  “Move out of your comfort zone.”

Among the many benefits of regular exercise are joint flexibility, weight reduction and maintenance, muscle mass and toning, balance and mobility, a stronger immune system, disease prevention, stress reduction, heart health, enhanced stamina and performance, mental fortitude and agility.

“For some people, a short-term goal can be the impetus for lifetime change,” Dr. Bryant said. “Much like (financial) investments…the sooner you start, the better the returns.”


Among the exercise activities included in this year’s top 20 list are (in descending order):

  • Strength training (for improving or maintaining muscle strength; not restricted to lifting weights for body building or rehabilitation)
  • Body weight training (resistance training using minimal equipment; pushups, pull-ups, planks, squats)
  • Exercise and weight loss (program combining exercise and diet for weight loss maintenance)
  • Fitness programs for older adults (age-appropriate exercise programs for active older adults; to preserve bone density, strength, flexibility, weight maintenance)
  • Functional fitness for older adults (strength training to improve balance, coordination, force, power and endurance in performing everyday daily functions)
  • Core training (stresses strength and conditioning of the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen, thorax and back; improves overall stability)
  • Zumba and other dance workouts (combines Latin rhythms with interval-type exercise and resistance training)
  • Outdoor activities (includes hiking, canoeing, kayaking, high-adventure programs, and games and sports)
  • Yoga (many types; tones muscles, improves joint flexibility and lowers blood pressure)
  • Boot camp (high-intensity structured activity patterned after military-style training; improves cardiovascular, strength, endurance and flexibility)
  • Circuit training (six to 10 exercises completed successively in a predetermined sequence)