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Why it's important to start with small steps.

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In this article, Fitness Expert/Health Coach Kathi Casey discusses her approach to exercise and why it's important to start with small steps.

We are bombarded with advertising on television and radio about the many "results orientated" exercise programs available. Choosing the right one can seem like an impossible task. Most fitness programs on the market today are too difficult for many people to complete. I have several clients who own book shelves full of fitness videos that have been watched once - most without participation. It's discouraging to see flexible, fit people bending over to touch their toes or sitting gracefully down onto the floor when one has all they can do to get up and down from the couch.

I've also coached people who, when they watch me demonstrate an exercise, will insist that they can't possibly do it. It's been my experience however, that when I encourage and insist that they try to do it in some form (and I demonstrate several modifications) they are surprised to see that they can indeed complete the exercise. Their version may not look the same as mine, but it is the same exercise!

Many people have tried so many times to work out and failed that they think they can't do anything, or that nothing works for them.

Not true!

It's all about those first "baby steps"! Start out with a few easy, fun exercises and stay with those until you're ready to add one or two more. It doesn't matter how long it takes for you to work your way up to 10 or 12 exercises, what matters is finding something that you enjoy and that you'll keep doing.

Here's a sample of what I suggest you start with:

While on the couch watching TV, lie on your side and raise your top leg up toward the ceiling slowly while inhaling to the count of 5 (slowly - it's not a race) and then exhale 5 counts while you bring it back down. Do 2 or 3 to begin with, making sure that you breathe deeply and make your movements slow and purposeful. If you try to throw your leg up into the air you will be using momentum instead of leg muscles and you'll be throwing your hip joint out, so just take your time and raise the leg as high as you can slowly. During the next commercial, sit back up slowly and carefully and then lie on your other side to repeat the leg raises with your opposite leg. This is easy and you don't need to put time aside for this work-out. Do it while you're watching your favorite program. Do it every day. Set an achievable goal for yourself like doing 2 or 3 leg raises on each side for 2 weeks. You'll feel so good when you complete that goal that you'll be ready to add some more exercises! At your own pace, work up to doing 10 on each side. And don't forget to breathe deeply. When you do this your muscles get fresh oxygen and become healthier quicker!

Setting small, achievable goals is important for your success. Perhaps no one has told you that before or maybe you didn't realize that you could exercise while lying on the couch, but now you know that it IS possible for you to start an exercise program - one that's designed with you in mind. Consider carefully and choose a goal that you know you can make - don't set yourself up for disappointment. Then after you've achieved that goal - even if you didn't quite make it every day or if you only did one some days and your goal was two, don't give up. Set another 2 week goal and keep going. You can do it! If you need a little extra help, repeat this little affirmation to yourself every day. "I am doing Pilates!" You have the power to make positive changes for your health and well being - one small step at a time. It's unrealistic to think that you can make habit changes in just a few weeks, so begin an exercise program at your own pace - one that's easy and fun.

I like to start with this leg exercise because our legs are under a lot of strain carrying us around all the time. The muscles that you use with this easy, slow, purposeful leg raise are those deep muscles that are so important for strength and balance. And did you know that when you build lean muscle, your body burns morefat to keep those lean muscles working? This means that the more you do this simple, easy exercise - the higher you'll be able to lift that leg and then the more repetitions you'll be able to do and then, the INCHES will drop from your thighs! In fact, I always recommend that you measure your thighs before you begin and then again after one month. You will see a difference and that will encourage you to add another exercise. The next exercise in the series is to make circles with your leg. Again, slow circles using only your leg muscles and taking care not to rock your hip.

Now, understand that you may not have lost any weight during your first few weeks because muscle weighs more than fat but please use the measuring tape and you will see the inches going away. I also recommend putting your scale away for 6 months. Just use your tape measure and set small goals that you know you can accomplish and you'll feel so much better.

It is possible for you to begin an exercise program that was designed for you now. Today is the day you take charge of your own health.

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