Nothing worth attaining is ever achieved overnight. Getting fit follows the same principle.
One of the most effective ways to improve fitness is to set an activity-based goal that requires dedicated training over an extended period of time. Consider it a means to an end in order to get your self started.
In the past I’ve set many fitness goals for myself. I wanted to become a runner so I decided to train for a half-marathon – and ended up finishing five. I wanted to become a better ice skater so I signed up for hockey lessons – and ended up joining my first hockey team (go Hockey Bags!). I wanted to learn how to row so I joined the Winnipeg Rowing Club – and ended up training competitively.
Setting a goal – any goal – provides focus and motivation, and a personal challenge that can be rewarding in ways other than just physical. Now is the best time to commit to a training program designed to achieve your desired outcome. If you start in November that gives six solid months before summer returns, and plenty of time to get in shape for any number of activities.
With an abundance of online resources, fitness facilities, and personal trainers, finding a program for your self is easy. Running is one of the quickest ways to improve fitness. Even if you’ve never run ten consecutive steps in your life, it’s possible to prepare for any length. By starting now, you can be ready for the Manitoba Marathon in June, or dozens of other seasonal runs of varying distances.
As with all training, a running program should be geared towards your appropriate level – beginner, intermediate or advanced – and provide a comfortably progressive increase in distance and speed. Running in winter can take place indoors on a track or treadmill, or outdoors with proper clothing. Try different options to find what suits you best, and change it up every now and then to keep it interesting.
If cycling is more your thing, set your sights on long distance. A number of organizations offer organized fundraising rides of various lengths. The Red River Century Ride for diabetes challenges riders to 100 kilometers in one day, while the MS Society bike tours travel 150 kilometers with an overnight in between. Longer rides like Habitat for Humanity allow cyclists to travel 800 or more kilometers in a week.
For training during snowy months, log miles on an exercise bike, or park your outdoor bike on an indoor trainer for the winter. I like to position mine in front of the television to maximize multi-tasking. Another great option is to take spin classes, available at many fitness facilities.
For multi-sport challenges, you’ve probably heard of triathlon – a combination of swimming, running and cycling. Triathlon Manitoba offers events of different lengths, from the try-a-tri to the ironman. Since swimming is a weakness for me, I choose duathlon instead, which combines running and biking. For a multisport that lets you participate as an individual or part of a team, FortWhyte Alive has an annual Eco-challenge consisting of paddling, running, inline skating, cycling, and climbing.
Speaking of inline skating… One of today’s increasing fitness trends is an inline marathon. Doing 26 miles on rollerblades is a great idea for those who aren’t able to run that kind of distance. I first heard of inline marathons a few years back, when a friend informed me of one taking place in Minneapolis, and another in Duluth. The following summer Birds Hill Park hosted one, which means we can now try it in our own backyard without venturing off to someplace else.
And speaking of venturing off to someplace else… My favourite sport of all allows me to travel across Canada, the US, and even around the world. For the past several years I’ve been training at rowing with the goal of competing. Unfortunately, two separate injuries in two separate years have set my plans back. But coming from stubborn stock, I’m still trying.
So my next big goal is to compete at the World Masters Games in Sydney Australia in October 2009. That gives me one full year to bounce back from injuries, improve overall fitness, and work on the extremely technical rowing technique. If all goes well, one year from now I’ll be ‘down under’ competing at the sport I love the most.
Which leads me to ask you something you may want to ask yourself… One year from now, where do you want to be??
If you’ve been thinking about getting fit, there’s no better time then the present to plan for your future. So I challenge you to challenge yourself. Set a goal today.