Keeping Your Fitness Goals On Track

Sun, 11 Jan 2015 Source: Essel, Kojo Cobba

Most of us are still in New Year Resolution mode; majority are still psyching themselves to shift into gear, a committed few have started and unfortunately a significant number are about to give up. Whichever group you belong to be rest-assured there is help available, you do not need to journey alone.

Quite often we hear that we are where we are today because of choices we have made in the past. True. We also are aware that the choices we make from now will determine where we find ourselves in five years and beyond. When it comes to choices; our choice of friends and the books (electronic or hardcopy) we read are critical. That is also True but we need to add another extremely critical “choice”.

Perhaps one of the major determinants of our future is the choice we make about our health. The state of our health will determine our relationship with our maker, is critical in determining who we make friends with, definitely plays a role in our ability to read or not and will eventually determine if we will spend all the wealth we may create on medical bills or on improving our quality of life and that of our community.

I have good news for you; time has proven that “the most efficient way to reach your realistic health goals is to make small healthy choices daily.” Do not wait for the big day to start big. Start TODAY and make small changes daily.

At the beginning of the year we discussed steps to keep us on track in the “food department” and our focus this weekend is on keeping our physical activity (exercise) goals on course. I need to re-emphasize that appropriate nutrition plays a critical role and so does being mentally ready to make changes; it all starts “upstairs”. Your brain (mind) plays a key role in determining if your health resolutions will still be on track by 1st February.

I will tackle only five areas to keep us on track. Once we have these covered all others may be added easily.

1. Learn to do it right!

a. Many fitness quests have not lasted beyond a week because we use the wrong posture and get injured. Do not assume you know how to do it right, get professional help if necessary.

b. Do not get sucked in by the evil of “toos”; too much, too quickly, too frequently. Your body will complain. This is no sprint, take it slowly and increase the pace as you get stronger.

2. Variety is KING

a. It is easy to get into a rut by doing the same thing all the time. Imagine eating rice and stew five days a week and fasting on the other two days. Spice up your exercise life: do some strength training (body weight sometimes and weights at other times), stretch and do not equate cardiovascular exercise to a walk in the park or a slow walk on the treadmill every day. Your body will adjust and will hardly improve after a while. Walk, swim, use a bike, treadmill, make friends with the cross trainer and even join an aerobics class sometimes.

3. Interval Training is a must

a. Interval training is the in-thing. The benefits to heart health, weight control and diabetes management are phenomenal.

b. The concept is simple; walk briskly for three minutes and increase the pace for a minute then repeat the cycle over and over again. It can be done on a treadmill, elliptical trainer, bike, while walking on land or even in water.

c. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is probably one of the few instances where I encourage “high intensity” exercise simply because there are only short bursts of high intensity.

d. So the majority of us who get onto a treadmill, set the speed and incline and walk or jog for hours on end every day may actually be doing ourselves a disservice. Interval is the way to go!

4. Warming up and Cooling down make all the difference

a. Do not assume your body is ready to go all the time. No matter your level of fitness you need to warm up; start slowly. The pace should be just enough to allow you to break into a light sweat, muscles warm up, joints ready to move through their full range of motion and the heart is pumping adequately. Do not skip on Warm Up if you do not have enough time to exercise. It is wrong and defeats a major law of exercise; DO NO HARM!

b. Cooling down is equally important. Never stop exercising abruptly. It is important to bring the heart rate to as close to resting state as possible. Spend at least three to five minutes reducing the intensity/pace of your workout. People who stop suddenly may feel dizzy, some have headaches and others may even throw up.

5. Water makes everything come alive

a. Water certainly is life. You should drink water before and after exercising and definitely sip some water while you exercise.

b. Your body loses a lot of water during moderate to intense exercising and it is important that we replace it.

Together we can keep our new year health resolution alive. Do not give up.



Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Moms’ Health Club


*Dr Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.

Thought for the week –“Exercising during pregnancy makes you feel better in general and also gives you an energy boost.”

Columnist: Essel, Kojo Cobba