I sat anxiously in my doctor’s office. This was the moment of truth. After a year of dedicating myself to getting healthier, the numbers were finally in. Yes, I had lost 30 pounds – anyone could see that from the outside, but what was happening on the inside?

My physician turned to me and said: “Your numbers look great.” Sweeter words have never been spoken (well, don’t tell my boyfriend that). My cholesterol? 127 (healthy range is less than 200). Breaking it down,

  • My triglycerides were at 67 (healthy range is less than 150);
  • My HDL was at 55 (healthy range is 40-60, with 60 being optimal);
  • My LDL was at 59 (healthy range is less than 100);
  • My blood pressure was 120/84 (which is optimal); and
  • My blood glucose was at 83 (healthy range is less than 100).

“How did you do it?” My doctor asked. I answered that it was seemingly simple: eat less, move more. He nodded his head. I told him that what I discovered is that you can’t only do one part of that equation. You have to do both to be successful. He nodded again. I was good at dieting, but the fitness part – not so much.

Here’s how I made over my personal fitness and made it part of my lifestyle:

Start small. Ideally, we should get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week AND muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days of the week OR 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week AND muscle strengthening on 2 or more days of that week (Source: CDC). That’s overwhelming for the fitness newbie! I started with one 60-minute spinning class per week. I also made small tweaks to my everyday habits: taking the stairs, walking instead of taking the shuttle bus, and afternoon stretches. Little by little I added more, and now I’m getting that CDC-recommended dose of exercise.

Try something new. If the shoe doesn’t fit don’t wear it, as they say. As goes for fashion, so it goes for fitness. If you don’t love what you are doing, chances are you will not stick with it. Try a few different things and see what you keep coming back to. For me, it was spinning – something I had never done before. Seriously, before spinning, I had not been on a bike since I was 14. That motivated me to try other new things: strength training, indoor rowing, and Pilates. I’m even going to give kickboxing a whirl.

Track it. I’m an incredibly results-driven person. I’m also obsessed with technology. This extends into my personal fitness. I use a heart rate monitor to gauge how hard I’m working. Recently, I underwent a VO2 max test at Peak Physical Therapy & Performance Center to determine my maximum heart rate. Now, I know how hard my heart needs to work to burn fat and get a great workout. Knowing where you are, and where you are going helps you reach your goals.

Those are my secrets. What about you: What advice do you have for people looking to start a physical fitness journey? Share it in the comments section below.

Alexandra Tursi is social media strategist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. This May, she plans to run in the Vermont City Marathon Relay for the first time. 

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