Working up to working out

Getting into shape the old-fashioned way

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 1/12/2012

Money is tight these days, and gym membership fees can be expensive. If you belong to a gym and don’t go there to work out multiple times a week, you could be paying more than you should.  
Many people don’t want to go to a gym for several reasons. Maybe they’re uncomfortable and feel out of their element — they’re not for everyone. But that’s no excuse not to live up to your New Year’s resolution of getting in shape.
There are plenty of exercises and stretches anyone can do at home on a daily basis. But the first and most important step is motivation, which is essentially part of what people are paying for at a gym. At-home fitness starts with changing daily routines, so that working out becomes as natural as taking a shower. Even if you have a gym membership it’s important not to let yourself go when you don’t attend. Here are some tips from both gym-goers and those who prefer to exercise at home.
First, how do you get motivated to make such a seemingly big change in your life? 
Rewarding yourself after a rigorous workout can be one way to get this process started. It doesn’t have to be something extravagant. In fact, it should be something small but meaningful that you enjoy and  deprive yourself of if you don’t follow through one day. This can be different for everyone.
One way to make the whole process easier is to designate a specific time each day to work out. If you have time in the morning, it can be a great way to wake up. Exercise helps relieve stress, increase energy and gets blood flowing.
Next, find a regimen that works for you. This will vary depending on your goals. If you’re trying to strengthen your legs, it can be as simple as riding a bike or going for a run. If you’re looking for an upper body workout and don’t have your own bench at home, push-ups and pull-ups always work. Start small, about 50 a day, and gradually increase the repetitions each time. This is an important rule of thumb for any exercise. 
Most importantly, know your limits. Going all out the first day will leave you sore and resentful for the next couple of days. No matter what your routine, don’t forget to breathe.
For those who have a hectic schedule or work at a desk all day, isometric exercise is a good way to go. It’s a form of resistance training, in which one exerts force against an immovable object or holds a specific muscle in a fixed position for a given period of time. Author Tom Weede, former editor of Men’s Fitness magazine, offers a few such exercises in his new book, “The Entrepreneur Diet: The On-the-Go Plan for Fitness, Weight Loss and Healthy Living.” To work out your biceps, triceps and chest, sit upright in a chair and press your hands firmly together in front of your chest. Hold for 10 seconds, release, and repeat four times. For a midsection workout, grab the armrests or the sides of a chair and pull your stomach in as much as possible for 10 seconds, then release and repeat eight times. 
Try a variety of exercises in your weekly workout. One day focus on your legs, another day work your midsection or upper body. One infamous exercise, called “burpees,” includes a little bit of everything. Begin by running in place for about 20 seconds, bringing your knees up high. Then stand in place and stretch your arms up and down twice before dropping to the floor to do five push-ups. Repeat five to 10 times.
Like most things, the hardest part is getting started. Once you form the habit and find a routine you like, working out regularly can become something you enjoy, not dread.