How To Make Your Workouts Work: Five Simple Secrets

Aug. 27, 2003
Like most Americans, the average firefighter’s ‘I'll-get-fit-by-summer’ resolutions have long fallen by the wayside.
Like most Americans, the average firefighter's 'I'll-get-fit-by-summer' resolutions have long fallen by the wayside. It's not that you don't want to get in shape and reap the rewards of a properly executed fitness plan. You go through the motions as best you can, but it's just NOT working -- and you demand to know why! Five simple secrets can help.

SECRET # 1: Clearly Identify Goals

You can't expect to get anywhere fast if you don't know where you're going. Clearly identify specific fitness goals before you ever step foot in the gym. This will help you make better choices and avoid wasting time.


Sit down with pen and paper and make a list. At least once a month, get out your list and update it by checking off the goals you've reached, and add any new goals. For example, if you clearly identify fat loss as your main goal, don't waste hours at the gym hoisting heavy barbells. Instead, focus on circuit training or traditional aerobic exercise as the best way to burn fat. When circuit training, modify the way you lift, doing high reps with light weight, while resting only briefly between each set.

SECRET # 2: Seek Proper Exercise Direction

You might have seen this guy at your local gym. He's been exercising for years, spends hours a day at the gym, yet never looks any different. He basically wanders from one station to the next, with little rhyme or reason for anything he does. Worse yet, some of the movements could actually have a negative effect, possibly leading to an over-use injury.


Educate yourself. With all the time this poor guy spends training, he's never taken the time to learn HOW to train. If you don't know what to do, read a book, hire a trainer, or speak with a fitness professional before you start.

See Related Article: click here SECRET # 3: Start Slowly You want that new body, and you want it now! But back in the real world you'll have to give yourself two or three months to see substantial results in the appearance department. However, you'll notice increases in strength, energy levels, and endurance almost right away. Job performance is the first thing to improve. WHAT YOU NEED TO DO Give your body a chance to adapt to this new stress called exercise. It will reward you by getting stronger and fitter. Small, gradual pushes work best. For example, if you've haven't jogged in years, walk first. If desired, gradually incorporate brief intervals of jogging into your walk. Before you know it, you'll be brisk walking or jogging for a pain-free 30 minutes or more. SECRET # 4: Prioritize the Time You Devote to Exercise This is a failure to put you first. If you take a close look, you'll see that it doesn't require a large investment of time to get into good physical condition. About 20 or 30 minutes per day (before, during, or after your tour), 3 or 4 days a week will produce noticeable results. If you exercise intelligently, you'll find out less can be more. WHAT YOU NEED TO DO Save the excuses for the chief, but be honest with yourself about how much time you're willing to devote to a fitness program, and schedule workouts accordingly. If you can afford to purchase some basic equipment (a small bench or step and some dumbbells for less than $100), you can squeeze in a 20- or 30-minute workout in the time it takes drive to the gym. SECRET # 5: Develop Sensible Eating Habits You wouldn't expect your car to run right if you filled the gas tank with kool-aide. Any exercise program needs to be fueled by a solid nutritional plan that includes an adequate balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Failure to eat right while training hard can result in loss of muscle mass, and increased amounts of stored body fat, just what you don't want. WHAT YOU NEED TO DO While shopping, read labels and always choose the low-fat, low-calorie option. Stay away from fried foods that are high in fat, and avoid junk food like the plague. Take a common sense approach to eating right, and make sure you avoid any extreme fad diet. Michael Stefano is a 20-year veteran of New York City Fire Department, currently serving in the rank of captain, as well as author of The Firefighter's Workout Book, and creator of the Firefighter's Workout video. He has been developing exercise programs for the firefighters he's worked with and the general public for the past seventeen years. His workout routines and articles have been featured on such internet giants as America Online, Yahoo!, eDiets, and iVillage. "To find out more about The Firefighter's Workout Book, or get more of Captain Mike's fat burning, muscle building workouts, go to:

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