Wellness Wednesday: How to Start Your Fitness Routine 

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There are people out there who experience lasting fitness breakthroughs. They all have to start somewhere. This week's post is about how you can start your fitness regimen. 

How do you break out of your rut? By creating a new rut. A lot of people have good intentions and a lot of people have brute force discipline. But that's not really what it takes.

What does it really take? It takes a good set up. You have to set yourself up for success.


As with any goal, your goal of starting fitness needs to be SMART.  

SMART means: 



1. Specific- Decide what you are going to do. I suggest beginners either go to a class at an accredited health center, gym or, as a lower cost alternative get a selection of appropriate fitness DVDs for home use. One great regimen is every other day at the gym interspersed with every other day at home with a DVD. Always take at least one or two days off a week. On those off days you may do gentle yoga to perpetuate your habit and stay limber. 

Being specific also means that you know exactly what you are going to wear and exactly what you are going to do to start the workout. For me, this means coming home from work, changing into my exercise clothes, turning on my DVD player, grabbing a glass of ice water, and then putting on my workout shoes. By then, the workout is as good as done. I do it the same way every time to create and reinforce a habit loop.

2. Measurable-Consult with your doctor about how many days a week you should work out. I suggest no less than three and no more than six, preferably 5 to 6 days per week. When you are a beginner the duration of your exercise should be no more than 30 minutes and possibly closer to 20.

Very importantly decide on a method of recording your exercise episodes. This can be as simple as making a mark on the calendar or as complicated as using a fitness tracker on your smart phone. Don't make a big deal out of the recording, just do something simple and quick. Then your exercise becomes measurable.

3. Attainable-Make sure the first three months of your workout are easy. Your workouts should be so easy that they provoke nothing more than some light breathing. They should not hurt, burn, or exhaust you. The first three months of what you do is simply to let your body and your mind adjust to the idea of regular exercise. You are building a habit. You will almost certainly want to modify the routines you see in the easiest of your DVDs, but this is perfectly okay. 

4 Relevant-The first three months of your fitness workout should focus on light cardio and light resistance combined. This is the most relevant form of exercise according to current Sports Medicine evidence. You do not want to undertake long distance running or powerlifting or anything so specialized or extreme.

5 Time bound-You know your schedule. Carve out precisely 30 minutes for a 40 minute work out getting yourself five minutes on either side to change clothes. Know exactly where the workout is going to be placed in your day for the entire next week. Be realistic… you have 30 minutes. Everyone does, but this might mean you need to be more efficient overall, and there is nothing wrong with that. It also might mean that you have to cut things out, Such as Facebook, Pinterest or even Big Bang Theory.


You really want it. You know it will make you feel good. You know it will enhance your health. You know it will set a good example for your family. I'm here to tell you that fitness is not hard. In fact, it's fun and satisfying. Take these SMART steps today and start your fitness routine.






Wellness Wednesday: What does it take to exercise ?

Gina at the summit of the " Dish"  run at Stanford, after her 20th reunion. http://web.stanford.edu/group/runningclub/Runs/Dish.htm

Gina at the summit of the " Dish"  run at Stanford, after her 20th reunion. http://web.stanford.edu/group/runningclub/Runs/Dish.htm

There is a great deal one could say about exercise. However, talking or writing about exercise is only useful if it leads to people actually doing it. So, since I am committing the Wednesday column to the topic of exercise, I decided to reach out and ask about your interests and needs on the subject of exercise. I would like to tailor the column to meet these needs. Here is a link to a short survey that will be fun and illuminating to take. 


Gina with Zumba Royalty Acea Theroux Zes and Nancy Mehring    

Gina with Zumba Royalty Acea Theroux Zes and Nancy Mehring 


I have really decided to give exercise some serious focus because I really feel it is at the center of optimal mental and physical health. If you have mediocre exercise and excellent nutrition you are probably moderately healthy. However if you have mediocre nutrition and excellent exercise you are probably very healthy. Plus, good nutrition seems to follow in the wake of good exercise, but not as much the other way around. And of course, the worst attitude can be fixed better by a good workout than a good meal.

I realize there are serious and challenging obstacles to exercise, from money to peer support to childcare challenges, injury, chronic illness, social culture, motivation, depression and more. But I would like to explore and deconstruct these and look for solutions. 

I am hoping this survey and its results will help pin some of these reasons down and help us solve them. 

Next Wednesday I will post the results, and add a few thoughts of my own from over twenty years in medical practice and over 40 years exercising regularly. 

Many thanks, Dr. Gina 

Wellness Wednesday: The first principles of fitness

Bath, England    

Bath, England 


There is a village in England called Bath. It is called this after the natural heated pools that are found there. There and in similar places around the world people have sought healing waters. Theses waters have alleviated pains in muscles and joints perhaps by virtue of their warmth and enhancement of mobility and circulation. In such places the spa was born. 

I have always thought of exercise as a spa treatment from the inside out. Of course it takes more effort than simply slipping into a heated pool, but the benefits are greater. For example, the cardiovascular system is healed and strengthened. The immune system is boosted. Muscle and bone growth is stimulated and fat is burned. Arthritic joints are mobilized and balance is improved. Stress is relieved and mood is enhanced. Moreover, confidence and a sense of accomplishment are created. 

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All of this sounds appealing and yet exercise is so hard to sell.  Once begun, seems hard for many to continue. This is one of the main challenges I face in my practice: How to inspire people to exercise, and even more, how to educate them to be consistent in perpetuity. 



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I am just starting to build my section of the website which deals with fitness. I have surveyed many authoritative websites having to do with exercise but my favorite so far is the American College of Sports Medicine, or ascm.org.  I have looked for their answers to some fundamental questions. In the following link, I will share a few of them with you. I plan to devote the Wednesday Wellness blog post exclusively to exercise. Join me as we learn from the ground up. 

Fitness Basics


Wellness Wednesday: What is Wellness ?

Did you realize the concept of wellness wasn't always around ? According to an article in the November issue of Real Simple, the term did not appear in the English language until the 16th century. Until then we simply thought of the absence of disease.  

After World War Two, the World Health Organization ( WHO ) explicitly defined health as not simply the absence of disease, but rather a state of " complete physical mental and social well-being ". The concept of " High Level Wellness"  was defined in a book of the same name in 1961. And finally the first " Wellness Center " was opened in northern California in 1975, and was catapulted to both fame and ridicule with its spot on the TV news show 60 minutes in 1979. Today the general public and the medical profession take wellness very seriously. I agree with the WHO definition of what it is. What interests me is how to attain it.

My first comment is this: that wellness is not a one time goal. Rather it is a constant work in progress. It is borne of a repetitive but dynamic rhythm of daily activities that we must consciously put into place. If I have emphasized anything about health maintenance in my practice it is this: that no one thing that will confer wellness. It is a comprehensive approach which says that every thing you do or take into your body must be for a good health promoting purpose. Whether it is a food, an exercise, or even a manner of communication, it should be for the good. If these good things are done so often as to become habits, their cumulative result is wellness. In other words, it is the summation of all the well chosen good small things and actions in the day, experienced repeatedly over time. 

In this spirit I would like to introduce the concept of optimal health. Yes there is great satisfaction in curing disease. But there is even more in teaching people how to move toward optimal wellness.  And with that in mind I would like to share a terrific website :


Of course it is a play on the word "greatest" and I take it to mean someone who studies and tries to embody that which is great. The site offers tips not only on nutrition and fitness, but also addresses optimal life functioning in general. So check it out, as a part of your quest for wellness. 

For more information see: 

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness