As we say goodbye to summer, I'm hearing from friends, family, and clients something that has become a rite of passage – the words “I got to get myself together.”

As we say goodbye to summer and welcome the fall season, I’m reminded of how many people are about to start back on their usual routines with work, school schedules, game schedules, team practices, meetings, religious schedules, and more. In other words, getting “back to life.” At the same time, I’m hearing from friends, family, and clients something that has become a rite of passage – the words “I got to get myself together.”

Here’s a typical scenario that you may relate to: you run into an old high school friend of yours that you haven’t seen in years; you start off with hugs and reminiscing, and then the two of you start talking about current life. He tells you his blood pressure and cholesterol levels are high, he’s pre-diabetic and had a health scare so his doctor put him on several prescriptions. He also tells you his doctor wants him to exercise, but he really doesn’t have the time. He’s got work, the kids’ school schedule, activities, practices and a million other things to do.

In the midst of this reunion you notice he’s talking the way your dad or granddad talks; he seems tired, older than you imagined, and comfortable, perhaps a little frustrated, but comfortable nonetheless in how his life and health has become.

I call this scenario a rite of passage because as the years go by many of you will be one or the other person in that scene. So, should this go on year after year without a challenge? Absolutely not. If your life has grabbed the steering wheel of your destiny, driven you into submission, and made you become – as my grandmother used to say – grow old before your time, then it’s time to grab that wheel right back.

Now, with that said – where do you begin? Well, let’s keep it simple and organized. Start by getting a gym membership, and choose one that fits your comfort zone. I say that because gyms come in different models and times when they’re open: some are large scale in size and volume of people, some are boutique style: medium to large in size with a focus on customer service, personal training, and the people who live near the gym; others are group focused only and mainly do large group classes. Some gyms have specific times when they’re open, others are open 24 hours a day. My advice is to simply tour a gym, get a feel for it and the people and staff in it, and your gut will let you know. If you’re still undecided at that point you can always request a trial and try it out for a week.

The next step is to get moving. You can start on a treadmill. If your knees are bad or bother you, try using an elliptical machine, recumbent bike, or rowing machine. You can start with a light program built in the machine’s programs, or use the manual function and create your own speed and resistance.

Next thing is to do things that will cause resistance in your muscles. Some good things to start with are stack weight machines and classes offered in the gym that work the whole body, like a total body conditioning class or toning class. The stack weight machines often have instructions and diagrams on them, which make them user friendly. My advice is to schedule a time with the gym for a qualified person to evaluate you, walk you through the right things to do, and show you how you to do them.

The crucial thing, after these mentioned, is time. The one thing that’s kept you from taking care of yourself is time. You know your schedule, but the trick isn’t to find a gym that’ll fit in your schedule, but one that won’t interfere with it. A gym with 24-hour availability may just be the fit. Either way exercising 30 minutes or more a day three to four times a week is what your body needs. If you need to mix a couple days a week in the gym with a day or more of walking on the weekends, then do it.

Outside of these things, make some concessions with your eating habits. Eat regularly throughout the day with whole foods: lean meats, grains, vegetables, and fruit. Cut out processed sugars wherever possible. If your gym has a qualified person that can evaluate your eating habits and help you create a proper plan and routine for you, schedule a time with that person and get it done.

Exercising is anti-aging. That’s not wishful thinking, it’s a fact. Increase your aerobic activity and your lean muscle, and you’ll strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and weight (ensure you include the eating tips previously mentioned). You could not only increase your life span by 10 years or more, you could find yourself looking and feeling 10 years younger.

Our bodies are not meant to sit still for long periods of time. I’ve said it several times in my articles over the past 10 years and it’s still true. Lack of mobility leads to poor physical health and illness, and can also contribute to bad eating habits.

There’s a quote from Bernard Williams that I love that says, “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” There’s nothing like taking control of your life and your destiny. Do it.

Michael Shaw is a certified master fitness trainer and sports performance nutrition specialist, owner of Shaw Fitness LLC, Club Manager and Head Trainer for Snap Fitness Middletown, and an award-winning bodybuilding competition coach. You can schedule to meet him at Snap Fitness in Middletown (302) 376-6969 or reach him at and