Lose the cotton, dude

Caught a colleague trying to fall off the sedentary bandwagon last week. There I was, waiting for a streetcar named Queen, and there he was, gasping and wheezing to a stop after a session in sneakers.

It was clearly early in a renewed effort to rekindle fitness levels of not too many yesterdays ago. But he was getting off on the wrong foot.

Got into work and fired off an e-mail. "Congrats on the effort," I suggested. "But lose the cotton shirt, dude."

Not that I wanted to see him shirtless. It's just that cotton's a no-no if you're getting back into working out. Especially running. Especially when you're building up the time and distance.

Cotton holds in the sweat, keeps the moisture right next to your body. That's bad, whether the weather's warm or cold. Cotton's a recipe for pain that you will only discover later in the shower. Damp cotton rubbing against your skin means chafing.

Not that you have to fork out a fortune for the latest trend in exercise duds. Drop by one of those discount clothing stores and there's a good chance you'll find something appropriate made of one of those synthetic materials that helps move sweat from the body — at a reasonable price.

Same goes for shorts suitable for exercise. You don't need to pay designer prices.

Most of those big-name athletic-wear makers also operate factory outlet stores where you can find a reasonable deal.

"Thanks," the colleague wrote back. "Any more tips?"

Yeah, easy does it. Add no more than 10 per cent per week — mileage and time. Make sure you're wearing the right shoes — get fitted by someone who knows what they're doing. If your shoes are old or are the wrong type, you may be setting yourself up for injury and the risk that you'll give up your new exercise program.

Can't run far? Alternate running and walking until you feel more comfortable running. Gradually increase your running time.

You may be hacking and wheezing at first, but within three weeks you'll notice significant differences.

It helps to keep track of your progress. Record your sessions in a log. That way after you come back from what you feel is an awful run, you may realize it really wasn't that bad because two weeks ago, it took you substantially longer to cover the same distance.

Be patient. Don’t expect to run a marathon in three months if you've spent the last five years engrossed by every reality show on television.

Most of all, you've got to like what you're doing. If your exercise is routine, chances are the couch will lure you back.

Stick with it long enough and — before you know it — you'll be moving to the next hole down on your belt. Maybe your clothes will feel like they fit a bit better. Maybe your energy levels will rise a little.

Maybe you've taken a big step towards a healthier you.