Exercise is like playing a new video game. Unless you know the rules and insider tricks you won’t win. Someone new to the world of fitness can easily become intimidated, overwhelmed, or burned out if they’re uninformed or lack support. This is one reason your personal trainer’s knowledge, advice, and accountability are so invaluable to your success.
For all those fitness rookies out there, don’t make the mistake of jumping into the exercise world blindly and hoping for the best. Instead, take the advice of those who’ve gone before you. Here are some expert tips to get you started out right on your exercise journey.
People with major health concerns should see a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine to make sure their body can handle the exertion of a regular routine. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best type of exercise for your situation. The good news is that with the right kind of workout, your condition will only improve—no matter what it may be.
“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.” – Barbara Sher
To reap the heart-health benefits offered by exercise, it’s recommended you get at least half an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week. If it’s been years since you’ve broken an exercise-induced sweat, you’ll need to slowly work your way up to 30 minutes. The first week, you may only be able to handle five minutes a day. But the next week you’ll get to 10 minutes, and you’ll get stronger over time. Even a few minutes of exercise will do your body good. Starting too aggressively can leave you sore, injured, or ready to give up.
You may wonder what makes an exercise considered moderate-intensity. The intensity for you is determined by your pulse. For a quick and dirty idea, subtract your age from 220. This gives you your maximum heart rate. As you exercise, your target heart rate during moderate exercise should fall between 50% and 69% of your maximum heart rate. Is your heart racing too quickly? Slow it down. Your heart beat not quite pumping fast enough? Pick up the pace. Exercise shouldn’t be too easy or too extreme. Target heart rate charts are online to help you figure this out.
You’ll be more successful at exercise with specific fitness goals to work toward. Write down what you hope to achieve through exercise, post it on your fridge, and tell a friend. Maybe you want to run a 5 km, lose 15 lbs, walk up the stairs without feeling winded, or get off your blood pressure medication. Whatever your goal, make it realistic and concrete, so you’ll be able to see progress toward it.
How will you reach your goals? A balanced workout routine includes three types of exercise: cardiovascular (walking, swimming, or jogging), strength-training (lifting weights or body-weight exercises) and flexibility training (stretching). They don’t all have to be done on the same day. In fact, it’s best not to do strength-training every day of the week, but rather every other day. For example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday could be your cardio days and Tuesday and Thursday could be your strength-training routines, with some flexibility training mixed in.
The key to a successful exercise program is finding what you enjoy and making it a habit.
Each workout should follow a similar routine. The first five to 10 minutes should be spent warming up your muscles with low-intensity exercises and light stretches. Then pick up the pace for your workout. Gradually reduce your intensity during a few minutes of cooling down, and end with a period of deeper stretches. Including these elements in your routine will reduce stress on your heart and lower your risk of soreness and injury.
If walking or running is a part of your workout, your feet should be properly fitted with comfortable, supportive shoes. A lack of support can quickly lead to pain or injury in your feet, legs, or lower back. Shoes older than several months should be replaced even if their treads are still full. Don’t let shoes be the reason you can’t reach your goals.
Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.