When you are brand new to fitness, so many things can seem intimidating – being a fresh face in a gym, finding time in a busy schedule, or comparing yourself to those around you. It’s hard!
This guide will help you understand that working out does not have to be a chore, nor does it have to be complicated. The two most important things to remember about working out are that we should do it to be healthy, and it should be enjoyable. This means maintaining balance in your own routine, and not over-obsessing over a single part of your body or muscle group.
Before You Get Started
Start off by assessing your own condition. If you have any known injuries, especially in your joints, it is highly advised that you see a physiotherapist for recommendations on particular exercises. If you have a known heart condition, or you are prone to dizziness or breathing problems, then please consult a physician before working out.
Once you are sure you are healthy enough to work out, the next step is suiting up. You will need a good pair of running shoes and light, breathable apparel. Do not make working out a burden with cumbersome clothes. An armband for your phone or MP3 player is great for running, and gloves can help prevent callouses on your hands from weight lifting and rowing.
The last thing to consider is your schedule. It is easier to maintain a routine with set days, but if you are not able to stick with something consistent, then just try your best to be active on any three days of the week. If you can choose what days to work out on, Monday/Wednesday/Friday is a good split – you will wrap up your final workout and be able to look forward to the weekend.
If the weekend has more free time to work out, then maybe Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday is better for you. Having a day of rest between workouts is essential for giving your fatigued muscles a rest, but it is not mandatory if you have no other choice.
Time to Get Active
A balanced routine involves cardio, resistance training, and flexibility. If you follow this guide, a standard workout session will be comprised of 20-30 minutes of cardio, 20-40 minutes of resistance training, and 10 minutes of stretching. Don’t forget to warm up prior to your cardio and resistance training!
Take your time getting to know your body. Learn how it responds to every day of exercise and start off slowly. As you get comfortable and familiar with your routine, gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. This can be done a number of ways including lengthening the duration of your cardio and increasing your weights during resistance training.
The cardio component of your workout is what will elevate your heart rate the most, and will be beneficial to your lung capacity and resting heart rate. Be sure to warm up your hips, knees, ankles, and your leg muscles before getting started.
There is a plethora of machines and exercises for cardio. Some of the easiest ones when starting out include walking, cycling, and the elliptical. Pay attention to your perceived effort and breathing during your exercise of choice. If you are walking, cycling, or on an elliptical machine, push yourself until your breathing is heavier. Having to breathe through your mouth is a good indicator that you are pushing yourself, but it is possible to elevate your heart rate to a fat burning level without doing so. This is why I say to also pay attention to the effort you put into your cardio. If you are jogging and struggling to maintain a constant, brisk pace, then feel free to slow down every few minutes for roughly 60 seconds, and then resume jogging.
Target heart rates and different forms of cardio will be discussed in future articles. For now, just focus on getting yourself moving. Try different machines, try running outside, try swimming and even different sports.
Find what is the most fun for you and try your best to improve at it.
Resistance training is the most exciting part of the workout for most people. It certainly has the most variety, ranging from bodyweight to free weights and everything in between. The primary goal of resistance training is building muscle. Whether that muscle is large and bulky or lean and defined is up to you. Strength and improved endurance when performing tasks are just two benefits of resistance training. Resistance training can also remedy different pains and correct posture.
I allotted 20-40 minutes to resistance training for a few reasons: You will spend less time working out by performing compound exercises and supersetting. More time will be spent by isolating certain muscles, taking breaks between every set, and performing more exercises.
- A compound exercise incorporates different muscle groups in a single movement. For example, a chest press will utilize your chest, shoulders, and triceps.
- Supersetting takes at least two exercises and pairs them back-to-back with no rest. For example, after finishing a set of chest press, you immediate begin a set of squats, and continue to alternate between the two until completion.
Everyone will have a different resistance training program depending on their goals. For the sake of maintaining balanced growth throughout your body, I recommend working out every muscle group 1-2 times per week. A simple, balanced routine might look like this: Chest and back on Monday, shoulders and arms on Wednesday, and legs and core on Friday. Just be sure to warm up whatever muscles are being used that day as cold muscles are more prone to injury.
Learn to be aware of whether or not muscle groups are being prioritized or ignored when following someone else’s routine. The best and safest option is to work with a personal trainer and they will develop a custom program.
Stretching is the cooldown component of your workout, and it is usually the most overlooked. Stretching improves flexibility and helps you and your muscles relax after a workout. Flexibility is a necessity for performing daily tasks, but it is something we take for granted.
Flexibility tends to diminish as we get older because of sedentary lifestyles. We also sometimes perform tasks like sitting or walking with harmful postures. Stretching can help undo stiffness induced by these bad habits.
When cooling down, hold each stretch 2 times for 20-40 seconds. Give the muscle a good 20 second rest in between the first and second hold. If you are working out every muscle group throughout the week, then you only need to stretch the muscles used on that day. For example, if I went for a run and then did chest press and push-ups, I only need to stretch the muscles used during my run and those two exercises. I would stretch my back and other muscle groups on the days that I actually worked them out.
No matter what muscle you stretch, the hold should be comfortable. Do not push yourself to the point that the hold becomes painful.
Food for Thought
While it may be necessary to approach working out with short-term goals, remember not to lose sight of the big picture.
We do not stop working out just because we achieved our goal of losing 40 pounds or because we finally saw definition on our abs. The reason why I encourage finding exercises and routines that are fun for you is because I want you to enjoy working out for the rest of your life. Being active is part of a healthy lifestyle, and that never changes as you grow older.
Until next time,
Owner and Lead Trainer