The journey to a fitter you begins with the first step
You’ve updated your workout wardrobe, signed up for the nearest gym but now find yourself fretting about how you might actually get fit? Don’t be discouraged by being a beginner – everyone has to start somewhere and deciding you’re ready to start is worthy of praise on its own. With a few key tips to get you moving, you’ll be well on your healthier way.
Set a Goal
As a beginner it’s tempting to say, I want to get fit! While this is a great goal, it’s a bit ambitious – and ambiguous – for someone starting out and can end up demotivating if your fitness level doesn’t dramatically increase overnight. Instead, set small, attainable goals to keep accountable while being able to track your results.
“I always encourage my clients to set goals way beyond a number on the scale,” says Jenn Milne, certified personal trainer at Thrive Bootcamp. “We work on things that are related to activities, such as running a race, or exercising a certain amount of times each week for a set period of time. These goals will help you reach anything to do with weight or body mass, but they don’t have you getting hung up on numbers on a scale,”
Whether it be running for 10 minutes consecutively or being able to complete one push up, be proud in achieving your goal and then make a new one – you’ll be running further and lifting heavier without being so focused on becoming fit.
Milne suggests “starting off slowly, and slowly accumulating activity.” This helps to avoid injury and lets you assess how your body responds to your new found activity level. Introducing 30 minutes of activity 1-2 days a week and gradually increasing to 2-3 days a week will bring bigger benefits than starting out too fast and possibly having to start over. Once you master 1-2 days a week, begin to increase the exertion, length or frequency of your workouts.
“I’ll have [beginner bootcamp participants] doing modified options for all of our exercises, and walking instead of jogging. It’s important to build up your endurance and strength! This boosts confidence and helps with steady, consistent results (whatever the goals may be).”
Never underestimate the benefits of walking. If you haven’t been active, getting moving is the best way to start your fitness journey.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Both a warm up and a cool down are essential to ensuring your body is well prepared to exercise and will recover from your activities. Don’t skip these steps because you think you won’t be working hard enough as a beginner to need them!
Stretching is also key to keeping your muscles loose and limber while increasing your chance of a healthy recovery and decreasing stiffness and soreness that can occur after activity. Incorporate stretching into your routine after you’ve done your warm up, when your muscles aren’t so cold, to avoid the risk of injury. Similarly, once you’ve completed your workout, hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds for effective results.
Learn the Right Way
Just because you’ve joined a gym, doesn’t mean you’re expected to know how to use it! Knowing the proper use of a machine or the correct form for bodyweight exercises is essential if you want to see results and avoid injury.
“Squats are great for every level of fitness,” Milne explains. “Proper form is key, so if you’re at a gym, just go grab a weight room attendant and have them help you get that technique down! From there you can start to add resistance (weight) to the movement to make it more challenging.”
It can be tempting to see how much weight you can lift but start low and gradually increase the resistance as your ability allows. Aim to be able to do 10-12 repetitions of one move without losing your form or struggling to complete a set.
Make It Fun
Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. “Find a fun fitness class or workout buddy so you’re not on your journey alone!” suggests Milne. If fitness is new to you, you may not know what kind of workouts you like or what gets your heart rate going. Try a Zumba class or grab some friends for an outdoor hike. By checking out all the fun options that exist, you may find something you love, making it easier to stick with your workout plan and reach your goals.
Take a Break
While it may seem counterintuitive to rest when you’re trying to move more, rest days are just as important as exercise days. Your body needs time to repair itself in between workouts and if you get overly ambitious thinking you can make it to the gym every day, your body will never recover from previous workouts.
Don’t let your beginner status stop you from starting your fitness journey; a safe and enjoyable start can turn into a long and healthy life.