Steps to starting an exercise program
How to begin an exercise program when you are novice to working out
Imagine a world where people sit to get strong, run without going anywhere, and bike without wheels, a place where fighting gravity is the initiative and repetition is the mode. To some, this world is a place they visit frequently, called a gym. To those who are new to exercise, this foreign world is a scary place full of intimidating people, heavy equipment, and confusing machines.
Starting an exercise program can be daunting. To ensure your confidence and success in beginning an exercise program there are necessary steps and recommendations to follow. These include:
- Familiarize yourself with the gym. Take a tour of your gym. There is usually staff ready and willing to show you the facilities and layout. Personal trainers are a great asset to introducing you to machines and equipment.
- Read the machines. Weight lifting machines have instructions and diagrams on each one. Follow the directions listed and pay attention to what muscle is being targeted. Cardio machines often walk you step by step through set up and have diagrams posted on the dashboard to help you achieve your goals.
- Focus on form. Form and technique are fundamental to injury prevention. It is important to master proper form to target proper muscles, encourage body efficiency, and avoid joint and/or muscle damage.
- Start slow. Your body needs time to adjust to the new stress placed upon it from exercise. Jumping into exercise too quickly can cause your body to react with soreness, which often discourages exercisers from continuing their program. The key is consistency for improvement. Upon beginning an exercise program, you will see greater gains and success with less effort regardless.
- Listen to your body. Exercise may not be easy, but it should not be painful. Stop at any onset of pain and concentrate on the muscle you are trying to work. Focus on the movement, contraction, and sense of power by what is being worked. That energy will synergistically increase gains.
The basic components of exercise include cardiovascular fitness, strength training, and flexibility. Be sure to include each aspect for a well-rounded program. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Warm-Up. A Dynamic warm-up is important in preparing your muscles for your workout. Warming up not only prevents injury, but helps with increase performance and range of motion as well. Dynamic warm-ups increase blood flow, mimic movements in your workout at a slower pace or reduced range of motion, and help to loosen the muscles with slightly increasing the heart rate. Examples may include arm circles, small lunges, and leg kicks.
- Cardiovascular Exercise. Choose a machine on which to work and choose one of the preprogrammed workouts. Intervals are the best way to increase your cardiovascular fitness and utilize different fuel systems, allowing your body to shed fat.
- Resistance Exercise. Start with minimal weight to begin. Increase the weight until you can lift that amount for the desired reps, but no more or less. Weight machines lend themselves to a fool-proof workout because you can go down the row of machines, using one for each different muscle. You will find that you have done a full body workout. Increase weight after two weeks of completing total amount of repetitions and sets. Once good form is established you can graduate to free weights.
- Stretching and Cool Down. It is just as important to cool down as it is to warm up. Decrease your heart rate by slowing movement. Incorporate static stretches to help detoxify your body and increase range of motion. Cooling down properly helps redistribute the blood flow and normalizes the body.
As you remain consistent with your exercise program, you will see improvements in every area. Once you start exercising, keep exercising! Start with your current level of fitness and build from there. Make a plan that includes when you will exercise and how you will exercise. Monitor your progress to feel successful and stay motivated. And most importantly, take the first step and get your body moving!
-Charlotte Gardenhire, Wellness Coach