We are nearing the end of “resolution season.” Every year, three-quarters of the people who make New Year’s resolutions break them, and nearly half of those do so within the month of January. However, we are not inspired by a date on a calendar so much as the pursuit of self-mastery. Each journey begins with a single step, and we are here to help you with the first step to a fit lifestyle.
Before attempting any type of physical activity, I encourage you to see a health care provider, if possible, to get a better understanding of your current level of health and fitness. If you have any major health risks or are over the age of 45, please seek the advice of a professional before engaging in strenuous exercise. Not only will this visit make you aware of any potential hazards you face, but it will also give you a reference point to gauge your progress.
The next step in creating a workout routine is to choose 2-3 days per week that you can fit a workout into your schedule. Remember to allow at least 1 day of rest in between workouts when you are getting started. Overexertion will cause diminishing results and opens the door for injury. As your level of fitness increases, so will the frequency and intensity of your work. Begin where you ARE, not where you want to be. During this beginning phase, it is recommended that you resistance train your full body and focus on cardio. In other words, this is a phase for building foundational strength in all of your major muscle groups while also strengthening the capacities of your heart and lungs for more intense training.
Before beginning any workout, it is vital that you take the time to stretch. Flexibility is essential to lowering the risk of exercise related injuries and increasing the effectiveness of your workout. Stretch all major muscle groups prior to exercising, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeating it 2-3 times. While stretching, avoid jerky motions and bouncing. This can cause damage that will actually make you less flexible and as with all portions of your workout, remember to breathe deeply.
After stretching, it’s time for some cardio. Simply walking is a good, low impact exercise for beginners. Biking, running, aerobics, stairclimbing and swimming are also good options. Swimming, in particular, is a great exercise. It is a fully body workout and puts very little pressure on the joints, lowering the likelihood of short-term and long-term injuries. Start with a 5-10 minutes warm up of your chosen cardio exercise. After the warm up, increase your intensity to slightly more difficult than what is comfortable for you and maintain that level for as long as you can, comfortably. Listen to your body. You may only be able to maintain this level for a few minutes but if you stay consistent, that will change. Make sure to take another 5-10 minutes to cool down before completely stopping. You have to give your heart a chance to slow itself down naturally.
The major muscle groups that you will be working are your arms, legs, chest and back and abs. With just a few exercises you can work all these areas well.
Pull ups are one of the most effective exercises you can do. They work your back and arms but they are difficult. If you can’t do one with proper form, you can pull yourself up as high as you can go and hold that position for as long as you can or ask someone to assist you until you can do them on your own. Chinups are basically pull ups with your palms facing you instead of away. They also work back and arms but put the focus more on the arms while the traditional pull up focuses more on the back. Pushups are an exercise staple and they work your chest, shoulders and arms. Go down, at least, until your arms are parallel with your shoulders. Going further can be an issue for those with shoulder or wrist problems. If you cannot do pushups on your toes, you can modify them and do them on your knees until you build your strength up. Squats work multiple leg muscles. Make sure to keep your back straight and heels on the floor and try to bend until your thighs are parallel with the ground. If you need it make it easier, simply sit down in a chair in a slow, controlled manner and stand back up without using your hands. Lunges also work multiple muscles in the legs. When you get in down into your lunge, try to get both knees into 90 degree angles and have your thigh parallel with the ground. There are many exercises to work the Abs. In fact, both squats and lunges strengthen your core. The thing to remember about ab work is that it WILL NOT burn stomach fat. Six-packs start in the kitchen. Exercise will jumpstart your metabolism but it must go hand in hand with a healthy eating lifestyle to see dramatic change.
This is just the first step but with a commitment to consistency, you will see the results you are looking for. Recruit friends and family to join you. Motivate each other. Let’s get fit. Together.