You decided to start exercising - that's a great first step. But there are more steps - literally - on the path to reaching your fitness goals. Developing a manageable routine can mean the difference between giving your all and giving up.
"Beginning a workout routine is not all physical; there's a mental aspect as well," says Kierstin Mitchell, fitness trainer at Virtua Health and Wellness Center in Washington Township. "You have to go in with a strong mindset. If you are just beginning, exercising and working out will be a shock to your system. Be prepared to be sore. Your body eventually will get used to the workout."
Mitchell offers the following helpful tips for beginners:
Set reachable goals
Do you want to lose weight, burn fat, build muscle or all the above? Your goal will dictate the types of exercises and equipment in your routine. Aerobic exercises and cardio machines are great if you want to lose weight. Chest presses, rows and squats - as well as walking or jogging on treadmills and elliptical machines - are excellent cardiovascular exercises. If you aspire to bulk up or tone your muscles, then use weight-resistance machines and free weights.
Start off slow
Don't sprint right out of the gates. Begin exercising at a slow pace and then increase speed and intensity at your own pace. Going too fast in the beginning may lead to injury. Beginners should exercise at a low to moderate level. Interval training may be an option. Interval training involves alternating bursts of high intensity exercises with low intensity exercises.
"Start off doing high-intensity exercises for 30 seconds, then take it down a notch for one minute," says Mitchell. "Eventually, you'll build up to a 2:1 ratio between high intensity and low intensity exercises. This ratio will help to increase your aerobic capacity."
Variety is important
A couple of months after your first workout, try to mix up your routine. For example, if you've been walking or jogging on a treadmill, try an elliptical, which targets the whole body. If you've been lifting weights on resistance-training machines, switch to free weights.
"If you keep doing the same things for a period of time, your body will get used to your regimen, and you won't burn as many calories," says Mitchell. "Doing a variety of exercises will increase your metabolism and will help you get through a weight-loss plateau."
What's the frequency?
Beginners should exercise or go to the gym about three days a week for about 30 minutes each session. Extending your workouts to one hour for four to five days a week is a good fitness goal.
"The ideal time to work out depends upon your mood and what time of the day you feel your best to exercise," adds Mitchell.
Warm up, cool down
You should always warm up prior to exercising. You can walk a lap around a track or peddle on a stationary bike to increase your heart rate. Never stretch before a workout because an injury can occur by extending cold muscles.
Following a workout, you want your heart rate to come down gradually. Doing low intensity exercises is ideal. Also, stretching is important at the end of a workout. This helps to decrease the onset of sore muscles.
Drink plenty of liquids
Hydration is extremely important while exercising. You lose a lot of water via sweat so it's crucial to replace nutrients to keep you going.
Consult a professional trainer
If you hit a plateau in your workouts or need a bit of a push or some helpful advice, then consult a personal trainer or fitness coach. These professionals will custom build a routine to help you achieve your fitness aspirations. A trainer or fitness coach will also supervise your exercises to make sure you're following proper and safe techniques. They will provide nutritional and motivational tips to help you along the way.
The William G. Rohrer Center for HealthFitness and Virtua's Centers for HealthFitness in Washington Township and Moorestown approach health and wellness from a medically integrated perspective. Both state-of-the-art facilities provide a wide selection of equipment, resources and specialized programs to help you reach your health and fitness goals. Learn more by visiting www.virtuafitness.org.