Fitness for Beginners: Where to Start
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
Are you new to exercise and fitness? Are you seriously considering beginning an exercise program, either for the first time ever or for the first time in a very long time? Well if this is you or somebody you know, then perhaps you could use a little friendly guidance.
That’s what we will do here. That is, offer some clear-cut, simple, fun and effective ways to get you on your new fitness journey.
The first thing to do is set some basic goals for yourself. You don’t have to be overly ambitious or super rigid in creating these goals but doing so will help direct you. Goals give structure and help you create a roadmap in order to reach them. You can revisit these goals to make sure you are doing what yourself out to do and modify them if needed. Goals can help you help you hold yourself accountable give you structure.
When setting goals, keep the following guidelines in mind. SMART goals.
Specific: While you don’t have to map out every workout or every single detail, setting specific goals rather than vague ones will go a long way. For example, instead of saying, “I am going to exercise more”, perhaps “I am going to exercise twice per week at the gym and once per week at home”.
Measurable: How will you track your progress so you can reach your goals? Whether it’s losing weight, getting stronger or deciding to run a 5K, it’s often helpful to add some way to help evaluate your program and make adjustments if necessary.
Attainable and Realistic: Goals should be ones you can realistically accomplish. It’s very difficult and can be unhealthy to, for example, lose 50 pounds in a month, get 6-pack abs in 3 weeks or to run a marathon with only 2 months training. The more practical you are, without sacrificing ambition. The more successful you will be.
Timely: Choose a date(s) for your initial goals. It may not be enough just to say you’re going to ‘lose weight’, ‘get stronger’ or ‘run faster’. Set challenging but flexible benchmarks for yourself that can provide you with a sense of accomplishment along the way. Perhaps you want to get up to exercising 5 days per week eventually. Set that goal for 3 months away and work your way up to it.
Start Slow and Don’t Overdo It
So many people get injured and burnt out when trying to exercise regularly or intensely for the first time. It mind sound cliche but less is more at the beginning. The body needs time to adjust to the new stressors being placed on it. In addition, building endurance and strength is a process that does not happen overnight.
If that process is rushed or done incorrectly, this is when injuries can occur. And when injuries do occur, this will set you back and be deflating. It also can cost you weeks or months of time depending on the injury. So take some deep breaths, be patient, take your time and trust that you will begin to see progress as long as you are consistent.
Consistency is Vital
Stopping and starting again, repeatedly missing workouts and slacking off at the gym won’t get you anywhere. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes per day 3 days per week, do something. Working out every two weeks or going 3 days straight and then missing a week just won’t cut it. Choose your goals strategically, start slow, be patient and remain consistent.
Consistency will help you stay connected to and take ownership over your fitness journey. It will help you avoid frustration and disappointment. It will get you to your goals faster and with more long-term sustainability. This may require setting a very rigid schedule for your workouts so you don’t forget or interfere with your other responsibilities.
There are so many variables and options when it comes to exercise. So many types of exercises, so many program design templates. Should you take classes, work out on your own, work out with a friend, hire a personal trainer? Should you exercise indoors or outside? Treadmill or elliptical. Strength training or cardio.
The more simple you keep it at the beginning, the better. This goes along with not trying to do too much and being patient. You don’t have to do high-intensity interval training workouts right away or do complex strength training exercises.
There’s something to be said for doing a 30-minute home exercise routine that might include planks, bird-dogs, crunches, air squats, lunges, modified push-ups, calf raises, resistance band exercises and jumping jacks. If you go to the gym, perhaps spend 20-minutes on the stationary bike followed by 5 strength training exercises on various machines.
There are so many options. Just keep it simple as you get started.
Don’t Go It Alone
This is a very individual aspect of beginning a new fitness program. Should you work out solo, with a friend, take beginner exercise classes or hire a personal trainer? Or some combination of them all. You may not know the answer to this until you get going, and it is likely that your preferences will evolve over time with experience.
If you are unsure how to start, are overwhelmed by the entire prospect of beginning to exercise, want some accountability or just prefer being around others for support and the feeling of community, then make some personal fitness connections.
Perhaps you have a friend who is in your exact same shoes and thus you can go through the beginning process together, thus inspiring, motivating and pushing each other. Or maybe you have an experienced friend who is eager to take you under his or her wing. Or maybe you want to round up a small crew to do it all with.
You also have the option to take fitness classes. It many cities and towns there are a wide range of classes available, from spin to bootcamp to yoga, pilates, barre, aerobic and dance. If this is the path you think you want to pursue, then go for it.
Just make sure you are being safe, not overdoing it and choosing appropriate fitness level classes for yourself. Many fitness classes are large, crowded, loud and understaffed, so if the exercises are above your fitness level, you may not get proper supervision and thus risk getting injured.
Another option you have is to hire a personal trainer. This can be an outstanding way to get started. Just be sure the trainer is properly certified. Has some experience and is a good fit for you. Not all trainers are the right fit for all clients. So treat any potential personal trainer as someone to be interviewed in order for them to deserve and get the job.
If you are going to exercise with others, whether by taking classes, exercising with a partner or hiring a personal trainer, just make sure you are still being true to your own goals and are not overdoing it, just because everyone else is. It is your body, your life and your decision. Only listen to others so much as it will help you reach your goals and improve your life.
Listen to Your Body
This cannot be overstated. Our bodies are brilliant at telling us what it needs. If there is pain, it is for a reason and that means something is off. Maybe you overdid it, have an old injury you weren’t aware of or are performing certain exercises incorrectly. Whatever it might be, be sure not to ignore pain, especially if it lingers on for a week or more.
Don’t worry about what others are doing in class or in your group or what your trainer thinks is best if something feels off. Just because someone looks good doing an exercise, has experience or has a paper certification doesn’t mean they are always right. It doesn’t mean they know what’s best for you in any given moment or situation. If you can’t keep up in class, then perhaps just off a bit. Take a short break, do less reps, decrease the weights, leave the class if you feel sick or injured, and take an easier class.
Have Some Fun!
Exercise doesn’t have to be painful or misery-provoking. It’s true that some people just don’t or never will enjoy sweating or being in a gym but they will do it for the benefits. But that doesn’t have to be you. You can work hard and not enjoy every minute or every workout but still find ways to have fun and enjoy the process of getting fit.
Plenty of people just won’t go to the gym but they will ride a bike outside with their kids or go hiking with friends. Plenty of people love taking group classes but don’t enjoy working out on their own or exercising in the heat. Plenty of people love taking hip hop dance classes but don’t wanna spend any time lifting weights.
The bottom line is that there is something for everyone, so don’t make yourself miserable when you could actually be having some fun. There will certainly be times when we all have to do things we don’t enjoy or want to do because it is still good for us. The same goes for exercise. With that said, don’t underestimate the value and sustainability of actually enjoying yourself while getting into shape.