How to Start Exercising

If you have been sedentary lately, had an exercise lapse or never exercised at all, it can be very tempting to jump feet-first into a new exercise program. You are probably full of enthusiasm and want to get into/back into shape as fast as you possibly can. While this level of enthusiasm is admirable, such a rapid and total immersion in a new exercise program can lead to unwanted aches and pains, illness and even severe injury.

To ensure you are going to have the most positive workout experience possible, follow these tips before starting a new program.

1. Check with Your Doctor

Before you start any new fitness regime you should arrange to meet with your doctor. If you are fit and healthy you should be fine to get started. However, there are some circumstances when it is highly advisable you see your doctor first.

If you have a medical condition, have been sedentary, or are in any other way not 100-percent healthy, you should go and see your doctor before you start your new exercise program.

You should ensure that you are healthy and fit enough to follow the fitness regime and are not putting yourself in any type of danger, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are on medication.

It doesn’t mean that you cannot exercise, but simply that a doctor should check you out first. The doctor will either clear you immediately, jiggle round your meds first, perhaps request some blood tests or suggest you adapt your exercise program to suit your needs (e.g. suggest you take it a little easier, choose a different activity).

In some cases, certain conditions exclude certain activities. For example, very heavy weightlifting is not safe for people with high blood pressure and high impact exercises are not suitable for people with osteoporosis. Tell your doctor about your fitness intensions so that he can help you chose the best exercise program.

2. Get Ready

Whatever exercise program you are going to follow, make sure you do some research so you know exactly what is involved before you turn up and start. Speak to the instructor, check out some  videos, speak to other participants or go and watch the program for yourself. Forewarned is forearmed so they say and you can avoid putting yourself in a tricky situation by doing some research.

3. Essential Gear and Fitness Clothing

Make sure you have all the necessary equipment and clothing for the workout you are going to do. But you needn’t buy the most expensive stuff– even having done the necessary research you might not actually enjoy the workout you have started. Substance trumps style. So make sure your clothing is supportive and comfortable and your footwear is right for your chosen activity.

4. Start Slow and Take it Steady

After all the preparation, you are probably chomping at the bit and ready to get exercising; good for you! However, if you let your enthusiasm run away from you, you may end up overexerting yourself which at best will leave you with very sore muscles and at worse may result in an injury.

To start with, make sure you finish your new workouts feeling like you kept a little of your energy back. There will be plenty of opportunities for giving your workout your all but there is no rush to go “eyeballs out” just yet.

Starting slow and easy means you have somewhere to go, in terms of upping workout intensity, the following week, the week after that and so on. Going 100-percent too soon leaves little room for progression. This go slow approach is hardest for those that are returning to exercise after a lay off – the brain remembers but the body quickly forgets!

5. Listen to Your Body

A new exercise program can be tough on your body – even if you take it easy. Sore muscles, painful joints and tiredness are almost inevitable.

Listen to your body and monitor yourself for any unusual symptoms that may indicate that you have overdone it or that the activity you have chosen isn’t suitable.

A few minor aches are normal but prolonged or severe pain is not. Forget the whole “no pain, no gain” ethos of bodybuilding – that’s nothing but macho rhetoric. Rather, remember that “it needn’t be hell to be healthy” – a much better expression to live by!

6. Workout Nutrition

Unless you are advanced , do not exercise on an empty stomach. Your aim is to lose weight, but do not skip on fueling up before you exercise. Make sure you eat a small snack about 30 minutes before your workout. Also, make sure that your general calorie restriction is reasonable. No very low calorie diets (under 1200 calories). You need to give your body enough energy to allow you to exercise successfully, as well as for your body to recover effectively and to prevent ill health.

Unless you are exercising every day, which isn’t advisable, as your body needs time to rest, heal and recover, vary your calorie intake between the days you exercise and the days you rest – if your goal is to lose weight. Eat a little more on the days you exercise and less on the days you rest. This will ensure that your body gets the energy it needs to function, while maintaining your calorie restriction (diet).

7. Make it a Habit

After a few weeks, the novelty of your new exercise program may well be on the wane. You are now in the danger zone – not quite hooked on exercise and no longer enjoying the novelty of exercise. This is where many people’s exercising journeys come to an abrupt and untimely end.

Don’t become another exercise drop out. Instead, look for ways to rekindle your motivation and stay on the straight and narrow path to fitness and health.

Recruit a training buddy, join a class, set some goals, use some fitness tech to help keep you motivated…do whatever you need to do to avoid becoming an ex-exerciser. Ultimately, it’s your choice – fitness or fatness; strength or weakness – make sure you make the right choice!

Getting and staying fit is hugely rewarding. Yes, it can be hard work at times but the payoff makes it worth it. You’ll have more energy, feel and look healthier, have more stamina, develop a more positive outlook on life, be ill less frequently, suffer less stress and, potentially, add years to your life. A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step so make sure you make those first few steps count.

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  1. So since I’ve read here one article reporting it’s a good idea to exercise in the morning (entailing an empty stomach) when your glucose levels are lower, and another that says “don’t do it!”, what are the pros and cons of each so I can mindfully decide which one is “right” for me. What are potential consequences of empty-stomach exercising? Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Kristen, I think I know to which article you’re referring. That article wasn’t meant to encourage exercising before or after breakfast one way or another, but to simply lay out the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Like I said in the first paragraph of article, it doesn’t matter when you do it, as long as you do and do when it feels best for you to do it (that’s a lot of do’s 🙂 ) For most of us, it is probably best to have something to eat before working out, as it allows us to exercise harder and longer and burn a lot more calories than if we’d exercised on an empty stomach. However, some people don’t have time to eat before working out in the morning without risking an upset stomach, while others believe they’ll burn more fat. The jury’s out on whether or not exercising before breakfast burns more fat, but one thing’s for certain, if it is true, burning more fat isn’t going to help if you are hungry and weak and are unable to workout at a higher intensity. Thus, it’s best left to the pro’s/ advanced exercisers who are very aware of their body’s limitations and boast immense levels of fitness. What’s more, some experts believe that you don’t actually burn more fat, but burn up muscle! Also, exercising when you’re hungry means you’re more likely to feel lightheaded, which is obviously no good thing during exercise – in fact it’s dangerous! Which is why it’s best to veer on the side of caution and have at least a light snack or a protein smoothie before you head out the door! Hope this answered your question?!


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