I Want to Get Fit, But Where Do I Start?
Whether you’re completely new to fitness or it’s simply been awhile, getting started is both the scariest and the riskiest step to take. Walking into a gym for the first time can be intimidating if you’re not sure where to go or what exactly to do.
In addition to not wanting to look silly by doing something wrong, you also want to be sure that you don’t end up hurting yourself. With that in mind, let’s cover a couple major issues that will help you start your fitness journey on the right step.
Don’t Skip Steps
Unfortunately, most programs out there work best for people who are already fit, not people who are trying to become fit. The majority of these programs are even targeting sedentary people with their marketing, which is highly irresponsible. This is about much more than just whether or not you can suck it up and challenge yourself from the start.
If you try to build a house on a wobbly foundation, you aren’t going to do yourself any favors by sucking it up and pushing through the challenges this creates. Building your body is no different, except that the stakes are even higher (unless, perhaps, the house falls on you).
For Best Results, Walk Before You Run
It’s not a surprise that a balanced approach to starting out will help you stay injury-free and lead to better long term results, but many people may be surprised to find out that it will actually yield better results in the early going too. Each time you work out, you’re technically doing minor damage to your body with the goal of stimulating it to grow back stronger. The problem is, there is a fine line between minor damage that makes you stronger, and major damage that simply causes more harm than good.
When you cross that line, you’ll hit plateaus in your results and your body will begin to break down. Specifically, when you push beyond the limits of what your muscles can handle, then your joints will take the excess beating. Never forget that the goal of exercise is to stimulate your body, not destroy it.
Key Tips for Starting Strong and Creating Sustainable Results
- Move SLOW… Literally: In addition to taking it slow in terms of the big picture, you should also begin by performing every exercise very slowly. This makes it far more likely that your muscles will do the work rather than stressing your joints; it will build stability throughout your body to protect your joints later on when you lift heavier / faster; it will allow you to increase the difficulty and challenge yourself without heavy weights; and it will challenge your core by having to hold positions longer, assuming that you aren’t using guided machines.
A tempo I recommend starting out with is 3/3/3: 3 seconds lowering, 3 seconds holding, and 3 seconds lifting. I would also keep the reps somewhere in the 12-20 range. Given that this means each set will place you under load for quite a long time, keep the resistance VERY light!!
- Push, Pull, and Lunge: For the sake of simplicity, here is a very basic place to begin when choosing your exercises. If you want to hit every single muscle in your body, these 3 types of movements will cover all your bases. Pushing movements generally work your chest, triceps, shoulders, and the anterior (front) muscles of your core, while pulling movements generally work your back, biceps, and the posterior muscles of your core.
I include lunging rather than squatting simply because either can strengthen your entire lower body, but lunges work better to correct common left/right imbalances and can improve your mobility restrictions rather than exposing them. They also challenge your core and stability further, which are both important for building a strong foundation. But make no mistake, squatting is an incredibly important movement to master and should never be ignored in the long-term.
*Note: There are MANY more details that I take into consideration when designing a personalized beginner program. This is simply a basic place to start if you don’t have further guidance and want an easy place to start.
- Focus on Quality, Not Quantity, of Movement: Don’t get caught up in the performance aspects of training in the beginning. It doesn’t matter how much you can lift, whether or not you can do a pull-up, or how many lunges you can do. What matters is how well you can control each exercise, activate the intended muscles, and stimulate positive changes.
For more information on this point, I would recommend checking out my other blog on a Common Mistake in Progressing Exercises.