We’re taught how to do many things like brushing our teeth, following a schedule at school or work, entertaining ourselves with watching sports or shows, or following social norms throughout our lives. How about when you start exercising?
When do we get instructions on how to take care of our body and health?
Did P.E. class prepare us enough to be responsible with our health even without the class bell ringing to get changed into our gym shorts?
Here’s your 3 step best practices when starting an exercise program.
Step 1 Prepare – Planning is the Real Work
SET A TRAINING SCHEDULE
While you will generally enjoy going to the gym and training, there are some days when overtime at work, family priorities, or a mentally draining day gets you in the mood to skip the workout “just because.”
A good way to deter the “just because” excuse is to get into the habit of training at the same time on the same days. Once you’ve created this habit, there’s no need to wrestle with will power.
Once it becomes a habit, how you ‘feel’ won’t have such a heavy impact on what you want and have planned to do for yourself.
This day in age, not everyone has the 9 to 5 or a consistent schedule. So what do you do?
Make a guideline or contingency plans:
- “I will go to the gym or train on my days off.”
- “The days I end early, I will workout at this time.”
- “I will schedule 3 workouts a week and make this a priority among family, work, food, etc..”
- Once it’s in your calendar, stick to it like a doctor’s appointment
A schedule and plan keeps you consistent, and consistency is the key to forming healthy habits.
ALWAYS HAVE A WATER BOTTLE CLOSE BY
Are you the type to only drink water when you’re feeling really thirsty or maybe you like to chug the majority of your days water intake right before and after a workout?
Well, you might want to change that and here’s why.
- Feeling thirsty and getting dry mouth indicates that your body is already dehydrated.
- Dehydration can reduce the volume of blood pumped by the heart which means less oxygen to the muscles which often results in premature fatigue.
- And if you try to suddenly fix your dehydration by drinking lots of fluid before you start exercising, it can cause bloating and cramping. Not the best feeling if you’re just about to workout.
- Hydration is the first step to giving your body the nutrients it needs to function at its best.
- Nutrition can have its own series of articles but the amount of impact it has to everybody on a cellular level cannot be overstated.
Start with what’s most simple and has the greatest impact before moving on to details and specifics.
UNDERSTAND THE WORKOUT AND MAKE IT YOUR OWN
All exercise programs can be broken down to the same principles and movement patterns. Once you understand this, you can begin the process of learning how to take care of and strengthen your own body.
Many beginners find there’s a level of uncertainty when starting something new for the first time that could invoke some fear or hesitation.
The concern for your health and safety or the fear of “looking stupid” or being judged could be enough to quit even before getting started.
Why take the time to understand the workout when I can just follow the coach, trainer, or program? Isn’t that why the coach is there?
- The trainer/coach can show you the principles, BUT you work together to find out how it applies to YOU as an individual
- It’s safer when you take the time to learn and practice rather than risk injury while rushing
- Becoming a student lets you build on your knowledge and experience rather than being stuck in the ABC’s the rest of your life
I encourage the members/clients at my gym to listen to your body and modify/adjust the workouts to fit your fitness level or capability for that day.
There is a time to push and challenge yourself as well as a time to be smart so you can be consistent.
Giving the best you can everyday is better than doing only when you feel 100%. Your best might look like doing half of what you did yesterday or half the intensity, but THAT is what “lifestyle” means.
Step 2: Enjoy the Process
WHAT YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW IS WHAT MATTERS
‘Success is in the journey, not the destination’. Here’s how this cliche applies for us.
Let’s say you’re trying to lose weight, get stronger, look or feel better, get better blood work numbers or any other goal…
The PROCESS is where you form the habits that sustain these results:
- Learn how to plan out your meals and cook healthier foods
- Learn and practice exercises to strengthen your body
- Prioritize sleep for mind and body recovery
- Experience possibly the most important change, IN YOUR MIND
- How to talk positively and encourage yourself
- Overcome negative mindsets from your past/childhood
- Gain confidence from continuing to do
- The process of “failing” and having to start over IS PART OF THE PROCESS. Trying again is the success
HOW you achieve your goal determines how long you will maintain and improve on your achieved goal.
Exercise doesn’t need to be so challenging where the process seems impossible. Check out this article about strength training and how you can make progress without crushing intensity.
COME EARLY, STAY LATE
Many of us get into the habit of coming in on-time and leaving on-time when we start exercising.
We’ve learned to segment our days into 30 minute or 1 hour blocks and try to fit everything into those ‘squares.’
But what if some things don’t fit? We can do our best to schedule out our day but some things do require a bit more flexibility.
Not to say one hour of working out is not enough. But the ‘working out’ isn’t the only training that is needed.
“I can barely afford one hour a day as it is! You want me to spend even more time on my workout??”
Yes, and here’s why. We’re not talking about just moving quickly through some exercises for the next few weeks/months to lose a few pounds. That is simply a side benefit to the big picture.
Our body is constantly changing so doing stretches and specific mobility exercises help prepare our body for the workout each day.
What do you mean my body is constantly changing?
Several factors can affect muscles, joints, soft tissue, and function of your body:
- How long you sit or hold any particular position daily
- Daily repetitive movements
- Hydration level
- Quality of food you eat
- Injuries, even minor ones, from the past can cause issues in the future
Sometimes your mind can be exhausted from the day so you might choose more simple exercises to prevent overworking your body and mind.
This can also prevent injuries for the movements that require more coordination and skill.
On the flip side, if you feel fantastic and well rested, you can push yourself appropriately to your fitness level.
To get the most out of your training session, put in some extra work both physically and mentally.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS, CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENTS
If you’re serious about your fitness goal, tracking might be the catalyst for making this a habit. And I don’t mean stepping on the scale every morning and completely freaking out at any change in weight.
Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you’re doing it right you’ll be maintaining/gaining lean muscle while you’re losing fat which doesn’t always result in seeing a lower number on the scale.
Whether it’s nutrition, exercise, or changing a bad habit, tracking what you are currently doing will tell you exactly where you are compared to where you want to go.
Tracking your progress is more than the ‘results’ like weight loss, change in size, or other metrics.
Tracking could be as simple as, ‘did I do THIS today?’
- eat 2 servings of vegetables
- 30 min. lunch time walk
- daily stretches, etc..
You can put an X on your calendar or have a checklist on your phone.
Seeing the execution of daily goals will become the habit that produces the results you’re looking for.
Then the results will become secondary to the discipline you develop to change any habit in your life.
Whether it’s taking yourself and loved ones out for a treat or simply sitting and thinking about what you accomplish at the end of each day, celebrate the victories each day, celebrate the challenges in life and celebrate yourself.
Step 3: Recover Well and Succeed Outside the Gym
The importance of getting a good night’s rest is not an exaggeration because ANYTHING you do to become and be a healthy person is limited by how well you rest. Especially when you start exercising.
It’s hard to believe that something you do when you’re not even awake can be one of the most important ways to hitting and maintaining your health and fitness goals.
To put it simply, lack of sleep stresses out your body and brain which can lead to issues like weight gain, anxiety and muscle loss.
So here are some simple guidelines?
- Have a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine
- Sleep between 7-9 hours
- Sleep in a room that’s completely dark, cool, & quiet
- If you just can’t sleep well or enough for now, exercise at an intensity that reflects how well rested your body feels so you don’t risk making your body even more stressed
Remember, the ultimate result we’re looking for is continuing to keep the body strong to looking and feeling your best.
This can only happen if you consider your overall health and consider how your immediate actions will affect you later.
PRACTICE MOBILITY AT HOME
Stretching and becoming more flexible is THE FIRST STEP to understanding your body and preparing it for long term use.
Be it a few minutes here and there or 20 minutes set aside before bed, mobility is like looking in the mirror to make sure your hair is how it should be and you don’t have any crumbs left on your face.
This is YOUR personal check-up to see if your body needs some special attention.
Invest in a few key items for your home like a foam roller, lacrosse/tennis ball, massage stick to use.
As you practice it more regularly, you’ll find you have certain areas tighter than others which can indicate, overuse, weakness, or an injury.
Then you can go about soft tissue work, stretching, strengthening, or reaching out to a professional for assistance.
Your body is your responsibility and getting familiar with these exercises will empower you to become more independent and able to respond as your body continues to change.
ASK FOR HELP
It’s ok to admit that you feel a little intimidated to ask for help. But don’t be! We’ve all had to start somewhere.
You might need help when you’re first starting but even after you master the basics, individuals come across different challenges, be it a technique for a specific movement, strengthening a weaker area of the body, help with nutrition or changing/creating habits.
There’s no such thing as a stupid question. I encourage our members to take advantage of our check-ins or get personalized coaching to tackle individual challenges head on.
Doing the research online or searching through books is the first step in getting indirect help from those who have studied this topic or have found a solution to what you might be struggling with.
You’d be surprised to find the help you can get as long as you’re willing to take the first step.
What you learn and practice each day can affect you 5, 15, 25 years later. Let’s set you up for success!