One of the best things a person can do for their health is to begin a fitness program. An adequate level of physical activity has many benefits ranging from better balance and coordination, improved self-efficacy and even reducing risk factors for various chronic diseases. The best part about starting a fitness program is that practically anyone can do it! Here are five steps that outline getting started.
- What is your current level of fitness
Having an idea of where you currently are in regards to fitness and knowing where you are presently can be two different concepts. That is why it’s a good idea to take an assessment of where you are now and use the findings as benchmarks throughout your program. This blog focuses primarily on powerbuilding and powerbuilding programs, but assessing your current body composition, flexibility, along with muscular and aerobic fitness will be vital to having success in any training program. For optimal results, you should train goal specific and record your starting point, but we will focus on some general outlines so that anyone can get started:
- Start with walking, jogging, or running a mile (1.6km). Record your heart rate before and after
- For a baseline assessment of cardiovascular fitness, time yourself and record how long it took to cover 1 mile (1.6km).
- Get a timer and record how many pushups of any variation you can do in 1 minute to evaluate muscular fitness.
- Variations could include pushups from the knees or with the hand on a bench or wall.
- To gauge flexibility, see how far you can reach forward while sitting down with legs straight.
- Measure the circumference of your waist (around your belly button).
- Create a strategy
Design a program that will be challenging, yet not impossible and discouraging, with a clear strategy in mind. Follow these guidelines to avoid self-sabotage:
- Focus on your goals. Is your fitness program aimed at weight loss? Are you training for a powerlifting meet, bodybuilding competition, or maybe a race? Starting with clear goals and objectives will allow you to measure progress and stay on track.
- Create a balanced routine.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults should get a minimum 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise every week. This could be broken down to 30-60 minute sessions of moderate activity (five days/week) or 20-60 sessions (three days/week). Even participating in multiple sessions at least 10 minutes long can accumulate benefits.
Follow those basic guidelines for aerobic fitness for most days of the week and devote time to strength training the major muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, legs) at least two days/week as a start and increase the intensity as you progress.
- Slow and steady wins the race. Your fitness journey is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, so take your time! It would be smart to ease your way in should you just be starting exercise for the first time or are coming back into fitness after a period of inactivity. Also, check with your doctor if you have any type of injury or medical condition so that they can assist in designing your training program to prevent any further damage.
- Time, eternal yet rare. Making time to get a workout in can be one of the toughest aspects of any training program. So, make it as routine as possible, devote time to exercise and schedule it just as you would do for any other appointment. Watch Netflix on the treadmill or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed on a walk through the park. The key is to find the time, it won’t fall into your lap, you must have some will power for this one.
- Have some variety. Utilize cross-training to keep yourself from getting burnt out. This is one reason why I have devoted a lot of my time to powerbuilding because after a while bodybuilding workouts got boring and I began to focus on powerlifting to gain some ridiculous strength. Then one day I said to myself, “Why can’t I have both?” Therefore, knowing what your goals are is so important! I want to be as strong as an ox and look as though I was chiseled from stone. With that in mind I stick to resistance training and a few plyometric exercises; in other words, I don’t waste much time inside the bat cage (But that would be fun!). Having variety as helped me stay focused and motivated when the grind gets tough. Low-impact forms of cross training are useful as well, biking and swimming are two effective ways of building aerobic fitness and both can aid reducing the likelihood of injury. You also want to avoid working the same muscle group too often as this could cause overuse injuries to your joints, same goes for your cardio, switch it up routinely.
- Recover. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will you. Learn from my mistakes, avoid working out too often and not every workout needs to be intense. Challenge yourself but listen to your body and take rest as needed.
- Have a written plan. In the beginning, it’s important to have something tangible to use as guidance.
- Tools of the titans
Make sure that you have the proper equipment before you start your new training program or can find a facility that has what you need. Your workout attire is important as well, especially the shoes that you wear. Lightweight shoes are best for running and shoes with more support in them are better for resistance training.
Don’t go out and buy a ton of workout clothes and invest in a bunch of equipment before you start. Begin with the essentials needed for your program and add things as they become necessary.
Apps that track your progress, heart rate, or distance can be useful. But at the end of the day are just tools, don’t let them become a distraction!
- Getting Started
This will be the hardest part next to stick to it and finishing the program. Use the following guidelines to stay in the game:
- Take off like a plane, not a rocket.Take time to warm up, the biggest mistake you could do is dive in head first without giving your body adequate time to warmup be for a training session. For example, I will always warmup on a treadmill or Stairmaster for at least 10minutes with a brisk walk before one of my bodybuilding or powerlifting workouts. Following that I will do to warmup sets for each exercise. That is what I do, your warmup may be different but regardless, a good warmup will help prevent injury and so will a cool down. Have a cool down so that your body has a signal to relax, for all it knows you were fighting for your life the whole time so take a walk and do some gentle stretching to signal that everything is back to normal. Try to start with short sessions and work your way up to sessions of 30-60 minutes for most the week.
- Work in chunks.Feel free to have a few smaller sessions broken up throughout the day or have different days of the week dedicated to a particular focus. For instance, you could do resistance training on certain days and cardio on others.
- Don’t forget about variety.Do something different here and there. You don’t have to do all your cardio at the gym on a treadmill, go out for a hike take a dancing class or play some pickup basketball games.
- Don’t ignore your body.Any pain, shortness of breath nausea or dizziness should be taken seriously. These are signs that you may be hitting it too hard and that you need a break. Again, you don’t have to work out every day of the week, take a day off if you don’t feel well.
- Keep track of your progress
This is one of the most fun and important parts of any training program. After six to eight weeks you should take another assessment of your fitness and routinely take this assessment a few months afterwards. If everything goes according to plan, you should notice that your fitness is improving and that your workouts are getting longer in duration or tougher in intensity. If not, the assessments will give you a heads up that you need to make some changes. Regardless, without keeping track of your progress you wouldn’t know if there have been any changes and that could be discouraging when first getting started.
Don’t worry if you lose motivation, it happens to us all, find a friend or make new goal to tackle. If you have something to work towards you will be able to dig yourself out of any rut and all that you accomplish will become motivation to find your true potential.
This will be one of the most important decisions in your life. It can be intimidating, but don’t let that stop you from becoming the best version of yourself. Plan things out, take your time, and you will be on your way to success!