Top tips for an exercise novice
Looking to lose weight, build muscle or train for a sport? These simple tips may prove useful.
As someone new to exercise, there are many things that seem daunting and confusing, especially with so much information available. Here are a few points that can help you to get on the right track.
- Set realistic goals
A good starting point is to ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to lose five pounds? Gain a little muscle? Improve your blood pressure?
You may have heard of SMART goals. R for ‘realistic’ is the most important letter. Set yourself an achievable short-term goal (for example, go to the gym once a week) and a long-term goal (lose 8lb by next year).
- Choose the right exercise
Once you’ve established goals, you can look at different training types, as each kind of exercise is associated with different results. It’s important to listen to your body: you may respond better to certain types of exercise. Let your training teach you, and learn on the way.
Here are some rough guidelines on which exercises might help you achieve your goal:
- Weight loss and heart health – Regular cardiovascular exercise
- Increased strength – lower repetitions, heavy weight (3-6 repetitions)
- Increased muscle – medium repetitions, moderate weight (6-12 repetitions)
- Toning – higher repetitions, light weight (12-20 repetitions)
- Think about food
For weight loss/weight gain, there’s a basic rule: calories consumed versus calories burned. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. Exercise can be used to burn more calories and increase your metabolism.
It’s important to eat the right foods, too. You may assume that foods high in calories will give you more energy, but if the food is mainly sugar-based, the energy is quickly released and you may feel hungry again shortly after.
Getting enough of the essential vitamins and minerals will also contribute to a fully functioning body, but this is sometimes difficult to achieve through diet alone. Supplements can be useful here!
- Push a little harder
This means ensuring your workouts become harder as your body gets stronger. If you do the same weights and exercises every single day, you won’t continue to progress because your body will adapt to the new regimen. You need to make gradual increases to the intensity so that there’s a higher demand on your body.
Intensity can be raised in several ways. For weight training, you can increasing the number of repetitions or the size of the weight. For cardiovascular exercises like running or cycling, you can increase distance, time, or how fast you’re doing the exercise.
- Be consistent
The longer you stick to regular exercise, the closer you get to your long-term goal.
If you do fall off the wagon, don’t worry. Allow yourself to have a bad day and focus on getting back on track the following days. A bad day doesn’t have to mean a bad week. It’s important to listen to your body: if you’re in pain or too exhausted to work out, don’t. Take a break. Injury or illness can put you out of action and undo your hard work.
- Enjoy your training!
There’s no point doing something that you hate. This will make achieving your goals more of a struggle, and create a negative relationship with exercise. Find something you enjoy doing – a team sport, a swim, or a bike ride on the weekend, perhaps? Exercise can be done in many forms and doesn’t always have to consist of going to the gym and pumping iron.