It’s coming up to that time of the year again when gyms are bracing themselves for the yearly influx of people who want to sign up with the hopes of getting fitter and healthier.
You should never be discouraged from improving your health; regardless of what changes you want to make, a commitment to getting fitter and improving your physical and mental health should be applauded. However, for those who are new to exercising or are unsure of how to pick it back up, it is best to get some advice on how to relaunch your fitness journey in a positive and beneficial way to allow you to get the most from your workouts and ensure you aren’t one of the ones who flunk out their New Year’s Resolutions after just a couple of weeks.
Regardless of whether or not you are joining a gym or working out at home alone or with a friend, these tips will serve you well.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Performing a warmup and cool down prior to and after your workout session is vital. Recent studies have found that dynamic warmups are best for getting the body ready for exercise, while static stretching is preferable for post-workouts. This essentially means that during your warmup exercises, you want to be moving around and preparing your body for what comes next; these are things like squats, lunges, active chest day warm up exercises, and so on. You want to be limbering up, as they say, and moving is the best way to do this so your body is ready to go for an actual workout.
Static stretching is simply standing still and stretching each muscle group and body part. The reason you need to do it is that stretching allows your body to cool down post workouts, and it slows down your heart rate, too. But more importantly, stretching breaks the release of lactic acid in muscles and starts repairing them. A buildup of lactic acid is what causes DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which is what you usually feel the day after a workout. While it’s likely you might experience this as a newbie regardless, it’s essential to carry out effective cool-down stretches instead of just packing up and heading off once you have finished.
Many people make the mistake of going in heavy and hard when they decide to workout to build momentum and see results fast. This isn’t going to do anyone any good and is the leading cause of people giving up on their goals within weeks. Trying to do too much and commit to a regime that is unrealistic for your lifestyle won’t give you the motivation you think it will; quite the opposite. So sit down and look at where you can realistically fit in the time and when you will be able to work out. If you aren’t naturally an early bird, b trying to hit the gym at 6 am each morning before work likely won’t work for you. Find a balance, even if you only exercise once or twice a week first; build from this.
What exactly do you want to achieve, and in what timeframe? You need to give your workouts focus and meaning. Do you want to increase your stamina? Be able to walk or run faster and longer without being out of breath? Do you want to lose weight? Build muscle? Improve your mental health?
Setting exercise goals will give you something to work for and allow you to find out what your best option is in regard to working out to reach those goals.
Once you have set your goals, track them. Take measurements using tape measure and scales, take pictures, video your form to ensure you’re performing your exercises correctly (especially important if you’re lifting weights), and see your progress. If you can visually see your progress, then you can use this to spur you on when your enthusiasm starts to wane.
Find Something You Enjoy
The majority of people who workout and stick to it religiously enjoy doing so. While there will always be people who don’t enjoy exercise in any form but do it anyway, finding something you enjoy or prefer to do over other forms of exercise will boost your chances of success.
You don’t necessarily need to join a gym if you don’t want to; you can take up other forms of exercise, such as swimming, walking, dancing, yoga, etc, to help you meet your goals. But the more you enjoy doing something, the easier it will be to stick to it for the long term.
Create A Routine
You need to find a routine and schedule that works for you. We covered this in an earlier point, but it’s worth reiterating that a routine is vital to help you commit to and stick to working out. If you can only do 2 or 3 days, then this is fine. If you can do more without having to rearrange your whole life, excellent, but make sure it is something you can stick to, i.e., you hit the gym on the way home from work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays or Monday mornings are your yoga sessions, Tuesdays you go for a run and so on.
A good thing to bear in mind is that it can take around 6-8 weeks of consistency for you or anyone else to see results, so any workout schedule or plan you put in place you need to follow for this period of time minimum before making changes. This allows your body to work on performing the exercises and the benefits physically it takes shape. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all!
Diet and Sleep
It can be easy to forget other factors play a part in your fitness journey, not just the actual exercise part. Your diet and sleeping patterns will influence the results you see and the progress you make.
You need to fuel your body correctly to help you sustain your new fitness journey and give your body what it needs to be healthy on the inside and out. This means filling up on whole, nutritious foods and reducing how much sugar and highly processed foods you indulge in. You don’t need to eliminate them entirely; simply be mindful of what you eat and make better choices and food swaps.
Your sleep will also factor into the type of gains you can make, how ready you are for the gym, and the energy you have to perform your exercise routine. When you’re asleep, your body repairs any damage from the day before, refills your energy reserves and essentially gets you ready for the day ahead. It also plays a massive part in regulating hunger, your digestion, and your ability to remain on track too. So, while the physical exertion is important, so too is the downtime you have and the amount of sleep you get.
Go Easy On Yourself
Lastly, it’s important to remember not to compare yourself to other people and to cut yourself some slack regarding your progress. In the beginning, it is bound to be hard, and you’ll feel like you’re not making any progress, but you will be, even if you can’t see or feel it yet.
Do what you can do, learn from your mistakes or slip-ups, readdress your goals routine, and get right back to it. It’s about creating habits and consistency; this isn’t something everyone gets from the beginning. It doesn’t matter how many bumps in the road you have; it matters how you deal with them and get right back to doing what you need to or want to do regarding your exercise plan.