Starting A Physical Fitness Journey: Beginner's Guide
Updated: Jan 15
So you've finally decided it's time to get fit. So did I! No time like the present is the right time. Exercise has so many health benefits including weight loss, more energy, stamina, relieves stress, increases confidence, mends self-image and also implicated in the curing of heart disease, arthritis, cancer and depression. Not to mention we get to celebrate and enjoy a sexy, toned and fit body. Here are some tips I found useful that helped me get started on my fitness journey.
GET A PHYSICAL EXAMINATION
Visit the doctor or a physical therapist just to be cleared of all underlying health issues and to get the green light for physical exercise. Please don't ignore this important step. Better to be safe than sorry.
INCREASE YOUR NEAT
The pandemic have turned some of us into couch potatoes, sitting at our computer or watching the tele all day. The only time when we move is to go to the refrigerator and back to the couch. Even though things are opening back up now, some may still be stuck in this routine or have put their fitness aspirations on the shelf. A good way to prep your body and the mind for physical exercise is by increasing your NEAT. NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It represents the energy we exert on mundane tasks such as moving around the house, washing the dishes, climbing the stairs, packing away the groceries, cleaning the house, etc. Just by doing more of this alone will burn some calories, tone the muscles and most importantly, put you in a mental frame of mind to tackle a fitness program.
DESIGN A PLAN
Everyone starts off at different levels of fitness so create a program that suits you. For me, I had to start with stretching and light walking. That's all I could have done. Anything after that I became out of breath. However after just a week of walking around the park everyday, I noticed an improvement in my energy and stamina. I stepped it up to jogging, increasing the distance slightly every time. Next, I added short bursts of running. I wasn't breathless or in pain and these routines became easier as time went along. Not to mention the pounds started dropping off. It was such an empowering feeling knowing that I was actually becoming fit.
START WITH STRETCHING
If you've never exercised or not exercised in a while, stretching is a great activity to get back into shape. For more info on how stretching helps with weight loss click here. Start with a full body work out of stretching exercises and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercises as you advance into your program. Stretching is supposed to feel uncomfortable but not painful. Be sure to vary your stretching exercises to include both static and dynamic types of stretches. Static stretches are those positions you hold for a specific period, usually about 30 seconds, such as triceps stretch and quadriceps stretch. Dynamic stretches are gentle movements that prepare your muscles for more intense activity, such as lunges and hip rolls. End your stretching routine with a stretch such as the Child's Pose. This stretch opens your hips and elongates your back relieving tension and causing you to relax. Don't be worried about doing too little, at first. At least you are doing SOMETHING. A little done consistently goes a long way.
BUILD UP SLOWLY
After about 5 -10 minutes of stretching, further warm up with a variety of activities you can keep up for about 10 minutes without getting overly tired, e.g. cross elbow squats, lunges, walking or a slow jog. Warm up activities decrease your chances of pulling a muscle, decreases joint pain and reduces muscle soreness after your work-out. Intensify your work-out by adding skipping, running, burpees, mountain-climbers, crunches, superman, push-ups or planks. Finish your work-out by doing warm down exercises. This allows for your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure to return to normal. Warm-down exercises are similar to the stretches at the beginning of your routine. See if you can accomplish at least 30 minutes of a full routine at least 3 times a week.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Increase the intensity of your exercises as your stamina increases. However, if you feel breathless, dizzy, nauseous or pain, stop and rest. You may be pushing yourself too hard. Remember, everyone's journey is different. Don't compare yourself or compete with other people. This is YOUR journey. The most important thing is to be consistent.
Add variety to your program every now and then. If you are accustomed to stretching, then walking, running, burpees, crunches then warm down, throw in bicycling or swimming every now and again. Or participate in a game of football, or even go on a hike every once in a while. You can also start exercising with a friend or join an aerobics class together. Add something you enjoy to spice it up and keep you motivated.
FUEL YOUR BODY
Remember your body needs energy to move. Energy comes from eating healthy foods consistently. Make sure you are eating a well-balanced and healthy diet to power through your work-outs. No need to go on any specific diet, once you are eating the recommended daily allowance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats and healthy fats and oils. Cut out junk food, processed food and added sugar. Be sure to stay properly hydrated by drinking enough water or eating foods with a high water content.
Celebrate your successes along the way. Each major goal is made up of little ones. As you accomplish each little goal, let's say for example, consistent exercise for the first month, praise and reward yourself by doing something nice for YOU. Make sure it's not something that will set you back on your journey like a big bowl of ice-cream!
Wishing you all the best on the start of your fitness journey. I mean that!