It seems this is a common theme today – “Where do I begin when it comes to beginning an exercise plan?” With so many options to choose from, I thought I would lay out some basic guidelines to follow when ‘just starting out.’ Please understand that when I say ‘just starting out,’ I am speaking to those who know they should exercise, have had many setbacks, and have not been doing much of anything. It may go without saying, but always make sure you are healthy and ready to begin a program. This may mean a visit to a doctor for a quick check up. The worst that can happen with this is that the doctor will confirm you’re healthy.
It all begins with setting realistic and attainable goals. A couple of good examples of this type of goal may be:
- Exercising at least 3 times a week for the next 2 weeks.
- Doing some sort of cardiovascular activity at least 60 minutes per week for the next 2 weeks.
- Actually going to a gym to exercise at least 2 times a week for the next three weeks.
You may notice one commonality with these ideas – they are all relatively simple and short-term. This design is so that a person will experience a quick success rather than certain failure. An example of a ‘destined to fail goal’ may be committing to visit the gym 5 times a week for the next 6 months.
Now that you have a goal, here is a good idea when it comes to cardiovascular activity. First, select an activity you enjoy – whether it is walking, running, biking, etc. Set an attainable goal of ‘minutes of that activity’ you wish to achieve during a week. Let’s say you enjoy walking. A good goal may be to walk at least 60 minutes during a week. This would mean 30 minutes two times that week or 10 minutes six times that week. You get the idea! We are talking ‘minutes per week’ rather than ‘per day.’ Keep track of your ‘minutes’ in a journal. If you feel like walking more, that is great. However, just make certain that you set your initial goal LOW ENOUGH THAT YOU ARE CERTAIN TO SUCCEED. This is of utmost importance. After reaching your initial goal, set another slightly more difficult. Continue this process THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
Additionally, prepare yourself for setbacks. No person is perfect. There will be some times in the future where you may fail to reach your goals. THIS IS NORMAL. Just cut yourself a break and keep looking ahead. Overall, however, you want to set your goals (especially early on) where there is little chance for failure.
Later in the process, you will want to shoot for an overall goal of doing some type of cardiovascular activity for 5-6 days a week (most weeks) for an average of at least 150 minutes per week. This will ensure you are getting a basic amount. Obviously, over time, you will want to increase intensity (effort, speed, time) to ensure continued progress and development.
At some point in this process, you will want to institute at least two days of week of resistance training (weight training). It is important to exercise and train the inner muscle (heart) and the outer muscles as well. This increases our chances of overall health. Resistance training can be accomplished in as little as two 30-minute sessions. For the development of a resistance training program designed specifically for you, seek out a professional trainer (or person of expertise). Don’t just listen to what you may ‘hear about.’ This is risky business when we are talking about lifting weights. Every person is made a little different, so ‘one size’ does NOT fit all.
There you have it! This is no magic pill; just good old-fashioned hard work and consistency. Keep it up for a lifetime of healthy living!!!