Whenever you start an exercise program for the first time, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. If you are new to exercise, particularly strength training, you are going to have sore muscles afterwards. This can be very discouraging to people new to fitness and exercise. The good news about this is that it happens to almost everyone. It will be the worst after your first couple of workouts but, it will lessen as you get in better shape. The best thing to do to minimize this uncomfortable feeling is to do some stretching after your workout. Try to focus on the locations that you worked. For instance if you did strength training for your legs, doing stretches for your legs after your workout will help with the sore leg muscles. Another thing you can do to beat that sore feeling is to get some extra sleep. Contrary to what many people believe, you are not getting stronger as you workout. Your body gets stronger as it heals and rests after a workout. Sleeping is a major factor in our health and is a very important part of an exercise program. At first you may need a few extra hours of sleep to help repair those tight and tender muscles.
Another thing to consider when you try exercising for the first time is that you will make your best gains in strength and stamina very early on. Many people think it will take months and months to see any positive gains in their health. This is just not true. When the human body is placed in conditions that it finds uncomfortable or stressful such as exercise, it will become stronger. With an understanding of this simple fact, you can see that you will make your best gains in the beginning. Simply put, you will never be as weak and out of shape as you are when you first start your program. It’s very easy to put your body in an uncomfortable or stressful situation in the beginning. The hard part comes when you get into better shape and you need to find new ways to challenge yourself enough to stimulate strength gains. So for anyone who thinks it will take a very long time to see any results, remember this and have faith that your body will improve if you put the work into it.
Exercise is a great way to improve your health, but it needs to be done on a regular basis to see results. If you start a workout program and then stop soon after, you are really doing yourself a major injustice. The reason I say this is not just because you are stopping your progress, but you are also making the pain you felt during and after the first workout for nothing. Your muscles have memory and will recover quickly if you have a history using them and exerting them. One or two workouts however are not enough to establish this muscle memory. So if you start a new program and stop right after the first workout, you will feel the same pain and discomfort when you start it up again. Simply put, you will make the first one all for nothing if you stop your program early on. Do yourself a favor and stay committed to your exercise program, or just don’t start one. I always tell my clients that the individual workouts are important, but maintaining the routine for a long time is what really counts. Just like working out on a consistent basis is important, working out in a consistent way is also important; never just workout randomly. I have seen so many people at the gym that I belong to just doing random exercises with no sense of order. I have asked them before what they were working on and they just say to me that they feel like working out their calves today or they wanted to do some curls.
Workouts are much more effective if they are structured. A basic workout schedule could be upper body one day and lower body the next day. During the upper body days, make sure you are exercising each of your upper body muscles with the same exercises each time. This will let your muscles have enough time to get good at that particular movement. Do the same for your lower body muscles on your lower body workouts. It’s also important to document your workouts in a notebook. Keep track of each exercise your doing for that day as well as the sets, reps and weight. This will let you track your progress and it will also keep you doing a consistent amount of work for your muscles each time you train. When you want to make your workouts harder, simply mark it down in your notebook and then make sure you do the extra work each time. This method is used by many serious athletes and is much better than simply doing random exercises when you workout.
The last and most important factor to any exercise program is the one that most people have trouble with. This factor is of course a good diet. I advise any of my clients to consult a nutritionist if they are struggling with maintaining a good diet. If they want my two cents however, I always tell them the same things. Avoid eating foods that are processed. These types of foods have much higher levels of fat than natural foods. I help them make a daily eating plan and to stick to that plan each day. It’s much easier to make sensible eating choices when you have a well thought out schedule to stick to. If I’m working with a client who has a big appetite, I make sure they are getting plenty of snacks between meals. These are of course both filling and healthy snacks to ward off hunger. It really doesn’t matter how hard and often you workout if you have a bad diet. You will never make any significant gains in your health or fitness if you’re eating junk food every day. Everything has its place however, so an occasional indulgence is alright. For example I love McDonalds. I have ever since I was a kid. About once a month I like to get a Big Mac. There’s nothing wrong with this, because it’s not a part of my everyday diet. It’s just a once in a while treat.
Jason Grass, ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Seacoast Personal Training
Newmarket, NH 03857
Phone: (603) 545-5090