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Start Exercising Guide

Intimidated to start? Let's address common concerns

Starting out or getting back into exercising can be a bit intimidating, but with the right approach, it can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Here's a guide to help address common concerns.

Download pdf version here:

Start Exercising Guide
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How to Prepare

1. Switch Up Your Self-Talk

Instead of thinking about how out of shape you may have become or how you barely have time to shower, let alone work out, embrace what you are doing to keep yourself accountable and healthy.

“Changing a thought from, ‘I’m not fit enough to do this workout’ to ‘I showed up for this workout and I’m stronger for it,’ are crucial ways you’ll be able to maintain a routine again,” says Dr. Falconer, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist.

2. Let Yourself Be a Beginner

Attempting to lift excessive weight right from the start, for example, can place unnecessary strain on muscles and tendons that have been inactive for a period. Similarly, going on lengthy runs immediately or forcing your body into intense stretches can have similar negative effects. Let yourself start slowly.

Another thing to be mindful of is bruised pride. When scaling back workouts during a fitness reboot, avoid fixating on your past achievements. Instead, concentrate on making gradual advancements as you reintegrate into your routine.

3. What to Wear

Choosing the right workout attire can make a significant difference in your comfort and performance.

  • Opt for breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics to keep you cool and dry.

  • Invest in proper athletic shoes that provide support for your chosen activity.

4. Focus on Yourself

Here’s the secret of the gym: everyone is focused on themselves. No one is judging you. Keep your attention on your own progress and soon you’ll feel more comfortable in an exercise environment.

How to Exercise Safely

1. Don’t Skip the Warm Up

A proper warm up helps increase blood flow to muscles and prevents injury.

  • Start with 5 minutes of light cardiovascular activity, such as walking.

  • Perform a few dynamic stretches to warm up the muscles, such as in this Warm Up Video.

  • If you're engaging in strength training, start with lighter weights for a warm-up set.

2. Listen to Your Body

Learn the difference between discomfort, which is normal during exercise, and pain, which can indicate an injury.

Discomfort: Recognize that some level of discomfort is normal during exercise, especially when challenging your body to adapt and improve.

  • Muscle fatigue

  • Breathlessness

  • Mild to moderate soreness

Pain: Pain is your body's way of signaling that something might be wrong. Ignoring pain and pushing through it can lead to injury.

  • Sharp or shooting pain, pinch, or pop

  • Joint pain

  • Pain accompanied by swelling or bruising

If you experience abnormal pain, don't hesitate to modify the exercise or stop altogether. It's better to be cautious and seek guidance if needed.

3. Control Your Breath

The way you breathe can vary depending on the type of exercise, but here are some general guidelines.

  • Avoid holding your breath.

  • Establish a steady rhythm of breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

  • For activities like running or cycling, sync your breath with your stride or pedal strokes.

  • For activities like strength training, exhale during the exertion phase (lifting, pushing or pulling). Inhale as you release or lower the weight.

  • For activities like yoga, inhale during the opening or lengthening phase and exhale during the contracting or folding phase.

4. Choose the Right Weight and Repetitions

Most people get injured by selecting weights that are too heavy. Let go of ego and follow these guidelines to prevent injury:

  • Start Light: Begin with a weight that allows you to complete 8-12 repetitions (reps) with good form. You should feel fatigued by the end but still able to maintain proper form. This is one set.

  • Aim for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise.

  • Allow adequate rest between sets (usually 60-90 seconds) to recover and maintain performance.

  • Focus on mastering the movement patterns before progressing to heavier weights.

  • If you can complete 8-12 reps with minimal effort, you can increase the weight by 5-10%.

Remember, the key is gradual progression and consistency. As your strength improves, you can make adjustments to your routine to continue challenging your muscles effectively.

Check out the Strength Training Q&A for more tips.

How to Properly Recover

1. Don’t Skip the Cool Down

Finish your workout with a cool down to improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.

  • Walk for about 5-10 minutes, or until your heart rate gets below 120 beats per minute.

  • Slow down movements to help your body return to pre-exercise heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Do some slow and controlled stretching – do not bounce. Continue to breathe.

See the full Warm Up and Cool Down Guide.

2. Hydrate and Nourish Yourself

Replenish your body for recovery and muscle repair.

  • Drink plain water as soon as your workout is over. Monitor your urine color to know how much to hydrate. Electrolytes and sports drinks are typically only warranted if the exercise is longer than 1 hour or you’ve sweated excessively.

  • Eat a snack or meal that is high in protein and carbs to replenish your energy stores (Ex: a protein shake, sandwich, banana and peanut butter, or a regular meal).

  • Aim to eat within the first hour after exercise to optimize muscle repair.

3. Give Your Body Proper Rest

Did you know muscle growth happens during the rest phase, not the exercise phase? That’s why proper rest is just as important as exercise.

  • Ensure you get enough quality sleep.

  • Incorporate rest days into your routine to allow your body to recover and prevent overtraining.

4. How to Know If You've Pushed It Too Hard

Normal soreness:

  • Mild to moderate soreness, stiffness, or discomfort that is relatively short-lived is a normal response to new or intense exercise

  • Muscle soreness typically begins 24-48 hours after exercise, and peaks within 72 hours

  • Improves with rest and light activity

Signs you’ve pushed it too hard:

  • You have a hard time getting on/off the toilet

  • Unable to perform activities of daily living (ADL’s)

  • Persistent pain that doesn't improve with rest

  • Excessive tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest

If you suspect you’ve pushed it too hard, consult with your health coach for guidance on adjusting your exercise routine and addressing any underlying issues.

Remember, consistency is key, and progress takes time. Listen to your body, be patient, and enjoy the journey back into fitness!

What’s next? Check out Creating An Exercise Routine for tips on building an exercise plan around your fitness level and goals.

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