You might be at that point in your life where you’ve finally decided that you want to start exercising regularly. Good on you, give yourself a pat on the back. I’m not going to cover ‘What’ exercises I’d recommend. I’d just like to give a little help to ease you from a non-exerciser to a regular exerciser. That’s all. In other words, the ‘How’. These are 10 things that you should know. Ready? (This is a short read, bear with me.)
1. Be Gentle
Be realistic with your goals. Set your goals low, not high. Don’t say that you’re going to attempt a marathon within a year. That would be foolish. Set your goals, then halve it. It’s a bit like packing your clothes for a trip! Now, let’s just say that your goal is to lose 10kg in 3 months. Change it to 5kg. If your ambitions are lofty, there’s a good chance you’ll give up halfway or worse, give up completely. So again, be gentle with yourself.
2. 4 Days a Week
Starting out as you are now, please don’t tell yourself that you must exercise every day. If you do that, you’ll quickly burn out and give up. We don’t want to go there. Here’s what you do. Make sure you exercise (whatever exercise it is that you do) at least every other day.
If you exercise on 2 consecutive days, congratulate yourself. If you find yourself exercising on alternate days, that’s fine; that’s what you’ve set out to do in the first place. But if you go through 2 days without exercise, please, do feel guilty. Kick yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and say “You idiot!”.
3. 30 Minutes
You’re not training for the Olympics. You’re just on a TV-and-couch quitting program. So, don’t be silly – even if you feel like you could train a whole hour, DON’T. You do not want to dread exercising the next day because you overdid it the day before. Do exactly 30 minutes, that’s all. OK, OK, 45 minutes if you must but no more.
What time of day should you exercise? Anytime, as long as you do. I often START running or cycling at midnight.
No, not what you’re thinking, not a fast-food combo. Now, pay attention, this is IMPORTANT. I apologise that this gets a little technical, but you need to know these 3 words (Yes, I love you too.): Cardio, Isometrics, Isotonics.
Even when you’re just starting on an exercise regime, you should do a combination of these 3 types of exercises. No matter what your fitness goals are.
You probably know what this means. ‘Cardio’ pertains to the function of the heart. A cardio exercise is where the objective is to raise your pulse. This would mean walking, running, skipping, swimming, aerobics etc. It’s the kind of exercise that makes you sweat quickly. Don’t worry about your speed or distance. Do say 10 minutes of this.
These encourage flexibility of your limbs. Stretch exercises, in other words – touching your toes, splits, that sort of thing. Think yoga. If you’re still don’t know what I’m talking about, think of the PJ/PE exercises that teachers made you do in school before you start playing football or netball or badminton (which you thought were stupid and a waste of time). Do those exercises now, 10 minutes.
This is about building muscles – biceps, triceps, abs etc. Think lifting weights and bench presses. But don’t do those yet. You’re not ready. You want to build muscles but you’re still a novice. So, do isotonics which use your own weight for ‘resistance’. These are good: The Plank, Push-ups, Pull-ups, Squats. (Google these for more details.). If you’re going to do ONE isotonic exercise, do The Plank. It takes 2 minutes and it works wonders.
OK, you might say Aerobics or Pilates are a combination of the above. That’s true, so, by all means, if you’re already on these programmes, please continue.
5. Make It Fun
Indulge in exercises which you enjoy, not dread. As an example, I enjoy running but many people find it boring. And I hate the treadmill; it’s daft.
Add variety. Don’t do the same thing day in day out. You might get bored and give up.
6. Go Solo
Pick exercises that you can do on your own, without waiting for a partner. Tennis is good exercise and it’s fun but what if your partner doesn’t turn up?
7. Useful Skill
You should choose exercises which will come in handy in real life. Take running, for example. It’s a useful skill. If you need to make a quick getaway after robbing a bank, of course you need to brush up on your running skills beforehand. On the other hand, what good is tennis outside the court?
8. Don’t Buy Equipment
Well, I’m exaggerating. You can buy gym attire and shoes but don’t even think of buying a treadmill. How many people do you know who use treadmills to hang their clothes? Treadmills are expensive and they are lot less fun than running outside. And what if your exercising zest last only 3 months? What are you going to do with the treadmill?
And don’t buy stationary bikes and gym benches and barbells and dumb-bells. In short, don’t spend too much money on exercise stuff at this stage. Give yourself a year if you want to splurge.
9. Don’t Be a Gym Member
All of us have a friend (or two) who signs up for a gym membership, only to drop out months later. Some of these friends also include a trainer as part of the package. Don’t waste your money. Fitness First? They just want your money. It’s marketing bull; just like Starbucks.
10. Skip The Gadgets
Don’t buy a running watch. Don’t buy a running GPS. Don’t buy any silly fitness gadgets. Not yet. Give yourself a year.
In a little nutshell, it’s about being consistent and realistic. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
I hope this little piece is helpful. I’m open to questions. Lastly, if there’s one thing that you must remember from this, it’s this: Have fun!