To Your Health
April, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 04)
Choosing a Workout That's Right for You
Ask Yourself These Questions First
By Dr. David Ryan
Everyone wants to get in better shape, lose weight, tone and tighten, etc., but that doesn't mean they know where to start. It is important that anyone beginning an exercise program completely understand a few basic principles first. In fact, beginners and experienced exercisers alike can benefit from this information; if you're just starting out, it will help you choose the most appropriate, effective workout for you, and if you're more seasoned, it will allow you to better help other people with their exercise programs. After all, if you go to a gym, or even if people know you exercise, you are likely to get asked questions by someone with less experience.
Here are some of the key questions to ask yourself before beginning a workout. Answering these questions will give you some general guidelines on how to get started and types of exercises to do (or avoid) based on your age and fitness level. They will also help you determine, among other things, how many sets and repetitions to perform for different exercises (repetition = doing a particular activity once, such as one abdominal crunch or one pushup; set = a particular number of repetitions to be performed consecutively before resting).
The Key Questions
How long have you been training?
What is your basic fitness level?
What is your age?
What is your body type?
What are your goals?
Are you training for a particular sport?
How Long Have You Been Training?
This seems like a straightforward question, but consider the following before answering: if you have not been participating in an active exercise program for at least 45 minutes a day for at least three days per week (for more than just the past few days or weeks), then you must consider that you have not been training at all.
When beginning any exercise program, it is important to possess at least some aerobic/breathing capacity. That means that before you begin training, you should begin walking or doing some activity that is repetitive and raises your heart rate for a minimum of 5 minutes every day. You can think of that as one set for however many reps it takes to reach 5 minutes. In most healthy individuals, you should be able to add 5 minutes every three days, and continue on until you have established a daily exercise program of 30 minutes per day for two weeks.
It is important not to become too eager and jump into a full-fledged exercise program too quickly. Many times, individuals become very distressed because their training causes them to become too sore to participate. You don't want to overdo it, especially if you're a beginner, but even if you have some experience and are either "stepping up" to the next level or restarting exercise after a period of inactivity.
Exercise is beneficial because it allows the body to adapt to physical stress. If you over-exercise, your risk of suffering an injury increases exponentially. This happens more commonly than many people realize. Some soreness may be manageable, but excessive soreness is unnecessary and will limit your ability to train. Microscopic tears may form in your tendons and ligaments , causing damage that may later lead to a more significant injury.
The body requires time to rest and recover. Submaximal effort is necessary for the beginner to recover from the physical stresses exerted on their bodies. So, for the first three to four weeks of exercise, it is important that you leave the gym with the attitude, That was nothing, I could have done more. Too many people begin an exercise program and expect overnight results, but only produce overnight injury.