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How-To Fitness: Training Tips Every Beginner Should Know

Beginning a fitness journey can be an exciting but vulnerable time. Maybe it's been years (or decades) since you were active. Since then, your body has changed as have your present abilities. Medical difficulties or hard truths of other kinds may have gotten you back in the gym. The road ahead might appear daunting, but the journey is made one walk or workout at a time. While commitment is essential, it's important to understand that clear strategies exist to make your fitness endeavor more successful and efficient. Here are 8 training tips every beginner should know for maximizing the results of his/her exercise investment.

Hire a Professional.

People generally begin exercise programs with good intentions and ample motivation. They’re ready to work hard. However, the gung-ho enthusiasm can often get them into trouble in two ways. First, if a person has been inactive for any length of time, his/her potential for injury during exercise is greater. Second, this person’s knowledge of the most effective and appropriate exercise program (given his/her current fitness level and personal goals) is limited. The result can be unexpected injury, wasted time and general frustration. These experiences can be avoided by hiring the right fitness professional from the beginning. A qualified fitness professional can go over realistic goals, perform assessments to find muscle imbalances in order to avoid injury, and design an individualized program to get faster results. The initial investment in this guidance can offer a big payoff later with greater safety and success.

Create Written Goals - with a Deadline for Each.  

Many experts suggest this strategy - for good reason. When you write down a goal and attach a deadline to it, you’ll likely feel a greater sense of urgency to accomplish the goal. An outcome goal, for example, is an end result you want to achieve. Examples include losing a certain percentage of body fat, running a 5K or completing a triathlon like the one Life Time hosts.

Assess and Regularly Reassess Your Progress.

After you choose a goal with a deadline, decide how you are going to assess your progress. With a weight loss goal, you can use the scale, circumference measurements or body fat values. With a goal like a marathon, your runs should get progressively longer. Whatever the goal, try to make it measurable with initial assessment (where you are now) and end measurements (your outcome goal) as well as weekly check-ins to make sure you’re on track.

Break Down Goals into Smaller Actionable Parts.

Enhance the effectiveness of your outcome goal by breaking it down further into behavioral goals. Using the example of losing a certain amount of weight/body fat (as in the 90-Day Challenge), you would make a list of the behaviors you need to adopt in order to make your goal a reality. Examples of behavioral goals for weight/body fat loss would be exercising three days each week, increasing protein intake, drinking more water, decreasing the amount of processed carbohydrates in your diet, etc. You can focus on one goal at a time each week or try to accomplish a few at once if you’re motivated and ready to make more substantial changes.

Adopt the Three Hour Rule.

Many new fitness enthusiasts think they have to live at the gym to get results, but this isn’t the case. When Life Time members ask me to name the minimum amount they should exercise to meet most goals, the number I give them is three hours (ideally three 1-hour exercise sessions per week). In my experience, this time commitment will give people solid results if they’re using a well-designed, individualized exercise program created by a fitness professional for their particular needs - and if they're incorporating movement activities into each day. If you want to exercise more, think of the extra sessions as a bonus, but be sure to allow for adequate recovery time and strategic recovery activities.

Use the Principle of Progressive Overload.

It’s a common mistake people make when they begin an exercise program: they do the same exercises, select the same resistance, and run the same speed or distance all the time. For example, people will go from not moving much to walking 10,000 steps a day, which is a great accomplishment and will result in progress initially. However, over time the body will adapt to these demands, and gains will be minimal. You must increase the intensity of your program in order to continue getting results. In the steps example, it can mean increasing the incline of a treadmill and then the speed. The same principle applies to resistance training. Either the resistance has to be increased, or the reps need to increase over time.  

Use a Journal.

This is a great way to track progressive overload. It allows you to make a change to your program and keep a record of it. If the tweak to your program results in positive fitness gains, then you know that it’s working for your body. If there’s no result from the change, you’ll know what doesn’t work for you and can adjust further. Whether you’re seeing good results or no results, journaling your workouts to track progress will give you valuable information for making measured, effective change that will allow continuing gains. A journal can also boost your compliance and consistency, since you know you’ll be recording your efforts in each workout.

Be Part of a Community.  

Research continually demonstrates that people who team up with others in a health or weight loss journey experience higher levels of success. You don’t have to dump your current friends who aren’t into fitness, but having people with similar goals can keep you moving forward in your fitness journey. Consider joining a fitness related group, such as a regular fitness class, Run Club or TEAM Weight Loss for added motivation and support.

Are you starting (or restarting) your exercise effort? What questions do you have? Are your beginner days long gone? What strategies helped you maintain motivation and see results?

Written by Corey Grenz, Personal Trainer

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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