If you are not someone who has not exercised much, getting started may seem like a daunting task, yet it doesn’t need to be.
No one can become an elite athlete overnight, but all of us can become involved with exercise and improve our fitness level. Knowing how to get started if this is new to you, is something else.
The saying that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” has never been more appropriate. Getting going and just doing something is the first and most important part. The fact that you are working out at some level and doing something is more important than what you are doing, or how hard you are doing it. What you are embarking on – if this is new to you—is a new life habit. In fact, it’s a life-long journey whose destination will not be reached in a single day or workout.
There are three things to consider as you begin to exercise: frequency, duration, and intensity. You should approach them in order.
Frequency is very simply how often you are exercising; for most of us this means how many days a week. Start with something you can manage, maybe every other day, and then build up from there. Current medical guidelines recommend that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. Feel free to combine the two but make sure to spread out your exercise during the week. Greater amounts of exercise will provide even greater health benefits.
Next, work on duration and begin to extend the length of your workouts. Few people can hop on the exercise bike and hit it for over an hour at first. But with time, it’s easy to start lengthening the time you exercise in order to increase the duration of your work.
Lastly, you can begin to increase the intensity of your work by making your workouts harder. You can run or ride faster. Increase the resistance on your bike or elliptical machine, or increase the incline or speed of your treadmill. If you are lifting weights, increasing how much you lift increases the intensity or your efforts.
Don’t Forget The Recovery
As you get into a full workout schedule varying the intensity of your work outs allows you to progress better over the long run. No one can go full out on every workout and expect to see major changes, because the body has no time to recover. Really intense workouts should be proceeded and followed with lower intensity workouts. Lower intensity workouts can be longer sessions since they are not as intense. This will allow your body to recover and prepare for your best results.
What many people don’t realize is that increasing muscle strength is an adaptation to stress. The stress is in the high intensity work outs, but the adaptation happens after that. It occurs during lower intensity workouts as the muscles recover. So, recovery workouts are necessary to allow the muscles to adapt, to strengthen, and to improve your level of fitness.
Today is the day.
If you are new to exercise, the best thing is to just start doing it. What you start with or where you start is not so important. Just start. Make it a habit, a part of your normal routine, and increase the frequency, duration, and intensity as your fitness improves.
All the best,
David B. Reath, MD
PS: These images are of Lakeshore Park, a wonderful place to walk, run and take your kids to the playground. It is a real treasure and right down the street from our office. If you’re coming into Knoxville from out of town, bring your workout clothes. You might run into one of our staff while you’re there.