Every journey starts with a single step, and that includes fitness journeys. For many, January is a time to start a fitness journey. For those who are currently sedentary and want to become active, it’s important to start in a way that prevents injury, keeps your interest and avoids your becoming disheartened.
As a beginner it’s not easy walking into an environment full of experienced participants especially if we think we look inexperienced or physically unfit. It’s all too easy to talk ourselves out of taking the plunge on the grounds that we’re not good enough to get started and we need to first improve a bit in private before revealing our perceived inadequacies to the world.
The obvious danger of this self-help strategy is that it never delivers the results we think we need and we never feel able to start group classes or public exercise.
The first thing I’ll say to that kind of thinking is that in every fitness establishment I’ve ever worked, 99.9 per cent of participants have great respect for anyone who walks through the door, regardless of their experience. We all had to walk through the door that first time.
A personal trainer is a great solution, but if time or money preclude that option and you really feel that you need to practise a little on your own first, then the following guidelines might help.
After long periods of inactivity, whether due to lifestyle or injury, we need to gradually strengthen ligaments and joints as well as muscles so they are able to withstand the more rigorous activity in the weeks to come. At the same time, we want to burn calories, improve our posture and increase the efficiency of our heart and lung function. Our goal is to work at an intensity which provokes change, but prevents injury and is sustainable. We never want to be so sore or tired that we can’t exercise again the following day.
A combination of walking, any activity in the water and strength training is a great starting point. Our first seven days might look like this: walk, water activity, rest, walk, water activity, strength training, rest.
For the walking and water activity aim for 20 minutes, then build the duration to 40 minutes before increasing the intensity. For the strength training, start with a beginners’ core-strength based programme, instruction, which you can find online.
From these first steps, we can move forward. The strength training day can be built into a full body workout such as yoga or group power/body pump classes. The walking days can build in from a couch-to-5K walk/run schedule. Cycling classes or swimming can replace the water activity days.
Whatever you decide, make it a project where you set goals and above all, enjoy your fitness journey, wherever it takes you.
Tony Watts is a 50-something-year-old fitness fan who teaches cardiovascular and weight/resistance training classes at gyms on Grand Cayman.