Deciding to get in shape, incorporating workouts into your routine and improving your overall physique are ideal ingredients for perfect health. But are you just not exactly sure where to begin?
Starting out can seem like the most challenging part of your journey. That's completely normal. The first month, even week, can be the make or break point for you, so it's vital to know the fundamentals.
Whether your journey begins by doing bodyweight exercises or ordering your first home workout machine, you've already taken the first step. Continue reading for more workout tips for beginners, to hopefully help you start out on the right foot.
#1. Ask Yourself Why You Want to Work Out
This may not seem like such an extraordinary workout tip. But when you're feeling exhausted after two weeks of the same routine, diets and workouts, you'll thank me.
You've probably already thought about this. Maybe you want to get your body ready for the hot summers at the beach. Impress your friends by how much you can bench press or how far you can run. But I want you to dig a bit deeper.
Why do you want to work out? How will a better fitness level help you? It's so easy to get discouraged when your goals aren't met within the first two or three weeks. Which is why knowing the reason you want to work out and the benefits you will reap will help you through the tough times.
Ask yourself; why am I adding fitness into my life? There doesn't have to be a profound psychological reason behind it. All you need is the purpose which motivates and drives you through to your end goal and beyond.
Think about how it will benefit you. One answer which serves us all is improved health. But do you want to enhance your energy levels, define your physique or use it as a stepping stone for something different? Write down your answers or put them on your phone's calendar to remind you when times get tough.
Here's a very interesting video on how to trick yourself into finding motivation to exercise by using psychology (highly recommended):
#2. Create a Habit
Habits are a part of our daily life. You go to the bathroom in the morning, and wash your hands before exiting. You enter your car, and fasten the seatbelt before driving. These are two examples of habits which have been engraved into our minds. To a point where skipping one step will seem as though a link is missing.
This is precisely what you'd want your workout routine to become, namely a habit. Whether your goal is to compete in the next crossfit challenge or to lose that extra 10 pounds. Making your workout a habit will only do you good.
A habit is not only created by you telling yourself this is the new you, but rather by repetition. Our minds require consistency to develop a custom.
Consistency is key
When establishing a habit, you must keep it simple, something you can do on a daily basis. This has been proven in a study of two groups of people trying to lose weight. It showed that those who approached it using small, sustainable changes yielded more success than their counterparts.
Keep my first tip in mind, find your goals and keep it simple. Establish easy-to-do tasks, such as 10 minutes on the exercise bike or a few bodyweight workouts at a specific time. Every day when that time approaches, you know it's time for action. When you feel strange for missing it, you'll know it has become a habit. It takes time, but it'll be worth it.
#3. Warm-Up and Cool Down
We all remember in gym class, having to stretch, bend, twist, run on the spot or dance was a bit embarrassing. But your third-grade teacher was not using this as a way to waste time.
Just like a car requires warming up during the cold winter months, so do our bodies. The warm-up is an essential step in your workout which could cause serious setbacks if missed.
Warm-up and cool down will help keep injuries at bay and delay muscle soreness. When you're warming up and cooling down, your muscles prepare and recover. So, if you skip this step, you'll likely be shocking your body and putting unnecessary strain on your muscles, which could lead to injuries.
A warm-up can consist of a few simple stretches followed by a brisk walk on the treadmill or some light pedaling on the exercise bike. Just enough to get your body warm and your heart rate elevated a notch.
You can also get inspired by putting on a good track and dancing your body warm. The amazing thing about working out at home is that you can get as crazy and creative as you like. No judgment here!
Here's a nice 5 minute quick warm-up video:
Don't forget your cool down at the end of your workout either. After you've finished your long cardio workout or heavy weight lifting, it's essential to let your muscles and heart know that you’re finished.
Do some light walking and gradually slow down your pace. Finish off with some stretching. Stretch all your body. Even if your workout only consisted of weightlifting, stretching your legs will help keep you flexible.
But don't overdo it. Keep a position for a few seconds and then change. If it feels painful, relax a bit. It should feel like stretching, not pulling your muscles apart.
#4. Keep Proper Form
This may be a no-brainer tip. But there are in fact many people, ranging from regular gym goers to newbies, who keep an improper form.
This could be the reason why you don’t see the results you desire, or why you're feeling excessively hurt after a workout. Whether you're into weightlifting or pedaling the elliptical, the right form is essential to get an efficient workout for the outcome you want.
If your posture is incorrect, you'll likely strain the wrong muscles and joints which in turn, only leads to pain and injuries. This could delay your journey or maybe even put you off entirely.
The Michigan State University recommends that to get a proper form, you should keep your neck and spine in line so your chin is regulated and your ears are above your shoulders.
Your back must be straight with relaxed, kept back, shoulders. Relax your knees and focus on tucking your belly button close to your spine. In supporting your back, it's important to engage your core.
One solid tip I can give you is to work out in front of the mirror and check yourself out. This will help you observe your form and spot your mistakes. In time, your body will become accustomed to it and you'll see the difference.
While working out, but also when lifting your child or pet, carrying the heavy grocery bags or sitting behind your office desk, keep the correct form.
Once you've perfected your style, you'll be able to lift heavier weights and run longer distances without feeling the hurt.
#5. Remember to Breathe (duh)
We all know how important breathing is. If we stop, here is a short reminder of what will happen:
Oxygen is a vital ingredient for our system, especially for our brain's functions. Depriving our body of oxygen can have dire consequences. Cells thrive on O2 so if there's not enough they'll begin to die out.
The biggest concern is our brain. As the cells die, they won't come back the same as they might do in other parts of the body. This could lead to further complications. Don't worry, you won't suffer brain damage from accidentally holding your breath for too long. But it could hurt your performance.
The truth is, many beginners tend to hold their breath while doing a complicated or hard exercise. Although it may not be evident until you're finished. When you sit up, look in the mirror and is startled by the flaming red face reflecting back at you.
It may not be for long. But the few seconds you're holding your breath, the oxygen stores in your body are depleting, resulting in an inefficient workout.
Take deep breaths
It's important to take deep breaths; these will enhance your performance while providing your brain with vital oxygen to keep you focused. It may help keep you going for longer at a more efficient pace.
If you're depleting yourself of oxygen, it'll likely put stress on your body which may induce a fight or flight mode. This only makes the exercise uncomfortable and may raise your heart rate, so you'll be unable to continue.
One study proved a significant advantage of doing diaphragmatic breathing or meditating after exercising. It showed to help the body and muscles repair and prevented oxidative stress. This is an imbalance of oxygen species, often leading to damage of tissues due to the toxicity created in the blood.
By taking deep, controlled breaths, the subjects of the study were able to recover their muscles faster and avoid soreness.
Deep breathing can also help increase your lung capacity. This enables you to store more oxygen so you won't feel out of breath as quickly.
It's best to do diaphragmatic breathing while sitting in a quiet room, where you're able to put all your focus on your lungs. You can even lie on the floor. Take a deep breath, get as much air into your lungs as possible, and breathe out.
Repeat this a few times. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but after some time you'll get used to it.
#6. Stay Hydrated
Two-thirds of our body is made from water, which makes it the second most important need for human life, after breathing.
While we exercise, our body produces sweat, which exits through the sweat glands. Every time you sweat, water is being drained from your system to regulate the core temperature, which prevents overheating.
If you forget to drink water or simply avoid it, you'll not only put yourself at risk of dehydration, but also heatstroke.
By not hydrating you'll decrease your performance from a psychological aspect. Keep in mind that exercising is as much brain as it is muscles. So by not drinking enough, you're inhibiting your mind from predicting what comes next.
For example, you may take longer to comprehend what exercise to do, which only results in wasted time. You should keep sipping small amounts of water in between activities to compensate for the sweating.
Continue to hydrate after your workout. If you notice your lips or eyes getting dry, it's an early sign of dehydration. But try to keep the sports drinks to a minimum.
These are likely packed with sugar or other unnecessary substances. They may be good to give you an extra kick, but water should be your number one fluid.
#7. Pace Yourself
We've all been there. Overestimating our fitness abilities and setting our weekly goal at 60 minutes on the treadmill. Maybe lifting half our body weight in dumbbells.
Overcommitting or overworking yourself is an easy mistake to make when you're first starting out and feeling eager to see results. But doing so will likely end in disappointment and sore muscles.
As I've already mentioned earlier, it's essential to keep your goals sustainable. To get any results, whether your aim is a 5K race or a bodybuilding contest, your workout routine should consist of gradual increases.
But don't overdo it
For example, if you're trying to build muscles and you start out by lifting too much, instead of engaging, you'll automatically utilize momentum. This will in turn, inhibit your muscles from contracting correctly.
In other words; you just wasted all your energy. This can also influence your posture and repeat the vicious cycle of inefficient workouts.
Pushing yourself too hard on the cardio machine can also lead to unwanted complications. Overworking yourself can have adverse effects on your cardiovascular health.
Cardio exercises strengthen your heart and enable it to pump more blood. But by overexerting it, you'll risk doing more damage than good.
Keep in mind that your chances of suffering a heart attack while running are slim to none. But it can have long-term effects, such as irregular heart rhythm, if continued.
Just like your triceps, your heart is a muscle which requires time to build up its strength before going too hard.
#8. Take Rest Days
Rest days are an essential step in any workout routine. These are the days when your body is allowed time to recover and reflect on the exercises.
During rest days, your body refills its energy stores. It will reflect and adapt to the stress endured during the workout. It repairs the muscles and tissues, before more exercise. If you were to skip this, you'd tire a lot quicker and would be more prone to injuries.
Michigan State University advises that you keep a training log where you write down your workouts and how you're feeling afterward. This is to help you determine how many rest days you'll need or if your workout should be longer. It's also an excellent way to follow your progress which should only motivate you more.
#9. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is vital. This is the time where your body is at complete rest and is able to recover fully. Be sure to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep.
I know this is not always easy, especially if you have small children—or any children for that matter. But sleep deprivation can wear on your endurance.
It may cause hormonal changes that could hinder your muscles from recovering and induce stress. This will only set you back in your progress.
#10. Eat Right
You can't simply do all that work and lose your momentum because of a bad diet. What you eat will without a doubt show in your workout. If you just had the fattiest burger with fries and a large coke, your going to feel it.
A wholesome diet is the best compliment for all your hard work. Don't worry, healthy nutrition doesn't mean you should become a rabbit and live on salads for the rest of your life.
A healthy diet consists of unprocessed foods such as lean meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Loads of vegetables and fruits, whole grain products and foods that are low in fat and dairy.
If you're working out to lose weight, it's crucial that you consume fewer calories than you burn. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) suggests that a woman should aim at eating about 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day to lose weight.
But men or women who weigh a bit more or exercise regularly, should try to keep within 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day.
NHLBI also stress that you should avoid eating fewer calories than those mentioned above. This will not be a sustainable way to lose weight and you won’t be able to fuel your body after your workout.
FAQ: How Often Should You Work Out?
How often depends on your goal and where you're at, fitness-wise. Experts advise that the average adult does moderate exercise activity at least three times a week.
It doesn't have to be intense: a 30-minute brisk walk or light jog will do as long as your heart rate is up. You can easily divide this time throughout the day; this is good if you're a beginner. Do 10 minutes, three times a day.
Preferably you should be active at least 60 minutes every day. It is important to now and then get up and do light activity. If you can, take a small walk around the office, or take your dog out. This may also help keep your muscles active on your rest days.
FAQ: How Long Should Your Workout Be?
The duration of your workout will again depend on you and how much time you have. We know that you need at least 30 minutes three times a week, but you can also increase this as you build your endurance. When you feel ready, you can try to do up to 60 minutes instead.
If you want to build your endurance, you should extend the length of your workout as opposed to increasing the number of days. This will have your body working harder. Remember: duration builds stamina and burns calories.
Once you've built up your endurance, it is also a good idea to mix one or two HIIT sessions into your routine. You can do this using almost any machine, or none at all.
After you've finished your warm-up, increase the exercise intensity for a minute before slowing down again. Repeat this for about 20 minutes before proceeding with a cool down. HIIT will give you a metabolic boost which enables you to burn more calories.
Keep to one or two sessions a week, if it gets too easy, just increase the intensity or duration. However, listen to your body and avoid straining yourself.
FAQ: When Should You Work Out?
This will also depend entirely on you. Some may favor working out in the mornings while others feel more motivated during the evening.
The advantage of working out in the morning is that you'll feel happier and more energized throughout the day. This is due to the endorphin release which is triggered by the workout. But on the downside, if you're not a morning person, this may not be sustainable.
If you tend to feel sleepy or drained during the day, consider doing your workouts through the late evening. One study showed that those who did one hour of moderate to intense exercise sleep better. It could also keep daytime drowsiness at bay.
So here you have it, 10 workout tips for beginners. Working out can be rewarding. Remember these tips and as you go along your home fitness journey, soak up as much knowledge as you can.
Continue to build and sculpt your body, experiment with different exercises and enjoy your progress! You've already taken the biggest and maybe hardest step of getting started. Now it's a matter of staying consistent.
Were any of these tips helpful? Do you have any pointers for other readers? Please share your experience or further questions down below.