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Exercise 101: 7 must-have tips for beginners

Exercise 101: 7 must-know tips for beginners

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You've never really exercised but want to start. What now? Follow personal trainer Andrew Cate’s fail-safe tips to help get you started.

1. Answer these questions

Before beginning a new exercise program, it may be advisable to consult your doctor for a check-up. This is especially important if you answer yes to any of these questions:
  • Have you been generally inactive for 12 months or more?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Are you a smoker?
  • Do you have an existing medical condition, or are you taking prescribed medication?
  • Do you have a family history of heart disease?
  • Are you 50 years of age or older?

2. Have a goal and a plan

To get the most out of exercise, it helps to know what you want to achieve, and how you are going to achieve it.

Do you want to lose fat, gain cardiovascular fitness, build muscle strength and tone, or increase your flexibility?

READ MORE: How exercise boosts wellbeing

Knowing what you want to achieve can help determine what type of exercises and activities you should do. Have both short and long-term targets to aim for, and identify the actions you need to take to achieve your goals. Schedule exercise session into your diary to help you stay committed.

3. Start out slow

Begin at a low intensity. Give your muscles and joints time to adapt to physical activity. Introduce small, easily achievable amounts of exercise, and over a period of several weeks, gradually build up the duration and intensity of your workouts.

Afterwards you should feel energised and refreshed, not fatigued and frazzled. Nothing can set your progress and motivation back faster than an injury after you've gone too hard too early.

Even when taking it easy, you can expect to be a little sore after your first 2 - 4 workouts. This is normal, and will dissipate as your body transforms from inactive to active.

4. Forget "no pain, no gain"

When you’re new to exercise mantras like “no pain, no gain” are NOT helpful.

Exercise doesn't have to hurt to be beneficial, especially for beginners. Pain is actually a warning sign that things are not right, and you should cut back or cut out what you're doing.

You’ll still feel the “burn” when you exercise, where you can feel your muscles working as they fatigue. As your fitness improves, tolerance for this type of “burn” is much higher than a beginner.

5. Warm up and cool down

A good warm up can boost your physical performance and prevent soreness and injury. Warmer muscles are more coordinated, powerful and flexible, and less likely to tear or strain.

Start with a walk or slow jog, or perform your intended activity at a lower intensity for the first 3 - 5 minutes.

Stretching is not necessary until after a workout, which helps to counteract the shortening and tightening of fatigued muscles. Make sure to stretch the major muscle groups, especially those directly relevant to the movements in your chose activity. A few minutes of stretching will allow your body to cool and adjust to a resting state.

READ MORE: 6 things you need to know about stretching

6. Master motivation

Once you get started the key is to stick with it to get lasting results. This is where motivation is so important, because you can expect obstacles. You can expect setbacks. You can almost guarantee there will be days when you don't really feel like working out. The following tips may help to keep you keeping on, such as:
  • Having a training partner
  • Listening to music
  • Keeping a training journal
  • Hiring a personal trainer
  • Using reward as an incentive
  • Sticking motivational quotes on your mirror or fridge

7. Change things up regularly

Include a wide variety of different activities and training methods in your exercise routine.

Cross training involves regular changes to the way you exercise. This can keep your mind and body fresh, and reduces the chance of injury by dispersing the load on your working muscles.

It's also worthwhile to include an occasional fun element to your training, such as team sports, water sports (think paddling or kayaking), or activities shared with family and friends, such as Frisbee, table tennis or kite flying.

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