It’s almost a new year and that means a lot of people will be starting new fitness plans or restarting old ones. Today’s entry is a cautionary piece about the danger of going too hard, too fast. Nothing is more disappointing than losing all that great motivation as a result of poor planning on your first day at the gym (or dojo)!
Too Sore to Repeat
This is a really common one. On your first day working out you’re excited, motivated, and ready to push it. But be careful! If you overdo it, your body might not recover in time to do it again. Let’s use the example of exercising 3 days a week (either going to the gym, training in martial arts, or anything else fitness related). If you go all out on Tuesday, you need to be ready to do the same workout again on Thursday. It’s really important you pace yourself, otherwise you might be too sore and skip your second workout. If you get caught in the cycle of overdoing and then skipping, you’ll never develop effective workout habits.
This is an obvious one but it needs to be stated. If you push yourself too far without knowing your limits, you risk injuring yourself. Even a mild muscle strain can take 3-6 weeks to heal. Nothing kills motivation like starting a workout on January 1st and finding out you have to stop until February. Start slow, be safe, consult with trainers and instructors.
If your body can take an intense new routine, it doesn’t mean your mind can. Remember an hour training is an hour not seeing friends and family, relaxing at home, or pursuing other hobbies. If you make your fitness resolution your entire life, you’ll become unhappy and want to quit. Make your time commitments reasonable, and make sure you still enjoy your life!
So What Should You Do?
Enough with the doom and gloom, let’s talk about how you can minimize chances of overdoing it this New Years! We’ll look at brand new fitness routines and restarting old ones separately.
Brand New Fitness Routines:
Join a Class – lots of gyms have fitness classes included in memberships. Try one out and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Being in a group means you’ll have a better idea of whether you’re exercising correctly.
For Beginner Strength Training use Machines – Free weights (handheld dumbbells and barbells) do provide a better workout, specifically helping develop stronger stabilizer muscles, but machines are safer and easier to use for beginners.
Start Slow and Low (resistance) – When you try a new exercise, start with the least resistance possible. If you can easily do more than 10 reps, it’s time to increase it. Never start a brand new exercise with a high weight.
Ask for Modifications – Bad back? Ask for an exercise that doesn’t involve twisting. Bad knees? Ask for an exercise that doesn’t involve jumping. You have to be your own advocate. If an exercise hurts, you won’t want to come back.
Leave Time to Recover – Do NOT start by trying to go to the gym every day. You need time to recover and heal.
If You Can’t Talk, You’re Pushing Too Hard – A good guideline is that you should be breathing heavy, but not so heavy that you can’t talk to someone else.
Start Over – If it’s been months or even years, do not expect your body to be able to do what it used to. Dial back everything to a beginner level. It’s OK to increase your workouts quickly, but you should still start small and progress carefully.
Remember, You Aged – If you did martial arts as a teen, or lived at the gym in college, keep in mind how many years it’s been since then. Your body not only isn’t used to it, but it can’t adapt and heal as quickly as it used to.
Educate Yourself – Fitness is a science and therefore we’re constantly learning new information. Make sure your knowledge is up to date before jumping back into a dated (and potentially dangerous) routine.
The Best Workout is the One You’ll Stick With!
If your workout is too intense you won’t stick with it. If it injures you, you can’t stick with it. If it’s not fun, you’ll fight yourself to stick with it. Remember a workout needs to be safe first, fun second, and challenging third!