We all start somewhere! In fact, starting is often the hardest part. As a fitness instructor and personal trainer, I am often asked, “what are the most effective exercises I can be doing to lose weight, or lower my cholesterol, or to have a more toned body?” My answer is almost always “the exercise that you will enjoy and continue to do consistently”. What kinds of movements do you like to do? Walking, dancing, playing softball, riding a bike, playing golf? Movement doesn’t always have to be with the specific intention of exercise, in fact, I encourage just the opposite. Find ways to fit a variety of movements into your day on a regular basis and I am willing to bet you will be a happier and healthier human. There are so many options out there for those who are looking to begin a fitness journey that it can often feel overwhelming. Where does one start? Keep reading to learn some of my tips for adding exercise into your routine in a way that will hopefully allow you to build consistency and stamina.
First, start with aerobic activity. Walking is an excellent aerobic activity that is easy on the
joints, requires very little to no equipment, and is often overlooked. In fact, lace up your sneakers right now, and head out for a stroll around the block. I will be here when you return. (I am only kidding a little.) Walking is one of the most basic functions we as humans do to get us from point A to point B and can provide a very sturdy foundation to any wellness journey. Set a goal for yourself. For my clients that are new to walking for fitness, or who have a very limited amount of free time, I advise walking for 15 minutes uninterrupted, twice per day. If you don’t have 15 minutes, go for 10. The point is to start. Aim to walk 2-3 times per week. Once 15 minutes starts to feel easier, or more manageable, shoot for 25-30 minute bouts, and continue to gradually increase the time as you feel ready.
Once you start to build consistency with your aerobic training, you may start to feel the urge to change things up a bit. Strength training is vital to strong bones and strong muscles. It boosts the metabolism, and can help manage weight. For beginners, body weight movements are an excellent starting point. Here are three that I use in almost all training sessions with clients:
Bodyweight Squats - Stand with your feet hips distance apart, toes pointed forward. Keeping a long spine, allow the hips to sink down and back, while the knees continue to track forward over the toes. Repeat 8-10 times.
Bird Dog - From a hands and knees position on the floor. Knees directly under hips and hands under shoulders. Stiffen the torso, and maintain a neutral spine (neither sagging or arching). Extend one arm forward from the shoulder, thumb pointing upward, while simultaneously extending the opposite leg backward. The goal is to perform the movement while keeping the shoulders and hips parallel to one another. It is often helpful to start by alternating movements between the arms and then the legs and build your way up to the simultaneous action.
Bent Knee Push Up - From hands and knees, walk the hands forward until the shoulders stack on top of the wrists, fingers facing forward, and the knees are behind the hip, while maintaining a long spine (again neither sagging or arched). Draw the feet towards one another either tucking the toes under or crossing the ankles. Stiffen the core, and keep the head aligned with the spine, bend the elbows lowering the torso towards the floor. Elbows should remain close to the body. Pressing into the hands, think “press the floor away” and lift away from the floor until arms are fully extended. Tip: keep the core engaged (rigid torso) through both the down and up phase of the movement. Practice as many as you can, or 8-10 times whichever comes first. Spinal alignment is fundamental here so continue to practice this movement on the knees until the strength is built to progress.
Keep in mind this is not a comprehensive resistance or strength training workout, but it is a great starting point. As you build form and consistency, you can add on additional movements and resistance. Strength training can be done 3-4 times per week, making sure to allow for rest day(s) between training sessions.
Last but not least, I can’t let this story end without talking about mind body practices. I 100% recommend yoga to all of my clients. Strictly from a physical standpoint, yoga will increase your flexibility, strength, and balance as well as help you build you consistency. But, my recommendation for yoga comes from more of an idea of creating a well rounded wellness routine. Our bodies are more than the physical muscles and bones that move us from one place to the next. Yoga offers an opportunity to create a deeper connection to one's self through movement and breath and meditation. For a beginner, yoga could look like attending a (virtual) class at a studio, or trying a prerecorded class. It could also look like starting a meditation practice with a meditation app on your phone. The thing about yoga, and all of these suggestions, is that it is not one routine or class, or style of movement will work for everyone. Try a few out for yourself. Let go of the ones that do not work for you, and stick with the ones that do. Trying one class and walking away is like trying one flavor of ice cream and deciding all ice cream is bad.
Sometimes we need that extra push to help us get moving. This is where your personal trainers, fitness instructor and coaches come in to play. Hiring a trainer to build an individualized plan is a great way to take your journey to the next level. Not only will you receive a program that is specific to your needs, but you will have someone in your corner to cheer you along every step of the way.
Jessica Minelli (500hr RYT) is:
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
ACE Certified Health and Wellness Coach
ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor.