Fitness 101: The Beginner’s Guide to Working Out

Whether you’re just getting back into working out after a break that lasted too long, trying to work off the baby weight or even if today’s the first day you’ve ever even contemplated working out, this beginner’s workout guide is designed to help anyone jump into a fitness routine with everything you’ll need to get started, including essential gear, the answer to all your burning fitness questions and a plan you can actually stick to.

Before you start any fitness regimen, it’s important to speak with your doctor and make sure you’re medically cleared to begin.

What You Need

  • a good pair of athletic shoes – Don’t skimp out on gym shoes; properly fitted shoes help prevent injury
  • music or radio – while this could be considered a luxury for many people, it’s a fantastic boredom buster and motivator
  • water bottle – it’s always best to bring your own rather than depend on the little cups they may have at the gym. Hydration is key to getting a great workout!
  • non-cotton wicking shirts to keep you dry – wicking shorts or pants are optional, depending on your budget
  • free weights – start with a pair of 5- and 8-pound dumbbells (for home workouts)

What You Might Like

  • watch or gadget that monitors your progress (miles,heart rate, pace, calories, etc.)
  • gym membership – it’s not necessary to belong to a gym to stay fit, but it can certainly make lack of space in your home, or cold, rainy days less of an excuse to skip your workout. Most gyms also offer fun, workout classes, which could help spice up your fitness routine
  • headbands to keep bangs or strands of hair out of your face
  • kettle balls, additional free weights, resistance bands, workout DVDs

How Long Should I Work Out?

When planning your fitness routine, you’ll probably want to establish a time frame in which you want to workout. The American Heart Association recommends working out for at least 30 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week.  Don’t let the frequency of the workouts frighten you. Each workout doesn’t have to be completely structured. If you enjoy strolling around outside, wear a watch and attempt to make your walk half an hour. If you don’t have 30 minutes, something is always better than nothing!

The Cardio Machines…

1. Treadmill – The treadmill is the machine that will help you burn the most calories per hour.  If you have knee or back troubles, the impact of walking or running on the treadmill can cause an old injury to flare up. Start slow, if using the treadmill, and test to make sure that your joints can handle the impact.

2. Elliptical / Stairmaster – These machines are both great options for beginners because they cause less impact on your joints while still burning a good amount of calories. If you’re a beginner, stick with the elliptical with no hand movements, and then switch over once you feel balanced and comfortable. The elliptical with the hand movements will ultimately help you burn even more calories.

3. Stationary Bike – While the bike burns the fewest calories per hour, it also offers the least impact on your joints, making this a perfect machine to start with if you’ve had knee or back injuries in the past. The important thing to remember is that the bike is properly adjusted. When you’re sitting on the seat, your knees should be slightly bent, at about a 5- to 10-degree angle.

Strength Training

Strength training is an important part of any fitness routine. Ideally, you’ll want to incorporate strength training into your routine 2 to 3 days a week. While cardio exercise can burn lots of calories, strength training will tone your body and boost your metabolism for the entire day, which is not true of purely cardio workouts. The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism will function.

For strength training to be effective, proper form is extremely important. The best way to get started is to visit a local health club, where many offer a free number of sessions with a personal trainer. Once you get some basic training, you can do many of the exercises without fancy equipment, only a few sets of dumbbells.

The Goal

Working out should be something you enjoy – maybe not every day, but something that makes you feel good about yourself when all is said and done. You’ll notice that if you stick to a consistent plan, each week becomes easier and you’ll start to love the way it makes you feel. As you progress, work to challenge yourself. Maybe try jogging for half of the 30 minutes, maybe try walking for 45 minutes instead of 30 or try something completely new and different, like swimming. The options are endless, but more importantly, do what feels good to you!

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