Starting An Exercise Routine
Starting An Exercise Routine
John Spencer Ellis (Author, TV Show Host, Trainer and CEO, National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association) gives expert video advice on: What questions should I ask my doctor before starting an exercise program?; How do I know if I'm out of shape?; How do I know if I'm obese? and more...
What should I consider before I start an exercise regimen?
Before anyone begins an exercise regimen, they need to make sure that they're healthy; in general health. They should also go and get clearance from their primary care physician; their medical doctor. Once that's fine and he/she does the necessary tests and check that off as good to go, then you need to determine exactly what it is that you want to accomplish from your exercise regimen. Then, you find the qualified fitness professional that will guide you on that journey. You also determine what equipment that you will need in your exercise regimen, and so forth. Here's the other thing too; it's unlikely that a mature adult is going to do gymnastics, and it is unlikely that someone who has never ridden a bike is going to try to train for the iron man. So, know your outcome, be realistic, and set immediate, intermediate, and long-term goals for your exercise regimen. An immediate goal would be something such as 'This week I will get to the gym or use my own gym equipment three times a week; Monday, Wednesday, Friday'. An intermediate goal is 'I'm going to continue to train and in three months, I'm going to run my first 5k'. A long-term goal would be 'Now that I've done that 5k, I'm going to a 1k or half marathon, or even a marathon, in one to two to three years from now'. So, they're all important, and most important is they can be modified at any point in time when you have reached that point in the future.
What questions should I ask my doctor before starting an exercise program?
When you go to your doctor to get the physical examination before you begin your fitness programme, you need to tell them, in general terms, what your intentions are; "Doctor, I want to get in shape and this is my general plan." This is because, oftentimes, the doctor may give the fitness professional a release to work with his or her patient with limitations. They may be uniformed about fitness but it doesn't mean that they don't care and don't know in general terms what's going to be best for you for the fitness program. Then, they can work in conjunction with the trainer or the exercise physiologist or the massage therapist or whoever it is. We all need to work together and it starts with good communication with your doctor. Please do that.
How many days a week should I exercise?
People are always wondering how many days a week they should exercise. The answer is not clear cut, because everyone is different. In very, very, general terms, if someone has an established base of fitness and they are not under any specific limitations by their physician, exercising 3 days a week to begin is fantastic. Even 2 days; just get moving! I think, with very, very few exceptions, the most someone should do is 6 days. Lance Armstrong is the only person I know who exercised 7 days of the week, but he's something of an anomaly, and he's also under constant care to make sure his body recovers well enough. If you don't recover, you'll get nowhere; your body does not grow, it doesn't improve while you're doing the physical activity. It only does when you rest.
How much exercise should I get each day?
The amount of time you spend exercising each day depends on what activity you are doing. Obviously just by nature, your cardiovascular activity is going to have to be, in general terms, of longer duration because the whole point is to get your body using oxygen with big muscles over a longer period of time. Cardiovascular training, if it's the day that you are doing that, can be anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour or more. It has to be progressive. You have to listen to your body. You have to use logical progression and get feedback and ask yourself, "Body, how do you feel after I do this?" You have to listen for its response and pay attention to what your body tells you. It will let you know if you can do more or if you did too much.
How often should I train with weights?
Starting out, one should train with weights twice a week. As they progress, they can add it up three days. Then they can progress and add it up to four. There's a division between three and four. This is because if you do three days, Monday, Wednesday, Friday; or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, you can have enough recovery to the points where you can exercise with weights -your whole body - and then have enough recovery and repeat it again. When you go four days a week of weight training, there's not enough recovery time in between each weight lifting session. So, because of that, you need to start breaking up your body; whether it be all push exercises one day and all pulls the next, or all upper and all lower, or chest, back and shoulders, and then the next day arms and legs, and so forth. When you start to go with five and six days of weight training, you have to divide it further.
Why is iron important in a fitness program?
Iron is essential in a fitness program if you're an athlete, but iron is specifically crucial for a female athlete. All too often, female athletes are susceptible to iron-poor blood, and sometimes this lack of iron is due to the menstrual cycle, and sometimes the lack of iron is just due to the amount of exercise they're doing by itself. If you do not have an iron deficiency, there is really no need to supplement additional iron. That can cause other health problems. So only supplement iron if there is a deficit, only if some test shows that you are lacking iron. It's important because iron helps haemoglobin, a component of your blood, combine with oxygen, which is transported to the working muscle. So if you're able to transport more oxygen to the working muscle, you will have the ability to do your activity for a longer duration, and improve your performance.
Why is calcium important if I'm on a fitness program?
Calcium is important if you're on a fitness programme above and beyond for the reason that it builds strong bones and teeth, which can help you reduce your chance of injury, both to your mouth and your bones while you're doing the activity. Calcium assists in the process of the muscular contraction itself; it is a catalyst for the action of the muscle contraction. So, if you are lacking calcium, it is possible that you may not get the optimal muscle contraction during your activity, which would reduce your performance. It is possible to get enough calcium in calcium rich foods such as milk and cheese and so forth, however, if people choose not to eat that food group, or drink the milk, or have an allergy for whatever reason, then supplementation is definitely a good idea. Calcium supplements are specifically a good idea for women who may be pre-menopausal or post-menopausal, because you want to reduce the incidence, or the likelihood, of osteoporosis.
Can I hurt myself from exercising too much?
That is probably one of the most common things that I've seen over the years that I've been a fitness professional. People get a little overzealous. They can be sincere, and they can be sincerely wrong at the same time. They can be very excited. You have to remember that it's a journey, and the point of the journey isn't necessarily to arrive; it's to enjoy the process. So people want to get to their end destination too quickly, and that's where they run into trouble. They don't pause long enough to get feedback from their body so their body can tell them the story of what's actually happening. People definitely get hurt from exercising too much. You know that you've exercised too much if you have insomnia. You think, "Man, if I exercise a lot it seems like I'd be sleeping a lot." but what happens is your body is so revved up that it actually has a hard time slowing down enough. As a result you don't get into quality REM sleep and then you don't release the growth hormone as much as you should, which would further help your recovery and help you lose body fat as well.
What should I do if I injure myself during my regimen?
Many years ago, we thought that people should absolutely just rest if you have an injury. Don't do anything. Just put an icepack on it, compress it, elevate it, and do nothing. Although, it's still important to do what's call “PRICE” – pressure, rest, ice, compression, elevation – that's important to do for an acute injury. However, what we're learning, you know, post-surgery or soon after the initial swelling and trauma has taken place, it's good to get active again – sparingly, appropriately, and progressively, according to your doctor's guidelines, and athletic trainer, and/or a physical therapist, and then, down to your personal trainer as well. So, we have to respect the injury. We have to respect the body. And yet, if you just sit there, you lose joint mobility, there's more atrophy that will take place in the muscle so the muscle will just shrink, and you lose the neural stimulation to that area. So, your recovery, your road back, will take longer. So, as long as you're not doing something that will aggravate it – for example, if you turned your ankle, I wouldn't go and play tennis in a tournament where you'll have to go and stop suddenly again. However, if you are walking on a treadmill, or riding a bike, or getting a massage on your ankle, and doing those sorts of things, that's smart and you should do that as soon as you're physically able to and your doctor or your physical therapist says it's okay to. Absolutely.
What supplements can I take for muscle and joint soreness?
Oftentimes people have not only muscle soreness from exercise, but joint soreness from working out, just the process of getting a little older, or stress from running down hill perhaps or something like that. There are three supplements I think are very beneficial, and one of those is glucosamine and another is chondroitin, and oftentimes those two are put together in a topical formula or an oral capsule or tablet. This has been proven in numerous clinical studies to be very beneficial to help nourish the joints and actually reduce the pain and soreness. The other thing I would recommend is Arnica, which comes from a root, Arnica montana. When I first learned about this I was training an older gentleman, he was telling me about it many years ago, and I said “Yeah yeah, I'm not sure if I buy into that.” and now I realize that all the research supports it as well. You can get it sublingual. You can get it in capsules. They put it in topical formulas. They have it in gels, and oftentimes in topical formulas where they'll add the glucosamine, the chondroitin and the Arnica all together and it works incredibly well.
Can I benefit from exercising in shorter intervals?
It depends on what you are doing to benefit from exercising in short intervals. Weight training is a good example; you can benefit from short intervals targeting a certain muscle area. You would have to do more strenuous exercise for longer in order to benefit from it and to actually burn all the stores of fat.
Why is it important to be consistent with an exercise routine?
Consistency above all else is most important. I've seen people who have pretty good form, they're pretty strong, they have pretty good flexibility, and they may even have a good personal trainer who is very talented or guides them along. However, if you are inconsistent, you will consistently fall short of your goals for your body, your fitness and your overall health. Consistency has to be there. Think about anything that you've ever done in life and you've been inconsistent with. How good are you at that? A good example is the game of golf. You have to get out there, and although it may be a frustrating sport, you have to get out there again and again and again, until it becomes a natural pattern, a natural part of it. When you're teaching your kids to brush their teeth at night, it's that habitual pattern; it's a ritual, and pretty soon they don't think about it, they just do it. The same thing applies to your fitness regimen. Habit is just part of your daily occurrence, part of your identity; who you are. Be consistent, embrace it and enjoy it.
What should I do after I exercise?
When you are done with your exercise program, there is a process that you can follow where you are really going to gain even more benefit. For example, you've just finished weight lifting and you are at the health club. You should cool down for a few minutes on an exercise bike, or treadmill, or something of that nature. After that, you can do some passive stretching. You would want to do more of an active stretch before exercising to make the muscle ready to do the activity, whereas after the work out, you could do more of passive stretch because your muscles are not going to have a demand place upon on them. Then when you are done with that, make sure that you drink enough water: 8 to 16oz, in order to help flush out your system. Then, within 15 minutes, have something to eat that has a little higher carbohydrate or sugar content, just a bit. This is because you are going to raise your sugar back up, but only with a small amount of food. Then about 15 to 20 minutes later, you can have a balanced meal with proteins, fats and carbohydrate to help stabilize your blood sugar through out the rest of the day.