Exercise for beginners: do’s and don’t’s

Hello everybody! Welcome back to my blog. The purpose of this blog is to help people find their way to a healthier lifestyle. I mostly talk about exercise, nutrition and the science behind them, which are my areas of expertise, but I also talk about sleeping habits, minimalism and many other subjects related to wellbeing and healthy lifestyle. 

Exercising seems to be complicated these days, even though humans are made to be moving around. Since the first hominids, movement has been key for our survival, as it is for many other animals in the world, past and present. We are not made to be sitting down 8 hours, 5 days a week on a chair, 2 hours on a train or a car, and another 4 hours watching Netflix. It’s not surprising that the only obese animals in the animal kingdom are ourselves and our pets.

Today’s post has the focus on those who have never exercised or cannot even remember when was the last time they did exercise, though it might inspire other people as well. Enjoy these do’s and don’t’s when you exercise for the first time in your life or after a long period of a sedentary lifestyle.

DO’S

  1. Move more.

Many people become overwhelmed and intimidated by the idea of changing their lifestyle and what’s worse, they don’t realise how long it takes to adapt and therefore, frustration and giving up come alongside with it. To make this journey a bit easier, the number 1 step I recommend you to take if you haven’t exercised in a long time, or if this is your first time ever, is to move more: use the stairs, avoid using mechanical stairs or elevators as much as possible, walk to work, the gym, or to run your errands when possible rather than using the car or public transport, and if the travel is too long for you to walk all the way, get off the train one or two stops before or park your car a bit further away, spend part of your break at work or school going for a brisk walk, stand up every hour for a couple of minutes and go for a little walk around, do some stretches, or do 10 squats. There’s so many things you can do to move more even if you work in an office, my favourite being setting up your computer to print at the furthest printer from your desk.

Don’t be fooled by the idea that after sitting the whole day at work, 1 or 2 hours at the gym would do the job, especially when your routine is full of sitting-down exercises. Resistance training is indeed important to include in anyone’s routine and healthy lifestyle, but spending a couple of hours doing exercise will never compensate 9 hours of being sedentary.

  1. Start with 4 to 6 weeks of anatomical adaptation.

This is an important step that barely anyone follows, and sometimes the cause of many people giving up and not going back to the gym after one or two weeks. Your body is not used to exercising, therefore you’ll be really sore after just the first session. Anatomical adaptation is the process of getting your body (muscle, bones, tendons, cartilages, cardiorespiratory system) used to the exercise. Start with full body exercises that allow you to use multiple groups of muscles, such as squats with shoulder press, push ups against the wall, sideways squats with biceps curls, TRX triceps press downs, etcetera. This kind of exercises are also quite easy to perform, therefore they are good for beginners. Do this routine 2 to 3 times a week for the first weeks alongside with moving more and you’ll start seeing the results internally (better mood, better sleep hygiene, better energy). Do not expect to see huge external changes in just 4 to 6 weeks, which is another mistake we make.

  1. Change your mindset.

One of the reasons why I didn’t want to be a PT anymore is that I was always pushed to find out everyone’s “numeric” goal. A goal must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound). I do not agree. It’s good for us trainers to have an idea of your goals in order to measure whether we did all we could to assist you, but I personally feel like this is a rule to assess us trainers rather than a useful tool to help certain people. By pushing clients to find a goal that has all this specifications we are not promoting them to exercise for fun, health, or simply just because, we are pushing them to see exercise as a mere way to achieve their goals. And then, what?

Some people will find passion in exercising and will keep doing it with an internal motivation and SMART goals can be a really good way to monitor their progress, but some people will be so scared of going back to their original selves that they won’t skip a session, potentially getting obsessed. In my opinion, the fitness industry is not going towards the real change, but rather increasing the business by making people think that being healthy is so very difficult that they cannot do it by themselves. Asking for help is a great way to start your journey, and in many cases the only way for a kick start, but there is a very thin line between asking for help and relaying completely in your trainer for results. Take this post to feel more empowered, you can achieve great results without setting SMART goals.

Some goals that are not smart but are definitely great to have are: feel better, improve my mood, improve my period aches, live a longer and healthier life, be able to play with my kids or grandkids, be able to play the Sunday match with my mates, improve my mental health, etcetera.

  1. Ask for professional help.

Personal trainers, nutritionists, psychologists, physios, are just examples of professionals who can help you in your journey, especially when you don’t know where to start or what to do. Please do ask a PT or trainer how to perform any exercise correctly. If you can’t afford a PT on a regular basis, at least get one to give you your first exercise routine and to show you how to do it. This may cost you more or less money depending on where you go, but there is ways to get a PT for a one off and a check up every couple of weeks or monthly. By investing this money on a PT you’ll avoid having to pay other professionals because you’ve had an injury or you fell sick.

  1. Consider your diet and sleeping habits.

At this point you should know that exercise by itself is simply not enough to get fit. In this blog we have explored nutrition and sleeping habits and their importance for a wholesome lifestyle. Check some of my posts about these subjects, and find out more clicking on BLOG at the top left on the screen.

DON’T’S

  1. Do not compare yourself with others.

This is one of the most common mistakes I have seen in many clients, and even myself. We tend to have that external motivation, we want to achieve what others have, and if we don’t, we get frustrated and we think “why this person did it but I am not capable of it”. Every person has their own journey, and even though it sounds good when you put it in words, the reality is different, because we compare ourselves and other people compare us with others. People who love us do this with the good intention of making us better, but the truth is that they’re contributing to our frustration and a lack of self-esteem. For example, if you’re setting your SMART goals and your trainer keeps asking you “why do you want to achieve this” (which they’ll do until they find the answer that fits in one of the categories), you’ll see if your “why” has more to do with other factors (external motivation) or if your why is coming within (internal motivation). Hint: if it’s internal motivation, you won’t even know why (been there, done that).

  1. Do not do whatever Instagram or YouTube says.

One of the other bigger mistakes we make is to try the exercises, routines, fashionable diets, and tips that we find on Instagram or YouTube. On my post “Fitness mistakes 1: imitate instagram fitness gurus” I talk about this topic, check it out!

To summarise, those gurus do not tell you their whole story about how much they train, how often, when they started exercising. Trying to do what they did will only lead you to frustration. Having role models is great, but don’t fall for this!

  1. Do not get obsessed.

A couple of weeks ago I shared a post about this topic, check it out!

Having a healthy lifestyle requires some sacrifices and a lot of commitment, but there is a thin like between doing the right thing and getting obsessed with it. Watch out for the signs (becoming intolerant to having a day off, feeling guilty for skipping the diet or the training session once in a while, worrying about putting on 1 or 2 kilos after holidays). If you ever feel that you have gotten obsessed and you don’t know what to do, run these issues by a psychologist.

  1. Do not relay only on exercise to get results.

Just doing some exercise is much better than doing nothing, but the big results come from a combination of different factors that mixed together guarantee better results. A healthy diet, sleeping hygiene, good social relationships, and being on top of other areas of our health (such as psychological or dental health) are as important for a healthy lifestyle as it is to do exercise. My coach used to encourage all of us to go get check ups with our dentist regularly. He had a really bad tooth decay that stopped him from performing because of the pain, the discomfort, the many nights waking up multiple times in pain, the effect of the painkillers. As soon as he got that fixed, he started performing much better. This is just an example of how important it is to be on top of our health in every sense.

  1. Do not do this all by yourself.

Apart from looking for professional help, talk about this with your inner circle. Having the support of our peers will make this a bit easier, and will also allow you to identify who’s willing to support you and who might be interfering in your purposes. As bad as this sounds, some friends or family members may try to do anything to make you change your mind. Put some space between you and them, make sure you stay on the right track, and surround yourself by people who have the same goals and lifestyle. And hopefully you’ll become a role model for those who did not support you at first.

That’s it for today! I really hope that you enjoy it. If you like what I do and you want to support this project, follow me on Instagram and Facebook, like the post and comment! Should you have feedback you’d like to leave, a comment to share with me, or a cool idea for a post, send me an email to sanchisayslifestyle@gmail.com

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