Tips For Starting (Or Jumpstarting) Your Exercise Regimen
How are your resolutions to get fit, exercise more, and lose weight going? If you need a nudge or some encouragement, check out my doable-with-a-busy-schedule approach to getting results.
Quick Start Guide
- Start doing some form of exercise every day (walk around the block, take the stairs rather than the elevator); try to do more intense workouts at least at couple of times weekly (ideal is 3-5 times/week).
- If you haven’t already, set an achievable goal. You might decide that you’ll lift weights 3 days per week or walk 1 mile every day or run 20 miles per week. Or, you can aim for improving your mile time, or 100 yard freestyle time, or cycling speed. Still yet, you might want to sign up for a community walk, 5K, or charity bike ride.
- Try weight training to lose weight (it can increase your metabolism) and build strength, which helps to avoid injury.
- Get gear (clothing, shoes, equipment, and supplies) from local shops; you may pay more but you’ll be more likely to get the right gear the first time and you should be able to get training advice and/or tips on local groups that offer training support.
- Schedule your workouts as if they were appointments or business meetings, especially if you always seem to be pressed for time.
- Rest, eat well, and drink plenty of water. Your body needs to recover in order to become stronger.
Track your progress from month to month (or whatever time period seems reasonable to you) by measuring your:
- Weight and/or body size (chest, waist, thighs)
- Resting heart rate (when you get up in the morning)
- Heart rate after climbing a bunch of stairs or running a mile or whatever activity you choose
These measurements should decrease though you may gain weight from having extra muscle or even increase in body size if you started with a thin body, based on my observations. (Consult a medical professional or trainer if you'd like personalized information on body changes).
To me, much of the exercise battle (besides finding time) is feeling confident about what you’re doing; if you need help putting together an exercise program, ask for help from an athletic friend or someone who works at the shop where you bought your gear, hire a trainer, buy a book on training, or check out an online training plan. To get you going and speaking intelligently about training regimens, here's some athletic lingo:
- Interval Training: sets of sprints (going really fast for say 30 seconds to 2 minutes) with short periods of recovery (time to catch your breath before doing another sprint); others may describe interval training as hard work for several minutes followed by recovery
- Endurance Training: running, walking, swimming, or cycling for long distances, which may range from one to 100 miles depending on the sport, your fitness level, and goals
- Strength Training: building stronger muscles by lifting weights, which I like to do through resistance training using non-free-weight-type machines (such as Cybex or Nautilus brand equipment)
- Splits: your time at specific intervals of a race; for example if you are running a 10K, you might get mile splits telling you how fast you are running each mile so that you can increase your pace or relax a bit in order to conserve energy for the end of the race
- Pace clock: a time-measurement device found on swimming pool decks indicating time within each minute in 5-second increments (usually with 1-second hash marks); for more swim-related lingo, see this Masters Swimming site
- 5K/10K: distances of approximately 3.1/6.2 miles, usually for a foot race
- Century/Metric Century Bike Ride: 100 miles/62 miles (give or take a few miles, depending on road layouts)
- Drafting: riding close behind another cyclist, letting the other person block the wind in order to conserve energy (you are supposed to take turns being the lead person)
- Open water swim: swimming event or training activity not held in a pool but rather in a lake, river, or ocean
- Grade: steepness of trail or road that you are running or cycling
- SAG support: people in motorized vehicles (often vans) who follow cyclists and provide support if someone needs help (has a flat tire or just gets tired); see Wikipedia for more cycling terminology
- Heart-rate based training: training based on heart rate and using a heart monitor (seems lot a lot of math while sweating but apparently this method is helpful to many people)
- Road/Mountain/Hybrid Bikes: types of bicycles made specifically for the road, trails in the woods, and a mixture of surfaces (asphalt, ground, gravel), respectively
- No Drop: bicycle rides where the pace is set for the slowest rider and/or other riders will wait at intersections for the slower riders
- Taper: reducing your workout load and/or intensity before a competitive event in order to prevent your body from being tired on race day and have peak performance
- Personal best: your best time for a particular type of race (5K road race; Century bike ride) or your best time for a specific race that follows the same path every year
For those of you who have set a goal to participate in a community athletic event, here are my steps to success:
- Find events in your area by visiting www.active.com or looking for flyers at bike shops, gyms, and sporting goods stores
- Look at race results from prior years to judge competitiveness of an event; don’t let speedy people deter you but it is helpful to get an idea of what times are within a normal range and/or when rest stops may be closed and SAG support ends.
- Register for events in advance in order to get a slight discount (usually $5 on a fee of $15-20) and guarantee a space in the event, if participation is limited
- Sign the waiver, which seem scary but nearly all well-organized events will require you to sign a waiver indicating that you have trained for the event and understand the risks associated with participating
- Get your registration materials, such as your race number (attach to your shirt with safety pins provided) or ID bracelet, cue sheet with directions and turns (bicycle rides), and goody bag with an event t-shirt (if included in race fee) and promotional items
- Have fun!
Whatever you do, be persistent even when you get waylaid by outside obligations; you'll be amazed at the cumulative, beneficial effect of exercise.
These ideas are based on my experiences as an AAU swimmer, high school track team member, occasional runner, and wannabe faster cyclist. It is helpful to get professional training advice or even consult a physician before starting your own regimen.