If you’re just starting out at the gym for the first time, it can be a daunting task to embark on solo. Just remember, though, that every single fitness trainer and guru you look up to began in exactly the same place you’re in now — and if they can get to where they are, so can you.
Whether you’re training for a half-marathon for the first time or learning how to lift weights, these general fitness tips will help you reach your goals. And they’re straight from the experts, so you know you’re in for something good. Let these nuggets of advice be your greatest allies as you get fitter and healthier in 2018.
Make Yourself a Plan, but Start Out Slow
It’s always a good idea to start off with a program, whether it’s an online program like BBG, a program created for you by your trainer, or one you made up for yourself. Whatever you decide to do, though, make sure you take your time at the beginning, because biting off more than you can chew will set you up for failure in the long run.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, so expect to see good but steady results over time.”
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, so expect to see good but steady results over time,” Kristi Castlin, bronze medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics for the 100-meter hurdles, told POPSUGAR. Rather than trying to run five miles on your first day, slowly work your way up to it. The same goes for strength training. You won’t be able to squat your bodyweight in the first month, so make sure you’re slowly leading up to those big goals.
Start Strength Training More Often
Cardio is a great way to burn calories, build endurance, and strengthen your cardiovascular system, but if you want to get really fit and see significant changes in your body, you have to lift weights more regularly. That’s how you build visible lean muscle and achieve that gorgeous toned look.
“Weightlifting raises your resting metabolic rate, which simply means the amount of calories your body burns in and out of the gym increases,” added Ridge Davis, a personal trainer in West Hollywood, CA. If weight loss is on your agenda for 2018, weightlifting is for you.
Do More Compound Lifting Than Isolated Movements
Although exercises like donkey kicks and bicep curls have their place, it makes much more sense to spend your time doing bigger compound exercises since these movements will activate multiple muscle groups at once. Ridge suggests doing these five on a regular basis, and he also explains which parts of the body they target:
- Lunges: legs, core, stability
- Squats: back, legs, core
- Deadlifts: back, glutes, hamstrings
- Renegade rows: back, shoulders, core
- Dumbbell push press: legs, shoulders, core
If you incorporate these into your program more often, you’ll see your body shaping up and getting stronger in no time.
Don’t Skimp Out on Good Food
Eating is a crucial part of getting fit! Your muscles can’t grow if you aren’t feeding them enough nutrition. Dee (Diksha) Gautham, NASM-certified personal trainer and NPC bikini competitor, told POPSUGAR, “Protein is the building block of our muscle tissues and will support muscle recovery and building strength.”
“Protein is the building block of our muscle tissues and will support muscle recovery and building strength.”
Although the CDC recommends women eat about 46 grams of protein a day, experts say you should aim to consume more than that if you’re doing strength training and working on your fitness. “The general rule is that it is necessary to eat at least 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight per day,” said Dr. Luiza Petre, a board-certified cardiologist and weight-loss specialist.
Don’t be scared of carbs, either. Your body needs complex carbs like whole-grain toast and sweet potatoes to regain energy, recover, and give your muscles fuel to complete the next workout.
Incorporate Enough Rest Days Into Your Program
There is a tendency to work out often and hard when you first start out. It’s an exciting new change in your life, and it doesn’t take long for you to fall in love with exercising regularly. However, don’t overdo it, because you won’t get the results you’re looking for — and you might end up getting hurt.
“Mismanagement of rest can lead to getting sick or injured, and this will put you out of the gym even longer than just putting in that one day of resting!” Ridge said. This is his recommended training schedule for beginners:
- Monday: train
- Tuesday: rest
- Wednesday: train
- Thursday: rest
- Friday: train
- Saturday: cardio
- Sunday: rest
We’re creatures of habit, so when we find one kind of workout we love, we tend to stick with it day in and day out. But your fitness has much more room to improve if you choose to cross train. If you’re a lover of running or cycling, toss in a few strength-training sessions. If you love to hit the weight room, do some yoga or mobility classes to balance it out.
In fact, Michael Olzinski, MSc, Purplepatch endurance coach and Equinox run coach, said, “I would put this as number one on my list. You have to do other modes of exercise to prepare your body to handle the stress of running.”
“Mismanagement of rest can lead to getting sick or injured.”
This goes for any other fitness goals you’ve got, not just running. Our bodies are capable of doing so many different types of movements, so we should give them a chance to get as fit as possible. For example, if you want a new kind of mobility workout to try this year to supplement your cardio and strength training, give Animal Flow a try.
“Animal Flow is a ground-based movement program that’s designed to improve the function and communication of the ‘Human Animal,'” Mike Fitch, trainer and creator of Animal Flow, explained. “Although, if I want to simplify the explanation, I’ll usually just say that it looks like a combination of gymnastics, yoga, and breakdancing with some animals thrown in.”
Imagine how much stronger and more flexible your body will be next time you hit the gym. Success in your fitness program is all about giving your body a well-rounded program that will keep it guessing and growing. And always remember to have fun with it!