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A beginner’s guide to exercise and fitness

From: Jonathan Angelilli's Fitness Blog,

24
November
2009
A beginner’s guide to exercise and fitness

Congratulations on seeking information on how to exercise!

Our bodies are meant to move every day, and it is impossible to achieve the happiness and health you desire and deserve without exercising. This report is to help beginners with the basics of exercise and fitness. The basics will provide a strong foundation for your success.

There are many competing voices, ideas, and myths in the health and fitness industry. Learning how to exercise is a lifelong commitment, and cannot be accomplished by reading any one book or article. However, this post will deepen your perspective and help guide you on your journey towards health and fitness. This post is broken up into several sections: basic concepts, fitness 101, myths, and fitness secrets. I encourage you to commit to the process of taking control of your health and fitness; it is a worthwhile investment of your time and energy that will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

The Basics

Here are some tips and concepts to keep in mind and do as you get started down the path to health, fitness, and vitality.

  • Your fitness level is built on the foundation of your general health. You cannot get fit if you are not healthy! (You can try, and many people do, but you will train yourself into disease, imbalance, and injury.)
  • You are the author of your own health. You have more power to improve your health than all the doctors, health professionals, and healers in the world combined. Taking control of your health can mean a lot of things, but committing yourself to being healthy is an important first step.
  • In the beginning, the most important goal is to achieve consistency. All other goals will follow once you have the discipline and motivation to work out regularly.
  • Find your reason why! Write down why you want to achieve your goals and what you think will happen if you don’t achieve your health and fitness goals. This is an incredibly powerful tool. Write out the answers to these questions in as much detail as possible, and post it on your wall next to your computer. Keeping your answers at the forefront of your mind will help you exercise regularly, and then you will start to achieve results and be even more motivated.
  • Your reason why should be whatever reason gets you most emotional, whatever goal you are most passionate about. Exercise not only transforms your body, but it can also make you smarter, treats depression, prevent many diseases including Alzheimer’s Disease, Coronary Heart Disease, & Osteoporosis, and will improve your focus and confidence. What is your biggest desire that can be achieved by getting fit? Focus on that!

Fitness 101

There was no “intro to fitness” class in grade school or high school, but there should be! Your body is ultimately your responsibility, it is your job to stay in shape and learn the rules of fitness. Learning how to exercise may seem like a daunting task, but again, your body is built to move and is incredibly smart. That is why rule number one, the golden rule, is:

  • Always listen to your body, especially when working out, monitoring your intensity, and choosing exercises and loads.
  • Always warm up extensively and progressively. Take at least 10 minutes and get your whole body moving at a low intensity.
  • A balance exercise program will have strength training, cardiovascular training, and range of motion/stretching components. Start with whatever feels comfortable, but then build to 30 minutes of strength training 3x/week, 45 minutes of cardio 4-5x/week, and stretching/ROM exercise 15 minutes 3x/week. How much you should workout can vary depending on your goals, but quite honestly, these #’s are the minimum amount you need to work out to make sure that you do not move in the wrong direction and maintain what you already have (which is a primary goal).
  • When strength training, be conservative with the weights you pick and increase the weight slowly. Pick weights that allow you to do 20 reps to start, you can gradually lift heavier weights for 8-12 reps once you are comfortable with the exercise.
  • Focus on control and form, and move slowly (a 1/1/1/1 rep count is great for beginner to increase strength without increasing risk of injury. 1/1/1/1 means 1 second up, a 1 second pause, 1 second on the way down, and then a 1 second pause again, which equals 1 rep. Count 1 Mississippi to be sure you are not speeding up.)
  • Don’t add weight or speed until you are very comfortable with the form of a particular exercise.
  • To ensure you keep moving toward your goals, you will need to vary your workouts about every 3 weeks, but be sure to gradually vary the exercises and loads you use to decrease risk of injury.
  • Cardiovascular exercise is critical for maintaining your heart, ideal body weight, body fat, and metabolism. Start gradually, keeping the intensity low, and build up the volume (total time you do cardio exercise) first, before adding intensity (higher speed, intervals). When adding intensity, add it gradually.
  • Keeping a journal is the best way to ensure that your workouts keep evolving, without adding too much variety which will increase the risk of injury.
  • Always use the principle of micro-progression. Each workout should build off the success of your previous workouts by increasing the load/intensity very gradually, as long as you are well rested and fully recovered.
  • Avoid joint pain at all costs! You will experience a wide variety of sensations when working out, and you will get better at identifying the kinds of sensations and what they mean as long as you pay attention to them and respect them. If you feel joint pain, immediately stop the exercise you are doing and lower the intensity or try something else.
  • In some ways, your joints are more important that your heart! You heart is a servant to your body, if you can’t move your body because you hurt your knee or your hip, you cannot stimulate your heart! See a doctor and get a prescription for physical therapy if need be.
  • Be sure to rest in between workouts. Again, follow your body as a guide. When you are exercising, you are breaking down tissue, it is during the rest that your tissues get stronger. If you are very sore from a workout, you can do some active recovery and cardio at a very low intensity to help recover faster.

Myths

  • Working out your core and doing abs will not get rid of the spare tire and love handles! Diet and cardiovascular exercise are the most important factors for having a trim, lean midsection.
  • Lifting weights will not make you look like a body builder. Strength training is critical to obtain an optimal metabolism, bone density, and for muscle balance and injury prevention.
  • Supplements are not the best way to nourish your body, they should be supplemental to a healthy diet of unprocessed whole foods. Most energy bars, if you leave them on the ground, will not be eaten by ants, who do not recognize the bars as food! Neither does your digestion system.

Fitness Secrets

  • If you are having fun, you will stick to the plan. What activity, sport, or kind of exercise sounds like it would be fun to do or learn?
  • Keep it social! Working out with friends and even strangers can help provide support, accountability, and competition, while making exercise more interesting and less boring.
  • Start slow, the goal is to commit to exercising regularly. Once that goal is reached, you can start focusing on aesthetic goals.
  • Always listen to your body! This is the golden rule of exercise. If you need to take a day off, or slow down, do it!
  • Get outside! Enjoy the fall weather, get your body moving, and reconnect with nature. It is the best way to stay stress free and happy.
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Jonathan Angelilli has worked as a full time trainer for over 8 years, has completed 7 certifications, and is currently the Training Director of Dynamic Results, an upscale lifestyle consultation service in NYC. He has directly coached, managed, and mentored over 100 personal trainers in the last 5 years alone, and also co-owns a highly successful consulting company for personal trainers.

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