You’ve finally decided enough is enough! You’re going to turn off Keeping Up the Kardashians [don’t worry, there’s TVs at the gym] and get your butt on the treadmill! Congratulations! If you’re anything like me, deciding to take that first step in improving your lifestyle is the hardest part.
So, let me guess. You put on those dusty tennis shoes and the sports bra with the tag still on it and reluctantly make your way to the gym. You’re feeling good about this, but then you walk into gym…so many people, so many machines, and so many weights. Where do you start? Do you start with weights and then go to the machines or is it the other way around? Do I need to focus on certain body parts? How long do I workout? Do I need to eat before or after I exercise?
In my experience, I’ve found exercising to be gratifying but at the same time, it can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath. It’s okay, you’re a beginner and this is all new. I was in the same boat. First, people exercise for different reasons and want different results. A beginner like you isn’t going to have the same workout regime as Mr. Bicep lifting those 100-pound weights! Some people workout to bulk up and gain muscle, while some peoples’ main goal is to just lose weight. If you’re like me, you have a few pounds to lose but you want to tone your muscles as well.
Here are a few tips that might help you out for your next workout. Keep in mind that I’m not Jillian Michaels nor do I claim to be. These are based solely from experience and a little research.
- Try to eat a small meal or at least a snack an hour or so before you work out.
I’ve made the mistake of eating too much or not eating enough before I workout. The trick is to leave yourself enough time to digest the food before you exercise. You might get a cramp if you don’t wait long enough or you might feel light-headed if you wait too long. Since I work out in the evening, I usually have a small dinner and then wait an hour or an hour and a half before exercising.
- Stretch before and after your work out.
This may sound simple, but it’s very important. Some research has shown that it doesn’t make a difference, but I’ve found that it helps to prevent the soreness of your muscles. It doesn’t have to be much. A quick stretch of the arms and legs will do. Make sure to do it before and after your work out.
- As a beginner, start out slow.
The best way to approach working out as a beginner is to start slow and work your way up. You could end up hurting yourself if you start off doing too much. Experts recommend doing cardiovascular activity along with strength training. I would start off doing a little of both, and then you can switch off later doing cardio one day and strength on another.
I suggest 20-30 minutes of cardio to start off. You can walk on a treadmill or try a slow pace on the elliptical. After you get more experience working out, you can alternate your speeds and incline but for now, stay at a moderate pace you are comfortable with.
Practice the same theory with strength training. Start off slow by doing one set of 10-15 reps that targets each of the major muscle groups. You can gradually increase the number of sets or the number of reps you do. I wait until something becomes easy before I increase the weight and number of sets or reps.
Once you get into a workout routine, you can alternate which body part to focus on for each workout. It’s a good idea to do legs one day, arms on another day, and so on.
If you want to focus on toning, wearing weights while doing your cardio is a great way to make your muscles work harder to do the same motion. I started wearing Danskin 5-pound ankle weights a few months ago to help tone up my legs during my workouts. You can get them for $30 at danskin.com.
- Stay hydrated.
This seems like a no-brainer but it’s an important thing to remember. You need ½ to 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes during your workout. So, depending on how long your workout is, you might need a couple of cups of water to stay hydrated. I would stay with water unless you’re working out more than 60 minutes at a time. Experts say to only go with a sports drink if your workout exceeds 60 minutes because they give you more energy than water.
If you want to stay hydrated but don’t enjoy drinking water, you can try enhancing the taste of your water with MiO Liquid Enhancer. They have many flavors that will transform your water into a tasty beverage that will keep hydrated throughout your workout. You can find it in most grocery and convenience stores for about $3.99.
- Try to eat something with protein and carbohydrates after your workout.
I used to not eat anything after my workouts, but it actually helps your muscles recover. If you aren’t hungry, you can try a sports drink or juice to replenish carbohydrates. I try to find something with protein, like peanut butter and crackers, cheese, yogurt or fruit. One of my favorite things to eat after a workout is a Luna Protein Bar. With 12 grams of protein, it’s high in calcium and is a good source of iron and Vitamin D. You can get a box of 12 bars for $14.95 at lunabar.com
There are a lot of myths about protein shakes and meal bars. My husband drinks protein shakes after his workouts. While those have a lot of protein, your body doesn’t care if the protein comes from a shake or from a snack like peanut butter and crackers.
I hope these tips come in handy the next time you hit the gym. I’ve found them to be helpful with my workouts, but everyone’s different. Along the way you may find other ways that work for you. The important thing is to keep your workouts enjoyable, stay healthy and have fun!
Share some of your favorite exercise tips in the comments section below!