I imagine many of you will already be signing up to a gym in January. There are so many deals available at present to get you tied into contracts and signed up to classes! There are also plenty of workout routines available on the internet to give a go… so what is the catch?
Well while investing in a gym membership is something I strongly believe in, I also question how many people are ready for that kind of physical stress! Type in ‘beginner training plan’ on google and you are presented with a series of routines that involve an advanced level of experience to perform correctly with little to no recovery between sets!
If you have been inactive for a period and work in a sedentary role, there is a high probability that your posture, mobility and flexibility will be impaired. Your aerobic capacity and ability to recover during and after exercise, will have taken a bit of beating while you have been inactive! The body can adapt to new stressors without question, however, I feel that taking your body from doing nothing to performing high intensity sprint intervals, spin classes and unstructured resistant training is one of the most common mistakes I see in the gym each day! Aside from the risk of injury, many of you will experience soreness for days after your first workout and this can make or break your relationship with the gym!
5 Steps to Starting in the Gym
Whilst you may want fast results, hitting the gym 6-7 times a week may hold you back! I ask any client that is just starting off on their weight loss journey to begin with a maximum of 3 resistant training sessions a week. The days they are not in the gym, I ask them to focus on aerobic fitness through fast paced walks outdoors, swimming or other forms of cardio equipment they have available. Often going to the gym three times a week and focusing on hitting step count goals on non training days is more that enough to illicit a response in reducing weight and changing body shape!
Going to a gym for the first time, when you are low on confidence and already feel out of place can be quite a daunting prospect. There are always the usual characters you see in most gyms, the grunters, posers, equipment hoggers etc.! Walking into the gym without a plan, not being entirely sure what each piece of equipment does and seeing these guys is enough to put anyone off!
I recommend you go into each session with a plan of action. If you intend to hit the gym at a busy period, be prepared for the fact you may not be able to perform the exercises you want in the same order, so either be prepared to change things up a little or develop alternatives for exercises!
I find that most beginners, will benefit from 3 full body routines a week, as opposed to working individual muscle groups in each session. So rather than perform an hour working chest, you would get more benefit from performing 1-2 exercises on your legs, chest, shoulders, back and arms within that time 3 times a week. In the early days of training, where you should really be focusing on proper lifting technique and getting a mind to muscle connection with each muscle you work, it can often be difficult to build any intensity into sessions, so using supersets where you group 2 exercises together with minimal rest between them is a great idea! Increased frequency will also enable you to work each muscle group more frequently each week, whilst giving you more than enough time to recover between training sessions. I opt for
I asked a question on Instagram a few weeks ago, whether people feel it is necessary for everyone to go through a full range of motion on a squat. The results came in and over 80% of people said yes! From working with hundreds of clients over the past 5 years, I can count only a handful of these guys that were mobile and had enough strength to complete a full range of motion on a squat!
The first thing you should consider with exercise selection is your capability. Do not let ego take over here! Just because the guy next to you is squatting or deadlifting, it does not mean you should. Find exercises that you can perform, where you feel a muscle working first and foremost, look to engage a muscle before adding serious weight to it! You may end up doing more resistant machine based workouts to begin with as they enable to you avoid injury, remain stable and control your lift! The more you practice these lifts, the better you will become, at which point you can start to progress into other exercises.
Understanding the importance of recovery is key to improving your body, health and mental state. Going into a training routine on the back of years of sedentary behaviours and most likely a high stress lifestyle including work, family and lifestyle factors, you will not be in an optimal position to recover from training or change your body shape!
Training itself is a stress that you are adding to the list of things your body must deal with daily. This list may also include poor nutritional intake, highly stressed lifestyles and a lack of sleep. If your body is in a highly stressed state this can lead to immune dysregulation, inflammation (especially of the joints) and poor gut health. Ensure you are fuelling your body correctly with real food to recover from sessions, optimise sleep quality to improve muscle repair and monitor your stress and recovery using apps like HRV Elite (requires a heart rate monitor) or your waking blood pressure.
If you want to know the exact training plan I recommend to a beginner to improve body shape, weight loss and avoid injury, read Chapter 2 of my free guide to successfully losing 10lbs, where you will receive a training plan and plenty of guidance around incorporating exercise into your daily routine!