Fitness Articles

New to Exercise? Things to Think About

Avoid Early Overkill


Beginning an exercise program can be very overwhelming-- even painful if you aren’t careful. Warming your body up prior to exercise is very important for your health (and safety) and will also help you enjoy your workouts more. Warming up for 5-10 minutes will raise your body temperature and prepare your cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems for the demands of exercise by slowly increasing the blood circulation to and from your heart and muscles.

Warming up helps your connective tissues better handle the stress of exercise, decreasing your chance of injury. Connective tissue is similar to hard plastic; if you don’t warm-up plastic it won’t be flexible, and is much more likely to "break."

Proper warm ups (and cool downs) also help reduce the severity of soreness in the next day or two following your workout. The increased blood flow helps deliver more oxygen to the muscles and gets rid of the waste products that contribute to soreness. Increased blood flow also helps bring more fuel to your body, resulting in better performance.

Warm up with a low-impact exercise at a slower, more comfortable pace than your actual workout. Warm up exercises like biking, an elliptical machine, walking, or rowing allow your body to warm up with limited stress to your joints.

Another reason for soreness is trying to do too much too soon. Don’t try to make up for lost time. Start out with a few exercises and slowly progress. Your body will gradually adapt to the increased stress. If you are starting resistance training for the first time, try picking 1-2 exercises for each area of the body - the upper body, lower body and core. Also take into consideration the anterior (front) and posterior (back) parts of the body. For example, if you pick two core exercises, you might try bicycle crunch for the abdominals (front of the body) and lumbar extension for the lower back (posterior part of the body).

If you are a beginner to aerobic training, start out with something like walking that raises your heart rate a little bit, nothing that will get you too out of breath. Try doing this for 10 minutes the first few times you exercise, slowly progressing the duration of the workout. If you've increased the time to a point where you can handle 30 minutes at that pace, start building a little more intensity. For example, you could attempt 2 or 3 days of 30 minutes each at your initial pace, followed by a 10-minute day at an increased intensity.

Another area of frustration for the beginner is energy level. Most people expect to exercise the first few weeks and experience a shot of energy. In actuality, the opposite often occurs. Your body isn’t used to the added stress, which causes you to feel fatigued and even drained, especially if you overdo it. Don’t get discouraged; it’s natural to feel this way until your body adapts. As your body acclimates itself, your cardiovascular system will become more conditioned, causing you to have more energy and focus throughout the day. Your efforts will pay off.

Overexertion will trigger stiffness and soreness, causing many people to give up on exercise completely. If you do overdo it, there are a few things you can do to feel better. Exercise actually breaks your muscles down – sleep, nutrition, and hydration play a vital role in their recovery. Proper rest, refueling your body with healthy food, and drinking plenty of water will help you recover much more quickly. In the days that follow, doing a low impact exercise at a low to moderate intensity and stretching will deliver more oxygen and blood to help clean out the waste and bring more nutrients to your muscles.

Your body loses a large quantity of water when you work out, so it is very important to drink more water as you exercise. Active people should drink at least 10-12 eight-ounce cups a day, throughout the day, taking extra care to rehydrate during the workout. This will keep your joints moving fluidly and flush out the toxins that might be building up in your muscles. Headaches, stiffness, and cramping are all results of dehydration.

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Member Comments

  • Thanks for the reminder. I know most of this info and yet....jump right in and regret it later. GAH!
  • MSQC2U
    Thanks for this very useful information.
  • Thanks for the article. I had a question though. I am always reading that you must drink water during a workout but I always get what people call stitches when I drink water near to the start of a workout or during it. I often have to cut my workout short because it's s painful. Any comment or suggestion on that?
    Thank you! I am learning some thing new everyday.
  • Very useful information! Thank you.
  • NJ_HOU
    Great article especially the part about fatigue not energy happening. For a novice you could also point out strech out straps (aka advanced dog leash) are great to use to keep you from hurting yourself. Also a series of these simple streching exercises can take about 30 to 45 minutes and create your entire work out as a beginner. further, you hopefully won't have all the warm up streches / cool down streches as that is the exercise you are doing.
  • Great article - Thanks
    Take it easy at first, warm up, exercise, stretch, hysdrate.....
  • Thank you. I am 42 and have been 'interested' in working out since my late teens. I could never stick to anything though because I was always sooooooo tired.
    I am still at that level. I only have a couple hours of energy a day. Much of that is because of my low thyroid which makes me feel sluggish, and admittedly, much of it is my food choices. I appreciated this article. It gave me a lot of insight and will certainly help me in making my decisions. I'm gonna rewrite my goals so I can 'no-doubt-about-i
    t' stick to them!
    I never heard that beginning an exercise program can lead to energy level problems. I get these (I call them "power failures"). Thank you for mentioning this. It will help me keep on track. It is both scary and frustrating to feel weak when one is trying to be stronger. Thank you very much, and please keep up the good work!
  • I was wondering what warmups involved seeing as the stretches came afterwards. Now I know it is gentle exercise prior to the main exercise.
  • Great article. Very helpful.
  • LEENIE1101
    This is great to know. I was tired when I first started and thought that getting up a half hour earlier was not going to work out.
    This article is supper' the writter is very knowlegeable and up to date. I enjoy a great article that make great sense in my daily exercise routine. Thank you
  • Joe shared some wonderful insight in this article. Keep up the great work!

About The Author

Joe Downie Joe Downie
Joe, an exercise enthusiast, is a certified physical fitness instructor and high school soccer coach.