Regular exercise is an important part of any person’s life — here are 11 exercise tips (plus a bonus) for beginners, from a perpetual beginners.
There’s a lot of guides out there about beginning exercise. I’ve read many of them, and found a lot of the tips to be helpful. While I’ve been exercising more or less regularly for the past 10 years, I honestly still consider myself a beginner! I know that might sound silly, but I feel like there’s so much more I need to learn, and so much more endurance to build up. There are times where most of my exercise is just taking Jack on walks (which is totally fine in my opinion), but I’m always looking for new ways to improve my workouts as well.
I thought I would share with you some exercise tips that I’ve found helpful as I’ve tried to become better at exercising!
1) Have a Plan
Maybe it’s just me, but when I go to the gym with no plan of what I’m going to do, I end up just dawdling around from machine to machine, feeling kind of lost. I leave the gym feeling like I really didn’t do much of anything, when in reality, I just did a tiny bit of everything. While this is still better than not working out at all, I’ve found when I have a plan in mind, I’m much more succesful.
For instance, the other day when I went to the gym, and I was determined to go around the track 10 times — walking or running, that’s what I wanted to do — and then do 10 minutes on the weight machines. After I accomplished this, it felt so good!
Your plan can be as simple as you want it to be — just pick something that works for you. Here are a few options I like:
- Running/Walking Outside — Free!
- Blogilates – Free
- Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred (1.99 per episode, or 9.99 for the DVD)
- Gym Membership — this will obviously vary, depending on where you live. We personally love going to the rec center near our house because it’s cheap, has a pool, and state of the art equipment. It makes it easier to work out as a family! Check around for different deals at the gyms in your area (I think one of the best deals you can find is Planet Fitness!)
2) Don’t Get Discouraged
This is one area I need to work on more, for sure. In a world where instant gratification is desired (though, not ideal), it can be hard not to see results right away. I think it’s important to remember that maintaining a healthy lifestyle does take work, and not all the effects will be seen right away. It might be tempting (if you are trying to lose weight) to go on a crash or fad diet, especially one that claims to have you lose tons of weight right away, but they aren’t worth it! Slow and steady wins the race. Always remember that. Even if you are just exercising to just maintain a healthy lifestyle (which, you should definitely be doing), remember that even if exercising seems like another thing on your list of things to do, it will help keep you alive longer to have a list of things to do 😉
3) Drink Lots of Water
The recommended amount of water a person should drink is at least 8 glasses (8 ounces each) of water. I’ve been trying to drink two liters a day lately, and let me tell you, it can be hard! However, water is the key to feeling energized, losing weight, increasing stamina while exercising, and just helping your body work better. I know that when I drink more water, I feel so much better, even if it’s hard to remember. When you are first starting to exercise, if you find yourself feeling sluggish and extra tired and sore…re-evaluate how much water you are drinking! One important thing to remember, however, is that it’s usually better to drink tiny sips of water while exercising, rather than chugging it. I don’t know if there’s anything scientific reason behind this, but I know that I tend to cramp up when I chug water, rather than just sipping.
I’ve found that putting some lemon juice in my water is a great way to add some flavor, without added calories or artificial ingredients. I’ll admit, I’m kind of addicted! Infused water bottles are AWESOME. You can put all sorts of fruits (or vegetables!) in them, and it makes drinking water a little more flavorful.
4) Short, Intense Workouts > Long periods of exercising
There is a lot of debate on what type of exercise is the best, and really, when it comes down to it, if you are doing something, that’s better than nothing. However, intense interval training appears to be the general consensus for the most effective workouts. Personally, I prefer this, because I’ve never been the type to really enjoy riding the eliptical for an hour, or even participating in an hour long group class. If you are doing intense intervals of working out for 15 minutes, it will burn more calories overall, in a faster amount of time, over other workouts (at least that’s what I’ve read!)
There are a lot of websites, and even fitness clubs, out there with exercise plans that follow the short, intense plan, and a lot of them are free. One site I highly recommend is Tone and Tighten. It’s a great website with TONS of realistic workouts, and fitness and health plans, that are great for anyone. My favorite are the 10 minute workouts (about half way down this page) that can easily be done at home. They are super intense, but super effective, too. I did this “100 Calories in under 10 minutes” workout awhile back, and it was one of the best workouts I ever had done. So definitely check that site out for some great tips.
5) Listen to Something
Not everyone will enjoy music while exercising, but for me, I always find it to be rather soothing. Instead of thinking, “Wow, I can’t wait to be done!” I think, “I love this song!” I personally love just turning on Pandora, and taking whatever they throw at me, but you can easily create a playlist using a service like GrooveShark.com, or just uploading songs to your music player (so your phone, iPod, etc.)
If music isn’t your thing, podcasts or audiobooks are awesome choices too. Forrest always enjoys listening to both those things. With Amazon unlimited, you get access to tons of music and audiobooks for your monthly fee – you can get a 30 day trial to see if it’s worth it!
6) Appropriate Exercise Attire
Earlier I said you can pretty much exercise in just about any clothes you own…and while I stand behind that, I do think that having clothing that is specifically for exercising is a good idea. I’ll talk more about my recommendations later, but make sure you have a reliable athletic shoe for sure. That’s essential.
There is a lot of very expensive exercise clothing out there (where the price may or may not be justified) but places that often have good quality exercise clothing are Target (they had an amazing sale recently — I got a really nice exercise jacket for less than $10) and Costco.
I recently heard about a site called Fabletics that I am really excited about. It was launched by Kate Hudson, who wanted to provide a place for women to get cute, affordable, and high quality exercise attire. When you sign up, you get 50% off your first outfit and free shipping. I just placed my first order (total was 24.99), and I can’t wait for it to arrive. I definitely recommend looking into it!
7) Set Goals
This kind of goes along with having a plan. The best way to measure progress is by having simple goals that you can easily measure — so instead of just saying, “I want to be in better shape,” you could say, “I want to be able to lift 25 pounds” or “I want to lose 3 inches off my waist.” Having goals like these are so much easier to measure than ambiguous ones! Plus, it’s always exciting when you reach a goal.
8) Be consistent
I think this is what always puts me back into the “perpetual beginner” stage. I will go through periods where I exercise every single day, and I’m feeling great, and then something happens, and I get knocked off that high I was on. And then, a few months later, I get started again, pretty much at the same place I started several months ago…and that’s frustrating! I believe a lot of healthy living and exercise comes down to a mind game — you have to retrain your mind into making those things a priority. I’ve been trying to do this a lot lately — making exercise just part of our daily routine that is a priority, rather than a daunting task that is optional. As we’ve done this, it’s really helped us become more consistent. Now, going to the gym is just part of our routine that we all look forward to (especially for Jack, when we go swimming!)
9) Healthy Diet
Overall wellness isn’t just exercising, or drinking water, or just eating a few servings of fruits and vegetables every day. It’s truly a lifestyle that you have to adapt. You can’t expect to be or feel healthy if you eat junk food all day long, even if you still exercise. With that said, I still think indulging in savory (and perhaps even fattening foods) is okay every now and then. Moderation in all things, right?
10) Support System
For me, consistently exercising and eating healthy is so much easier when I have someone to talk to and encourage me a long the way. Having a friend or family member to help keep your accountable can be really helpful. Even just having someone to workout with can make it easier to consistently exercise! I know that when I was single, I would usually just exercise by myself. However, on those days I didn’t want to exercise, there wasn’t really anyone there to say, “But we need to!” Now that I am married, Forrest is that support system. On the days I don’t want to exercise most, he’s always encouraging me, and vice versa. It makes a world of difference!
11) Do something you don’t hate
I was thinking of saying “Do something you enjoy” but to be honest, sometimes the most effective exercises are when you aren’t particularly enjoying yourself. Sure, it’s more fun to to ride a stationary bike at a leisurely pace while watching Friends (or am I the only one who does that?!), but ask yourself — is it getting your heart rate up? Are you breaking a sweat? For me, when I find that I’m really enjoying an exercise (aka, I’m not feeling out of breath, or even sweating) it means it’s time to shake things up a little bit. However, I don’t think you should totally be dreading your workouts….so find a happy medium.
For me, I’ve found that if I do something I enjoy (such as Pilates) combined with something I may not love as much (running) I am more successful. Why? I think it’s because when I do Pilates, I can justify not running as much (understand my thinking? Probably not.)
12) Don’t Give Up
There will be times that you just don’t want to exercise. Maybe your sick, or pregnant, or you’d just rather sleep. And that’s okay. Just don’t let those times deter you. I will tell you though, you will likely never regret pushing yourself to exercise or eat healthy. However, you very likely might regret not doing so. It’s worth it to maintain a healthy lifestyle, even when the alternative seems easier.
Exercise Tool Kit:
I’ve said this several times, but you don’t need much of anything to exercise! However, there are things that make it a little easier or effective. Here is my exercise tool kit:
Whey Protein Powder: Protein powder isn’t just for people wanting to build tons of muscles. While that is definitely a reason why some people use it, there are benefits for protein powder that anyone can enjoy. Here are a few benefits of increasing your protein via a protein powder or shake:
- It helps keep you fuller, for longer, which can help deter cravings or overeating
- It can increase your metabolism, lean muscle mass and creates natural energy.
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Helps prevent osteoperosis
- Whey is easily absorbed
- And more (see this link for more information on the benefits of whey protein.)
Be careful when purchasing whey protein powder. Some kinds are just filled with sugar and artificial ingredients. Plus, you want it to taste good (who wants to choke down something disgusting?!)
Amazon always has great deals on protein powder!
Comfortable Exercise Clothes: Maybe I’m just weird, but I think that having comfortable exercise clothes is so important. I know that when I’m wearing clothes that are actually meant for exercising (so, not Forrest’s t-shirt) I just feel more motivated to exercise. The clothes don’t have to be expensive — half of my clothes are from Target’s clearance section — but feeling comfortable is important. Here’s what I’m usually wearing.
- Leggings. They are so darn comfortable…I pretty much wear them for exercise, for sleep, for lounging. I think they are perfect for exercise! I LOVE the Viv Collection of Leggings on Amazon.
- A simple exercise shirt that comes with odor management and is more-or-less sweat resistant
- Reebok Real Flex Strength Cross Training Shoe: I’ve had these shoes since last summer, and they still seem new. They are SO comfortable.
- I recently started getting clothing from Fabletics. It’s a monthly subscription (that you can cancel at anytime of skip a month), and you can get your first exercise outfit for $25. I LOVE both the outfits I have gotten from them. They are extremely comfortable and the most high quality exercise clothing I’ve ever owned.
Yoga Mat: Even if you never, ever plan to do yoga, getting a yoga mat is a great idea! I use it all the time when I do any type of exercise video at home. It just makes the area you are working out on a little more comfortable and safe.
Hand Weights: There’s so much you can do with just a simple set of hand weights, especially at home. I have a set of 5 pound weights, but I recommend getting a few in different size increments. Amazon sells these for a very reasonable price.
Water Bottle: Remember how I said water is super, super important?! Well, one way to make it easier to drink water, is with a great water bottle. I always have trouble remembering how many glasses of water I’ve had by the end of the day, so I love my Nalgene Water Bottle. I’ve had mine since high school, and it’s still going strong. And since I love putting lemons in my water, I really want to get an infuser water bottle.
Bottle Band: I was introduced to the bottle band at a blog conference I recently attended, and I think it’s brilliant! It makes it easier to exercise, and hold your water bottle, at the same time. It fits on pretty much any water bottle out there (even my wide Nalgene), and you hardly notice you’re holding the bottle while running. They come in a variety of fun colors, with different sayings on them. You can even custom order a bunch (perfect for family reunions, companies, etc.)
Wearable Tracker: I wasn’t convinced of the awesomeness of wearable fitness trackers, until, well, I got one! I have the Misfit Shine, though I’m really eyeing a FitBit one of these days. I think that these help keep you on track, calorie wise, and are nice for people who like data (me!) There are tons out there, but these are the best wearable trackers, from what I’ve read:
Headphones: If you are going to be listening to anything, you are going to need headphones! There are athletic headphone buds specifically created for exercise, and I recommend getting something like that.
Supplements: There are all sorts of natural supplements out there that can help your workouts be more effective. You can check out your local health store, or pretty much anywhere online. I recommend checking out what supplements that M5 Fitness offers — they have just about everything you need to
Something to Track Progress: Regardless of what your goals are, I think it’s important to have some kind of tool to measure your success. Here are a few tools I recommend:
- One of the wearable trackers I mentioned above
- A high quality scale. We recently purchased the Ozeri Touch Digital Bath Scale. It can store profiles for up to 8 people, and it measures body fat, muscle mass, bone mass, and water weight. I have found it’s a lot more effective to use a scale like this, over one that just says weight, because weight can be very subjective. I know some people are against scales, but for me, it’s one of the best things to keep me on track.
- Body Fat Caliper – A simple way to figure out your body fat
- Body Measuring Tape – Taking measurements can be far more effective at measuring success than a scale, especially in the beginning, when people sometimes gain weight (from muscle mass.)
- MyFitnessPal – There are a lot of tools out there to help count calories, keep track of exercise, etc., but I think MyFitnessPal is the best…and it’s free! I’ve used Weight Watchers and MyFitnessPal, and I much prefer MyFitnessPal!
What is in your exercise tool kit?
I am not a professional in anyway. Any advice below is just from my experience 🙂