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Get After It! How to Exercise for Beginners

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Exercising can be daunting. Your doctor says to “exercise more” but you’re like, “how do people exercise?” It can be overwhelming when your buddy or neighbor is all like, “hey man you should workout with me and I’ll show you how it’s done!” Then he does six reps of 300 pounds on the bench press…yeah…that’s great…

Let’s take some of that anxiety away. Let me show you what a workout looks like from start to finish. I’ll tell you what you can expect from yourself, and how you know you’re making progress. Look at it this way: people have been exercising since the dawn of time. And if they can do it, then so can you!

So, this is how to exercise for beginners!

Pre-Workout: How Do You Prepare To Workout?

Use this simple formula the night before you begin your workout: get some sleep, eat a healthy meal the night before, drink water the night before.

This shouldn’t be anything different from what you do most days. If you’re going to wake up a little earlier than you normally do, then ensure you’re going to bed earlier as well. Exercising is a way of life, and it DOES fit into your set routine already…you just don’t know it yet!

Keep this simple. It’ll take deliberate effort on your part to integrate a workout into your routine. The easiest way to do this is to set your workout between things you already do.

For example, you go to bed each night. You wake up each morning and you eat breakfast, or drink coffee, or scroll through social media. Between waking up and breakfast, you have an opportunity. Even starting something like 5 minutes of exercise between waking up and breakfast will mean the difference between creating a workout habit or not.

The trick here is to reward yourself for accomplishing a workout. You essentially reward yourself after your workout with breakfast, or coffee, or scrolling through social media. See? You have your cue (wake up), your event (exercise), and your reward (breakfast, coffee, social media). Using this method, you’ll start a routine. But it’ll take time.

How Do I Exercise?

Exercising can get convoluted in numbers, goals, charts, graphs, and confusing nothingness that means as much to you as a soda bottle in a trash can. Here’s the trick again:

Keep it simple.

Do things you enjoy. If you like to run. Go run. If you like weights. Go lift. The point here is to get you to work out. Once you have a routine, then get into making a workout plan.

If you’re wracking your brain for exercises to do, go to my previous post.

Here’s what you can expect from your first few workouts. You’re going to feel great! You’ll be sore. But it’ll feel good. You’ll also be tired because your body isn’t used to the workouts yet.

Make sure you’re drinking water throughout your exercise! If you’re on a walk, bring a small water bottle. If you’re running, have one nearby. What about lifting? Have one next to you. You need to rehydrate yourself so you’ll feel less fatigued during your workouts.

I usually drink one 32oz water bottle following my workouts. The recommended water intake is half your body weight in ounces. If you’re working out, you’d better increase that number to about 3/4 your body weight in ounces.

Here are a few simple exercises to do without weights:

-Running/walking

-Pushups

-Crunches

-Air squats

-Lunges

-Planks

-Calf Raises

-Burpees

How Do I Form My Workout?

A beginner’s workout goes in three parts: warmup, workout, cooldown.

Warm Up

Warm ups should get you moving. You should be breathing a little hard and sweating some as well. Good warm-ups will help you avoid injury during your workout.

Warm ups can include:

-Jump Roping

-Running in place

-Jumping Jacks

-Arm Circles

-Air Squats (go only 3/4 the way down)

Workout

Your workout is where you get into your core exercises of the day. You can get as creative or as simple as you want with this. Staying true to our theme of “Keep It Simple”, here’s a good rule of thumb:

For cardio:

-Running: Start slowly and build up to 1-2 miles.

-Biking: Start slowly and build up to 4-6 miles.

-Swimming: Use the stroke you’re most familiar with and work up to 300 meters.

It’s OK to take a break. Let your body adjust to what is happening. When you allow yourself to do that, then you meet your own expectations. Remember, you’re not training for the New York City marathon, the Tour d’ France, or the Olympics. So, don’t set that expectation on yourself.

For strength training:

There are two ways to do this: by time or by reps. I found that doing reps is easier because you have a goal to reach. For example, your workout can be 3 sets of 10 pushups (or 30 pushups total) with 2 minutes of rest between each set. Once that is done, you can do 3 sets of 20 air squats (or 60 air squats total) with 2 minutes of rest between each set. If you’re not used to working out, that’ll make you sore the next day.

Time-based is a little more tricky and requires some dedication. You can start with 3 sets of doing as many pushups as you can in 1 minute…whew…that’s tough. However, you can get a much BETTER workout doing it that way because you learn to push yourself. If you’re determined, do time-based workouts.

Lunges are great strength training exercises as well.

Cool Down

Don’t forget to stretch! This is a critical part of your workout that most people forgo. Stretching will decrease your chances of injury during your most important phase of developing the habit to work out.

Also, it’ll decrease your soreness. Often when you begin a workout routine, you’ll feel sore afterwards. Pain is different from soreness.

When you feel pain from working out, it’s usually a sharp sensation, like someone putting a needle in you. Soreness is an area pain where a general area feels a general stiffness. That’s a good feeling. Some soreness is good because that’ll tell you that your muscles are recovering from the work you put in.

Here are some good stretches:

-Overhead Arm Pull

-Calf Stretch

-Hurdler Stretch

-Single-Leg-Over

-Figure-4 Stretch

Keep your stretching simple. If you worked a muscle group, then you need to stretch it.

How Do I Know If I’m Doing Effective Workouts?

Most people miss this step entirely! They take for granted the fact that they’re putting in work and don’t think about whether that workout was effective or not.

Use this criteria:

-Do I feel good after the workout I just did?

-Was it challenging enough? (If you’re exerting a lot of energy during your workout, then it was challenging enough)

-Was the workout too easy?

-What can make this workout better? Maybe you add a set, increase the time, mileage, or intensity. Either way, you’ll find a few things to change for next time.

Go And Do!

Workouts are not complicated. People just make them complicated. Keep it simple. Especially when starting out, you don’t need the fancy wiz bang apps, watches, equipment, or clothes to get a good workout done. Start small. Create a habit. Rinse. Repeat. It’s that simple.

Once you get the hang of it, then start doing more things. I know that you can do it!

What inspired you to start working out? Leave a comment below! Alright, Garage Gym Goers, I’ll see you next time!


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Bobby

14 Comments

  1. I appreciate that you have put together a list of exercises that beginners are going to be familiar with. Everyone knows what a jumping jack is, right? However, I feel like more emphasis should be put on keeping an eye on your heart rate, because that is key to making sure that you are doing the right kind of workout. I see too many beginners work too hard and fizzle out when they overdo it. If a beginner can keep an eye on their heart rate, they will probably find that a brisk walk is enough to get them into an “aerobic” zone when working out.

    • Aly,

      You’re absolutely right! Getting that heart rate correct can greatly impact a workout. Exerting too much energy on a workout can cause injury as well, especially if working out is unfamiliar. And not doing enough will not give the proper results according to set goals. Thanks for your comment!

      Bobby

  2. Coming from a personal trainer’s background, I would say What you have listed here for people who are beginning their exercise program is perfect. Pre-workout is so important. Many people don’t place much emphasis on pre-workout. It actually prepares our body to get ready for intensive exercise.

    The kind of exercise that I used to enjoy doing was running on my treadmill, sometimes I cross-trained other times I would do HIIT to get my own work out over with really fast.

    But nowadays I recommend slow and steady. Especially if you are a beginner. Thank you for this breakdown for those who are just getting into working out.

    • Jagi,

      I’m grateful for your perspective as a personal trainer! I, too, think that pre-workout is often ignored, but I believe that it’s almost as important as the workout itself. Slow and steady is the way to go for sure especially for beginners. Thank you for your insights!

      Bobby

  3. Hi Bobby,

    It’s great that people concern their own health in recent years, and so do I. I usually go to the gym for training, and what I see the most activities mentioned in this article are outdoor kinds of sports. Do you recommend outdoor training more than gym training?

    Another concern is whether you have your own recommendations on workout gears like a bottle or the apparel? It would be very kind of you if you could give some suggestions.

    Matt

    • Matt,

      These are great questions! I think outdoor and indoor training has their place. But what I see often with beginners is that because they don’t have (insert exercise equipment here) then they can’t work out. Or, their bike is out of commission, which they’ll scratch their workout again. Thus, the cycle continues. I’ll shake it up. I do cardio outside, and my strength training inside. If inside isn’t an option, I have body weight exercises for outside. I can always execute a strength training workout regardless of location or equipment. That just comes with planning what you’re doing each day and adapting your plan to the situation you’re in.

      As far as workout gear and water bottles, I’m pretty indifferent about what I wear unless it makes me too hot. For example, if it’s cold outside, don’t wear too many layers for a run. You’ll sweat and overheat. Run with a loose jacket, a beanie, and gloves if it gets too cold. Or, if it’s hot, run with a shirt and shorts. I can give you the name brands like Under Armor has great stuff, but don’t forget about the off-brands or the discount stores. For water bottles, I have a Contigo water bottle and that has worked for me. 

      Let me know if that helps! Thank you for your comment!

      Bobby

  4. Hi, your post is exactly what I love most I love work and in do it but your post point out how to know if am doing it effectively, before I do my workout I just jump to it without any warm up and after am done I don’t stretch my self, I have learn some thing new about work out from your post. 

    my next workout will be different and I buy the idea of rewarding my self with breakfast or coffee.

    • Hello!

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading my post! If you engage in that habit loop then you’ll get into that workout habit. Use that breakfast and coffee as a reward. Thanks for your comment!

      Bobby

  5. Ah, I’m grateful for this post you have put up here. I did exercises some times before but I wasn’t looking to see if it was effective at all. I just kept going. Now I know the importance of that. I’m happy that you have added routines for us to get into. I like the idea of rewarding myself after each workout. I’ll try not to make my reward a big burger. Lol. Thanks for the tips again. Best regards!

    • Henderson,

      I’m glad you found the importance of staying fit! It’s a critical part of life, and it makes you feel great. Maybe next time for that big burger! Haha! Thanks for your comment!

      Bobby

  6. Hello Bobby, I’m impressed with the very useful information on exercising. I’m a however serious with my exercise but my kids are the very opposite of me in that aspect. I have had problems with having them do same exercise that I do and km glad to have come across a post that suggest exercise for beginners. Thanks

    • Dane,

      I’m happy you found this post helpful for your kids! Getting them started with working out early will create good habits for the future. Thanks for your comment!

      Bobby

  7. Thank you for this guidance in doing workouts for beginners. I think for beginners it’s important to take the time to learn the different movement patterns. Sometimes beginners will have a limited range of motion for example in their hamstrings so it’s important to take that into account as a beginner and give your body time to adapt to a full range of motion. Especially in terms of things like squats and deadlifts but also even in pressing movements of the range of motion can be limited due to something like tight rotator cuffs.

    • Edward,

      I cannot agree more! When I first started doing deadlifts, I was very tight in my hips and hamstrings. Squats were difficult too. It’s critical for beginners to start slow, gain some mobility in their hips and shoulders so they can do the exercises properly. This will avoid injury for them. Excellent point! Thanks so much for your comment!

      Bobby

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