This is your year! Seriously. This is the year you do it. (Think David Naughton singing “Making it”.... Google it.) You are not too old, too fat, or too lazy to get in shape! But if you do pull the trigger on that gym membership, try to avoid these rookie mistakes:
1- DOING IT ALL ON THE FIRST DAY: You may be tempted to makeup for lost time and try to do too much too soon. The thing I stress the most with new training clients is that you are making a life change, not going on a crash diet or workout plan. This is about changing your evil ways once and for all and getting on a exercise and nutritional plan the will serve you for a lifetime. So start with lighter weights and build slowly. Gradually eliminate “bad” foods (and drinks) from your diet. You didn’t get into this mess overnight. It’s going to take some time to get on the right track.
I start most clients on full body workouts, twice a week. I choose about ten exercises and we generally focus on performing two sets of 15 repetitions per exercise. Form is far more important than how much weight you lift. Everyone has a beginning. Start light and do it right.
2- SKIPPING YOUR WARM UP: In the same way you’d warm up your car on a cold Winter morning, it’s a good idea to warm up your body before exercise. Warming up gradually increases heart rate, increases blood flow to the muscles, and increases oxygen to the body. It improves the elasticity of the muscles which eases the transition into exercise. Start with 5 minutes of light cardio on a treadmill or elliptical. As part of a warm up, I also have clients perform a primary movement (like a bench press, lat pull down, or no weight standing squats) at about 50% of their starting weight and going for about 25 reps. Your body will feel better and so will your workout.
3- LIFTING TOO HEAVY: Remember you’re training for overall conditioning and good health, not bragging rights. When someone tells me they can bench or squat 300 pounds, I scratch my head and think, “that’s great, are you getting the results you want?” Measuring your progress against an external benchmark, like an arbitrary weight, isn’t the same as measuring your progress against your starting point. Additionally, pushing for heavier and heavier weights isn’t appropriate for many people starting an exercise program or for people who are older. Show me a weightlifter in his 20s who routinely squats 300-400 pounds and I’ll show you a person with joint problems in their 40s. Lifting too heavy can cause injury like torn or strained muscles, can cause you to lose control of the weights or to drop them, or cause you to break form, reducing the efficacy of the exercise.
In general, if you aren’t sure about what to do or how to do it, ask someone. Most people are willing to assist you for a minute or two if you ask nicely. For even more guidance and expertise, consider hiring a knowledgeable personal trainer.
Philip Hitchcock is an independent, Certified Personal Trainer specializing in “Fitness after 40,” Resistance Training and Weight Loss. He maintains his own client base and is also the exclusive trainer for the Four Seasons Hotel. Check out HitchcockFitness.com