Yeah, now What? Do you have your newly set fitness goals for the new year?
Here are some common questions and concerns and some advice and guidance that I use with my personal training clients.
Inevitably, each year as the calendar turns over there is a general rush to start on all the goals and intentions that we plan for the upcoming year. Exercise and fitness is always a top element to our new goals.
This year we’ll get in shape. This year we’ll eat better. This year we’ll be happier. This year we’ll make it all happen. Right?
And while statements like these are all well and good, we also know from past experiences that general statements like this often lead to a quick decline of enthusiasm and an abandonment of our goals and intentions.
So, how can we make this year different? As a fitness professional, I get a lot of questions and hear a lot of concern from clients wanting to start on their paths to better health and fitness practices. Today, I’d like to address a few of the questions and I hope that it will help you to make a plan, stick with it, and persevere this year.
Question #1: How much should I train?
If you are out of practice or have not been exercising regularly, I recommend starting with as much time as you feel you can handle. I know that’s very non-specific but each one of us will respond differently and if I were to tell you to do 4-6 hard strength training workouts a week, you would probably not follow through. Or you might for a short time, but it’s more important to train within your capabilities first and push that as you develop and improve.
Start small and build up your strength, your skills, your knowledge, your endurance and your enjoyment of the workouts! Enjoying what you choose to do is important if you want to participate in the activities for the long term.
Question #2: I don’t want to ‘get bulky’. Shouldn’t I just do cardio to prevent that?
I hear this mostly from women who have been misled to believe that strength training, or weightlifting will automatically turn our bodies into hulking masses of muscle bulk. This is just plain false.
Strength training will build muscles up, that is true but the ‘bulky’ image we see that drives this farce takes years to achieve, it takes massive amounts of training, diet, and concentrated effort. For most of us, myself included, don’t want to train like that. I’m not a body builder, I’m not an extreme athlete or competitor so my training and your training will be different.
Muscle strength, endurance and stamina is a vital piece to overall health and fitness. Muscle tone and development will vary for each of us. But, strong muscles do aid in good metabolic function and in lowering body fat, More cardio type exercising is not the answer. A fitness program with a good balance of strength and resistance training and cardiovascular training is best.
Question #3: I don’t want to get hurt or be sore. How can I train and avoid pain?
Pay attention. Train smart. You will inevitably experience soreness, sometimes intense soreness, and discomfort when strength training. This is normal, though unpleasant. The important thing to learn is the difference between PAIN and DISCOMFORT during or after your workouts.
Muscle soreness is normal and will occur, especially when you start out. Sometimes soreness sets in right away, sometimes it takes a day or 2. This is called DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It can be intense and is generally pretty uncomfortable, but should subside over a day or 2. If the soreness does NOT subside, pay attention.
Pay close attention if you experience any JOINT pain during your workouts. When the pain is sharp, or happens consistently with a specific movement, pay attention. Never ignore pain. Pain should be addressed immediately. If you’re not sure if what you’re feeling is normal or not, air on the side of caution and stop the activity that causes the pain or discomfort.
As you develop better movement and skills in your strength training programs, you will also learn to recognize the differences between pain and normal muscular discomfort or ‘burning’ during workouts. Always pay attention to your body and over time the discomfort should subside when you train smart. Allow your body the time to adapt to your new strength training program.
Question #4: How long will it take to see results?
It depends on many factors, but mainly it comes down to the simple fact that each one of us will respond to new things differently. I always recommend to my clients to be consistent and as they develop strength, endurance, skills and habits, the time it takes to see changes will shift and change as well.
It may feel long in the beginning as you build up your capacity. But, be patient and change things as needed to achieve your own personal goals.
There is no quick fix or magic pill or solution when talking about fitness and strength training. Give it time. A lot of time. Be patient, be consistent and diligent and you absolutely will reap the rewards. I know that my answers are general and may seem vague but cookie cutter workouts and programs are not always the best route to take. If you want to do that, go ahead but keep in mind these questions and answers so that you can utilize any program to best suit YOU!
So, specifically speaking to your new year goals and what to do.
- Identify what you want. Write it all down. Your lists can be as extensive and details as you want.
- Outline a plan–be as specific as possible. For example: ‘I will go to the gym and do a strength building workout at 5pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays’. Then put that on your calendar and track when you do and do not achieve the goal. Write out your plan and list any and all things that you’d like to do or change. Your list can be as long or as short as you want. But, be specific and be honest with yourself.
- Set yourself up for success by starting small then gradually adding onto your list of actionable steps and habits. If you’ve never stuck with a new year resolution before, don’t try to change everything all at once. Choose one or two things from your list and commit to those for a period of time. Maybe a month or two before adding more things into your routine.
- Enlist the help of a trainer or a friend that has experience and knowledge. And take the time to learn how to perform exercises with good form and technique.
- Give yourself credit and kudos along the way. Making changes can be hard and daunting. Celebrate yourself and your efforts.
Happy New Year!!