STARTING EXERCISE: 4 WEEK GUIDE
Why do many of us struggle with starting and maintaining a daily exercise program? Many men can get out there and do some activity in the weekends but still can’t seem to make it work the other 4-5 days. We all know that the benefits of exercise far out-weigh any ‘excuse’ not to exercise, but somehow that doesn’t seem to motivate us forward. Even if we do find that spark to start, the first few weeks can throw up so many obstacles and challenges, even the most hearty can find it a struggle.
by Lee-Anne Wann –Performance Nutritionist, Health & Fitness Expert
What can we expect over 4 weeks?
Things are exciting, a little daunting but it’s all new so once we get started, often the first week although physically challenging can be quite easy mentally as long as they understand what is happening to their bodies. If you know that you will suffer some soreness, stiffness and a few aches and pains you are better able to manage them. A body that has not moved for some time will creak and groan and offer some protest.
- Take the first week slowly and allow your body to adjust to the new movement –“Men more is not better”.
- Stiffness and soreness is to be expected. Gentle movement will help increase blood flow and loosen sore and stiff muscles so keep on your schedule.
- Drink lots of water and aim for good sleep to help the body to recover and repair optimally
- Prepare to find it challenging – don’t worry you’ll get better very quickly, the first time we do things we can feel clumsy and awkward but the second time is often surprisingly easier.
The body has got a great start and often aches and pains have reduced somewhat although sometimes in week 2, we can experience tightness in muscles that are a constant niggle so be sure to include stretching and flexibility into your routine as this is an area many men can short-change themselves on. This is the week where the mind takes a hit and in my experience it is the end of the second week where many people start to stumble. It’s no longer new, you know what to expect and the body is still grumbling and nothing is really too much fun. In addition, this is the time when we expect to see results for our efforts and these can be minimal at this time for many people as it can take a little longer – usually 3-4 weeks for some noticeable changes.
- Re-visit your reasons for starting this week and keep them at the front of your mind to overcome the desire to throw in the towel.
- Avoid jumping on the scales or checking other measures as lack of results at this stage could see you thinking it is all a waste of time when really you are only another week or so away from great changes.
- Include good recovery practices into your routine. You can only exercise as much as you can recover. Stretch out tight muscles after exercise or in the shower before bed and think about adding a yoga or Pilates class to your schedule – may male athletes include this in their weekly routine.
After week 2, the beginning of week 3 can be a little similar but once through the first bit of the week, little miracles tend to start happening. You’ll notice small things that make you feel good; an exercise won’t be quite as hard as it was, your belt will drop a notch or two, you will look healthier, your moods will be a little brighter and often we feel a little more inspired to keep going. This is a great time to ensure your nutrition is on track as this can hinder great health & body fat results. Add in something new or increase your exercise intensity a little to keep the body moving forward and this also motivates the mind with new challenges. If week 3 is a struggle and you find that your plans are going out the window which can happen for many – try 2 simple things:
- Reduce your schedule to smaller time slots or less in the week to something that is easier for you to fit in and
- Re-visit why it was you chose to start in the first place.
- Up the intensity and type of exercise this week to keep both mind and body inspired
- Check your results and appreciate the little things that are changing.
- Reward yourself with a game of golf, tickets to a rugby game or some good movie.
- Check your nutrition and make sure it is in line with your health & fitness goals.
This can go both ways, many people are simply on fire and really enjoying what is happening to their bodies. This is really an opportunity to cement these new habits and set a new plan for the next 2 months of what you want to achieve and the results you desire. You now have a great foundation you can build upon. For others where this is a humdrum week where things are a bit boring and life is getting in the way or they may have a niggle that’s not going away – don’t let things get on top of you, take back control.
- If you have a niggle that won’t go away, book in to see a physio before it stops you from keeping on track with your exercise.
- Re-set goals for the next phase, get inspired and find something that drives you to get out and about.
- Spice things up a bit and add in some different activities – again to keep the body moving forward and also to keep you inspired and enjoying your new habits.
Before you even lace up those trainers, make some preparations to help you not only get through the first few weeks but ensure exercise becomes part of your identity and who you are. We are the sum of what we do consistently. Below are 4 simple tips to help get your started and keep you on track:
TIP 1: Make a Commitment to Start
Success is more often achieved if we can pick an actual start date and stick to it. Mark it on your calendar, talk about it, and tell your family and friends of your intentions. Take a week or so before-hand to get all you need together; purchase some new training gear, load your iPod with new music, organise your schedule allocating time to exercise, rally up friends to train with and stock up on healthy foods to have ready to go when you are tired or busy to help keep you on track.
TIP 2: Set a Specific Time Each Day
One of the biggest challenges to starting a new exercise program is creating the routine. Pick a time of day that is going to give you at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time and stick to it. Exercise does not have to be long to be effective – start out small and build up as your habits become more ingrained. Which time is best? Any time that you enjoy and can make work. I find morning is best as that stops other things coming up and sabotaging my exercise goals.
TIP 3: Find a Group
Studies show that people who work out together are far more successful at reaching health and fitness goals. This could be a group of friends, joining a class or group at the gym, even an online exercise forum is great to keep motivation high. Try different options and see what works for you.