Starting an exercise program can be confusing, even with (or, maybe because of) the information out there telling us how to get started. We know we're supposed to do cardio, lift weights and stretch, but one question is much harder to answer: How do I know if I'm doing this right?
There's no perfect answer to this question because the answer is specific to you: Your goals, your fitness level and your expectations. If that's the case and you don't have a trainer or other expert to help you out, how can you tell if you're doing it right?
There are a few questions you can ask yourself to find out if you're on the right track.1. Am I Following the Basic Exercise Guidelines?
Thanks to organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine, we have some guidelines in place to give us a framework for our workouts. Now, do these fit everyone? No. Do you have to follow them exactly? No. How much exercise you need is different for everyone. However, you can compare your program with these basic guidelines to see where you stand.
- For Better Health or Beginners: At least 3 times a week
- For Weight Loss or More Advanced Exercisers: 5-7 days a week
- For Better Health or Beginners: Moderate intensity - Moderate intensity is about a Level 5 on this Perceived Exertion Scale, 70-80% of your maximum heart rate (MHR) or at a level where you're working but you can still carry on a conversation.
- For Weight Loss or More Advanced Exercisers – A variety of intensities that include:
- High Intensity - Level 8-9 perceived exertion, 80-90% of your MHR or working at a level where you're breathless. Example: High intensity interval training (HIIT). Suggested schedule: 1-2 times a week.
- Moderate Intensity - Level 5-6 perceived exertion, 70-80% of your MHR or working at a level where you're just out of your comfort zone but can still talk. Example: Cardio Medley Workout. Suggested schedule: 2-4 times a week.
- Low Intensity - Level 3-5 perceived exertion, 60-70% of your MHR or working at a comfortable level. Example: A long, slow bike ride. Suggested schedule: 1-2 times a week.
- For Better Health or Beginners: Working up to 30 minutes of continuous movement
- For Weight Loss or More Advanced Exercisers – 30-60 minutes, depending on the intensity of your workouts. High intensity may be 20-30 minutes, moderate workouts, 30-60 minutes and low intensity, 60 or more minutes.
- Work All Muscle Groups – Your strength workouts should include exercises for the entire body, including: The lower body, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and abs
- Work Your Muscles 2-3 Nonconsecutive Days Each Week - How often you train will depend on the program you're following, but you want to avoid working the same muscle groups two days in a row. Below are a few examples of how to schedule common strength training programs:
- Total Body: Monday/Wednesday/Friday
- Basic Split Routine: Upper Body: Monday/Thursday, Lower Body: Tuesday/Friday
- For Beginners – 1 set of 8-12 reps
- For Intermediate/Advanced - Multiple sets (2-4) of 6-12 reps, depending on your goals
- Stretch your muscles after your workout when your muscles are warm. Stretching cold muscles could lead to injuries
- Avoid bouncing. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and, for the best flexibility results, do each stretch 2-3 times
- Stretch the muscles you used during your workout with a focus on any chronically tight areas like the lower back, hips and hamstrings
Next Question: Am I Getting Results?