The Problem with “Beginner Workouts”
Let’s say you have been out of the exercise habit for a quite a while and you are ready to improve energy and strength, so you look for “beginner workouts” online. What you discover will vary wildly from workout to workout. One may showcase slow, unweighted exercises while sitting in a chair and another includes squat jumps, push-ups, and mountain climbers. Both are labeled “beginner”.
The sheer amount of content available can make it even more difficult to get started. And we know that developing an exercise habit is hard enough without having to guess about what exercises are “good for beginners”. So where do you actually begin?
When the topic turns to maintaining health and well-being or managing body composition changes in midlife, we are met with a sweeping recommendation to “lift heavy.” It’s not bad advice. It’s simply very generalized. What does that even mean? You may imagine a being under a barbell. This can be the way to go for some folks. However, this type of training is not required nor even prudent for everyone (including me!) Even without hundreds of pounds, you can still lift enough to have a significant positive impact.
First, if you aren’t on board with strength training at all …let’s chat about strength training and why everyone, ESPECIALLY women 40, benefits from adding some form of it into their weekly routine.
A few years ago...okay, like 20 years ago, I took “before photos” while on an exercise and diet kick (back before I figured out this consistency thing). I had intentions of exercising my way to a “fit-looking” body. I had it in my head that working out would make me look better (aka closer to the mainstream culture version of an attractive, healthy body). Well, I suppose I never found that reason compelling enough because I quit exercising consistently before getting to that "after photo"-worthy body.
Twenty years later, I don’t quite have the "fit body" you often see in after photos. My belly isn’t flat and fat-free. I'm not as lean and muscled as a lot of trainers I see online. But I AM fit (for the life I want to live). I exercise consistently, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, I eat a nutritious, satisfying, non-restrictive diet. I enjoy it. Exercise has become more about how I feel and less about how I look.
We have a problem in the fitness industry that perpetuates the idea that only lean-muscled bodies are fit and the primary motivation for exercising is to look fit (not necessarily be fit). Some are moving away from that ideology or at least some areas of industry are giving it lip- service. I still see A LOT of social media posts emphasizing exercise as a means to shape your body rather than having a healthy body that works well so you can do life. This is why before & after photos can be detrimental.
Before you get upset and think, "But training does shape your body!" Of course it can. But for the average middle-aged American who spends 12+hours a day sitting while balance and muscle mass is declining, getting up to move and train purposefully shouldn't be dependent upon desiring a more svelte physique (which is what before & after photos often drive into our heads). Photos can be a tool for some, however, I'll not use them unless a client specifically requests. Here's why:
If you have general fitness and wellness goals, you probably need some cardio in your training program. However, what you do for that cardio may vary considerably from what you are imagining. Slogging away on a treadmill or elliptical is definitely not required to improve cardiovascular fitness and all the fabulous benefits that come with it.
Putting it simply, cardio is any exercise that increases your heart rate to the point that your breathing rate increases and you start to feel warm. In order to get the desired benefits, you need to place adequate stress on the cardiovascular system to get the system to adapt and change for the better. Cardiovascular fitness allows you to perform “large muscle, repetitive moderate to high intensity exercise for an extended period of time.” The mountain hike on vacation, hours of quickly walking from ride to ride at an amusement park, raking and bagging leaves all afternoon, dancing the night away and even lifting weights will be much more manageable if you improve your cardiovascular fitness. That’s because cardio improves your body’s function in so many ways. One of the main improvements is a more efficient heart beat so your body is better able to deliver and use oxygen for metabolic purposes. It’s pretty cool how your body adapts to the (good) stress you place on it.
How do you get to the point of making these adaptations happen without wanting to quit (or pass out)? Here are your five tips: