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:
I'm often asked for advice about at-home workouts. Several women have used a modified Reuna Fitness Starter Package for that purpose: to learn how to develop at-home workouts that support goals using simple equipment. For those looking to add some new elements to your at-home workout space this year, I've got a few recommendations. These are all products I've used and feel they are worth the money and space but feel free to shop around for similar equipment if you've got a favorite brand. I'm not getting paid for any of this ;)
I love rubber mini-bands because they are inexpensive and versatile for both lower and upper body exercises. They travel well and can be stashed almost anywhere if space is an issue at home. Last year, I bought a few of the wide Fabric Booty Bands and found that they are more robust and they don’t slip or roll when performing lateral walks or other lower body exercises. A variety of fabric bands can be found on Amazon even though I don’t necessarily agree with marketing that contains phrases like “beach booty” and “perfect bottom”. My bottom is always a beach booty, thankyouverymuch!
My knees are relatively healthy and happy but they aren’t so happy on hard surfaces! When I want to do kneeling exercises and or spend some time stretching and moving on the floor, I get out my thick purple yoga mat. I watch for sales and got mine for $15.19 online.
In addition to dumbbells, consider adding a few kettlebells to your at-home workout space. They add a new element to strength training and cardio exercises without taking up a lot of room. For beginner/intermediate exercisers, the weights available are plenty challenging.
Your at-home self-care collection could use a foam roller or two. I prefer the 36 x 6 plain one. I use it regularly on my calves, quads, and upper back. If you are unfamiliar with foam-rolling, e-mail me and I’ll send you some information or join the Reuna Fitness Circle on Facebook to find a video demonstration.
The Basic Amazon Bench is a fantastic simple bench. Inexpensive and sturdy!
All the balls: medicine balls, soft medicine balls, slam balls and stability balls. Each require relatively little space and add variety to strength, core, or cardio sessions. You don't have to have all the types like I do.
Last but not least, a planner! I personally enjoy using The Happy Planner (found mine at Michael’s). Although my phone is always with me, my preference is still to write it all down: appointments, client sessions, to-do lists, and my own workouts. Maybe someday I'll switch to an app of some sort but for now, I love my paper planner! "The discipline of writing something down is the first step towards making it happen." -Lee Iacocca I'm sure it applies to typing it out too! The key is getting the tasks at-hand somewhere you can see them and track them.
So that's a small list of some of my favorite fitness things for at-home exercisers. If you are an at-home exerciser that's become bored or you aren't quite sure how to put together workouts with all of your fitness stuff, the Starter Package or other coaching options may be for you! Let's talk about where you need guidance; the initial consultation is always free.
Join me in the Reuna Fitness Circle on Facebook for exercise and motivational videos and posts and a small community of women working towards improved fitness and wellness.