Exercise has always been a part of my life. As a youngster I wanted to try everything and throughout my school years, I was always involved in some form of team sport. The only time I remember being a bit of a couch potato was when I was a student, but even then I made up for my lack of formal exercise by walking or biking the three miles to college each day—even when I’d been out clubbing until 3 am.
After graduating and entering the working world, I always made a point of doing some form of exercise two or three times a week, whether it was swimming, hiking, or taking an exercise class, but I never really took the time to evaluate what I was doing or why I was doing it until now.
The Top Five Psychological Benefits Of Exercise
1. You prove to yourself you can do anything you resolve to do.
2. You improve your self confidence.
3. You strengthen your determination to do well in every aspect of life.
4. You can show the world (or your friends at least) that you are capable of doing what some people say you can’t.
5. You get to join the Fitness Elite — only 16 percent of the American population exercises on a daily basis. Compared with the roughly 80 percent who watch television daily, this puts you high above most others when it comes to ‘bragging’ rights!
Life Catches Up With You
I have to admit that life started to get complicated once I started working. I always tried to incorporate a balance of cardio and strength exercises into my daily routine. For cardio, I walked everywhere I could and went swimming or played a team sport a couple of times a week.
For strength, I did mini-workouts at home using Bowflex dumbbells because I could vary the intensity by adjusting the weights and could work on any number of different muscle groups depending on the time available.
But even after a life time of exercise, I recently discovered I’m not immune to injury. Since reaching a “certain” age, my body seems to be telling me I need to be more careful. It seems that no sooner do I recover from one injury than another one rears its ugly head, so I find myself going back to basics to see if I’m missing some fundamental nugget of information that will help me exercise safely.
I visited my Doctor to make sure my body was in good enough condition to deal with my exercise routine. If exercise is new to you, your Doctor will check your heart, lungs and blood pressure, and will review any medical conditions. He or she may also assess your joint ranges of motion to ensure there are no physical issues.
My Doctor concluded that my injuries were probably due to over-exertion or poor form. So, even with experience, I learned that things can go wrong.
Are You Motivated?
If you are a newcomer, you may benefit from some motivational support. Motivation comes in two forms:
Intrinsic motivation is the incentive to carry out an activity based on the expected enjoyment and personal satisfaction gained by doing that activity.
Extrinsic motivation involves taking part in an activity based on the expectation of an external reward. Extrinsic motivation may be effective in the short term, but may inhibit progress in the long run.
Intrinsic motivation is particularly important for those who train in isolation. Although I don’t recommend training alone if you are new to exercise, it may be unavoidable for some. In order to increase your intrinsic motivation, here are some self-motivating tips:
- Dress comfortably and acquire the basic equipment needed for the sport
- Use protective gear where necessary
- Learn the necessary techniques
- Reward yourself based on your performance
- Use verbal and non-verbal praise
- Vary your exercises
- Involve others in your decisions
- Set realistic performance goals
Unless you are a seasoned athlete, I recommend finding a gym or personal trainer so you have someone on your side when you think of a hundred reasons not to exercise. A fitness expert advised on sparkpeople.com that you should make sure your trainers are certified with a reputable national agency like ACE, AFAA, ACSM or NSCA and that they are trained in first aid and CPR.
Well-trained instructors will discuss any medical restrictions and will give you instruction on proper use of equipment.
Eat A Balanced Diet
Nutrition may not be high on your list of priorities, but I find it goes a long way to exercising successfully. I try to eat a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat at every meal. Vitamins and minerals should be included to support your metabolic process. I find I am at my weakest if I am dehydrated; therefore, the sixth most important nutritional component is water.
Three Basic Components To Exercise
Whether I train alone or at a gym, my exercise will take the following form:
- Warm up
- Main set
- Cool Down
Although there is continued debate about the format and effectiveness of warm-up, the general consensus is that, not only does warm-up increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles making them ready for activity; but if done correctly, warm-up should reduce injury.
I start with a leisurely jog or do side steps for five minutes and then I gently stretch out each muscle group. Do not bounce the stretches as this may tear the muscle. Also, never stretch to the point of pain as this will indicate damage has occurred.
Breathe Out Stress
If I am stressed out about anything (work, home or exercise), I incorporate some breathing exercises or visualization into my pre-exercise routine. I imagine breathing in energy and breathing out stress. If my motivation is low, visualization can help by using the power of the mind to overcome doubts. Focus and repetition are the keys to success.
After exercising, I cool down to prevent injury. I start to decrease my effort level toward the end of my workout for about five to ten minutes, depending on the length of the workout. Once I stop moving, I refuel my body with some liquid nutrition like a sports drink or even chocolate milk.
I find post-exercise nutrition especially beneficial after an intense workout like the p90x exercise schedule.
Whether I’m exercising indoors or out, I find that if I am working out effectively, I dehydrate easily and can sometimes feel dizzy from a drop in blood sugar. I know my limitations from years of exercise, but if you are new to the game, you should build up gradually and listen to your body. Take heed of any warning signs and remember to get plenty of rest to re-energize your body for the next time.