COVID-19 Updates: On-site and virtual services are available. For the latest news, click here.

How to Start Working Out

It’s a great time to set a fitness-related intention, as exercise and strength training can improve both your physical and mental health

One of the biggest hurdles to getting fit and feeling better is knowing how and where to start. You really don’t need anything. Maybe the most exercise you used to get was walking from the GO station to your office. Now you walk from your bed to the couch. If that’s your starting spot, then anything you do to move your body is going to be great. But if that still sounds too vague and daunting, let’s break things down into the most basic advice possible.

What to Wear

You don’t need an expensive workout outfit. Any loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely will work. If you’re heading outdoors, a running shoe or cross trainer offers the best support and grip. If you’re exercising indoors, you can even go barefoot. Some of my clients find it more comfortable—and it means you don’t have to search for socks and shoes before you start.

What You Need

Walking, running, or using your own body weight are some of the best activities you can do—and you’ll need absolutely zero equipment. If I had to choose one piece of equipment that would help take your workouts to the next level it would be a set of dumbbells. You may also want a yoga mat, to make any weight exercises you do more comfortable.

What To Do

I rely on three guiding principles, which I impart to clients to help them succeed.

Guiding principle #1:

Twenty minutes of doing anything is better than 20 minutes of doing nothing. Walk with a friend, go for a run, do a YouTube yoga session—find something you’ll enjoy and give it a try. If you like the exercise, you’ll look forward to it, and that’ll help keep you inspired once the novelty of working out (or a new pair of sneakers) has worn off.

Guiding principle #2:

Set a fitness intention. What do you hope to achieve—and why? Are you looking to build strength so you can carry your grandkids? Do you want to improve your heart health because you have a family history of cardiovascular disease? Is increasing your lung capacity important to you so you don’t get winded walking up the stairs? If you first set an intention, then you can create an exercise plan that supports those intentions, your age, your body type and your lifestyle.

Guiding principle #3:

Plan for variety. Everyone wants to know the secret to getting fit overnight. There is no secret—and there’s not one magic exercise that will transform your physique. Your body is excellent at adapting, so every two to three weeks you will have extracted all the benefits of a particular exercise. In other words, what’s difficult on Day 1 will be easy by Day 15, so you should keep increasing the intensity, weight or challenge yourself to a new exercise to ensure you keep seeing results.

Working with a personal trainer

If your car broke down, would you try to fix it yourself? If your refrigerator stopped running, would you attempt to repair it? Most personal trainers go to university for four years to gain the expertise of the human body. You’re not expected to know what the best exercise is for the intention you’ve set yourself. That’s why we’re here. But how do you choose the right trainer?

Ultimately, a good trainer should be a chameleon. They should be able to adjust their personality and their exercise selection to their client’s needs, strengths and weaknesses. Still, at Medcan, we do our best to find the perfect match for you, and that’s based on several factors including:

– Sex: would you prefer a male or female trainer?
– Motivation style: do you want a cheerleader or a drill sergeant?
– Training style: do you prefer plyometrics, barbells or dumbbells?
– Past injuries: are there limitations that may affect your ability to exercise?

Once you’re working out with the trainer, don’t settle if you’re not enjoying the session. Instead of waiting until the end of a workout to offer feedback, tell your trainer how you’re feeling in the moment. The point is to provide the opportunity to change an approach, attitude or suggested exercise right away. We never want a client to walk away saying “I hated that” or “I’m never coming back.” We’re as invested in your success as you are. After all, setting those intentions and helping you achieve them is one of the highlights of our jobs.

Stephen Salzmann is Medcan’s director of fitness. To learn more about Medcan’s fitness offerings, including virtual and (when permitted) in-person training sessions, click here.

You may also be interested in: