If you’re a complete beginner, starting out on your fitness journey can feel incredibly daunting. How do you get fit, or improve your existing fitness? In this guide, we give you some basic tips to get you started on your fitness journey.
We spoke to sports performance coach Phil Hobby, who has over 20 years’ experience, to get his advice on how you can improve your fitness.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you first start out on any fitness journey, is to try to do too much, too soon. “Humans are programmed to believe that the more we do of something, the better we will be at it,” says performance coach, Phil Hobby. “If you’re just beginning a fitness journey, however, getting the correct intensity and volume of training for you is crucial.”
Hobby stresses how important it is to build your base slowly – and to build on solid foundations. If you go from zero training to a high volume too quickly you’re at risk of losing motivation and becoming injured. Hobby says: “If you’ve led a relatively sedentary lifestyle, perhaps working at a desk eight hours a day, your musculature will have become lazy. Rushing your fitness will lead to painful DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), niggles and negativity. Many won’t listen to their body and carry on doing too much, assuming pain and discomfort is normal.”
Hobby states that your first few weeks of training should be enjoyable, manageable and interactive – so you want to do it. “It should be an addition to your lifestyle, fitting in with it, not the other way around,” he stresses.
What’s your motivation?
Just as important to success, is working out why you want to get fitter. This will be a key factor in ensuring success. “There’s always a reason why you decide to turn your life around,” says Hobby. “When your training starts to get tough, when the weather is awful, when it’s easier to skip a session, you’ll need to draw on this driver.” It’s worth spending an hour working out what you want to achieve, and why; try creating a mind-map to work out your true motivations.
Structure your training week
With the correct structure to your training, you will see yourself progress. This may mean making training part of your lifestyle, such as a run or bike commute to work. Or you may decide that the buddy system, where someone trains with you, means you don’t miss a session. “Having someone to talk to while you train is a great motivator,” says Hobby.
“Why not consider joining a club? Many of us have a default setting that makes us believe we’re not good enough to do this, but other club members will want to help you start the first step of your fitness journey in the right place, rather than judging you on your level of ability.”
Intensity is crucial
It’s important at the beginning of your fitness journey that you don’t attempt speed sessions, whatever your sport or activity. The intensity of your training is key to success. First, you need to build your endurance base, then build your strength, and then you can focus on speed work. “You can’t go in half way up the pyramid,” stresses Hobby. “Be sensible and be patient. Before long, you’ll be doing speed work.”
If your initial intensity levels are too high, within a few weeks you’ll suffer from fatigue and maybe injury, demotivating you. “Think of this journey as a slow-burner,” suggests Hobby. “This will make it far more enjoyable. The journey has to be your journey, not someone else’s.”
With small blocks of simple, manageable chunks of training you’ll enjoy every step. “Avoid going on the Internet and downloading a training plan straight away,” says Hobby. Many plans will be devised for individuals with a strong base of fitness. They can quickly become both intimidating and overwhelming.
To successfully manage your journey into fitness, you will feel much happier if you feel in control of what you are trying to achieve. “Mindful training, where you focus only on yourself, and what you are trying to achieve in that moment, will prevent you overtraining,” says Hobby. “Try to be realistic about what you can achieve in each session.” He believes it’s better to achieve less and feel positive, than expect too much and beat yourself up when you don’t hit a target.
Being organised before a training session will help you achieve your goal for the day. Plan your weekly sessions, so you know exactly what you want to achieve. Before each session, spend two minutes focusing on what your intention for that session is. “Simple hacks like getting your kit out the night before, preparing your breakfast so it’s ready when you return, putting the hot water on for a bath, will help you follow through with each session,” adds Hobby.
Plan for success
Mix up your activities, and try cross-training or stretching classes, to keep a fresh approach. Explore your local environment, too, for training possibilities. “Walk up a big hill, then run down it, as part of your journey,” suggests Hobby. “Soon, your confidence will grow, knowing your training has been set up for success.”
Hobby also stresses how important it is that you are training for yourself: “The only person you are racing against is you. Eventually you will get into the ‘flow’, where you feel you are floating along. Everyone can get in to this zone, regardless of experience or ability. Never perceive yourself as a lesser athlete than those with many years of experience; the feeling where everything feels easy happens for everyone at some stage, not just elite athletes.”
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