What exercise should you start with? How hard should you train?
Most of the time people who want to get more fit just check some videos on Youtube or they find an application for their phone with a fitness program to follow.
These systems may work for some people but it doesn’t always reflect what you really like to do and you most likely end up on dropping them after few sessions.
You need to do what you and your body like to do, not what you think is cool for a while.
First thing first.
Start to train your cardiovascular system.
In fitness term this is called “Aerobic exercise” which means any exercise that makes your heart pump, like running, cycling, swimming, rowing and stair climbing to name a few. You can have a good idea of Aerobic Exercise HERE.
Why aerobic exercise?
Your heart and lungs are now “trained” to sustain what you do in your normal daily life, not heavy weight training and neither the 10km marathon on Sunday.
If you try to push too much they will give up on you, you will feel extremely tired too soon and you may take days to recuperate from your workout. Easily you will abandon your fitness routine with a lazy sentence like: “I can’t do it, that’s too much for me”.
You must understand at what pace your heart should be trained in order to get results and really improve at every workout.
Even if you were a cross country champion when you were young now your body is the result of a different “training” from your lifestyle of the last few years and it perform best on what you normally used to do. Which is NOT cross country anymore.
When you do any activity your body request a certain amount of oxygen to burn energy. The more intense is the activity the more oxygen you will need.
Depending on the intensity of the activity your body will burn more energy and will need more oxygen for this process. Here is when the blood pumped from the heart comes in with fresh oxygen from the lungs.
Besides the oxygen supply, blood also brings all the necessary nutrients and components to rebuild your muscles and recover from your workout. Something like a Gatorade for the cells.
After providing oxygen and nutrients, the blood get loaded with waste from the energy consumption and Carbon Dioxide creating a “cleaning” effect and when it goes back to your lungs it will exchange this waste material with new fresh oxygen and continue the cycle.
After working out your body will still need a good healthy blood supply for some time to recover the muscles (consider it if you are a smoker).
Let’s quantify your aerobic training.
Just as a quick information note that VO2 Max is the maximum quantity of oxygen that can be transported from your lungs to your body’s tissues.
The ideal oxygen quantity needed during your training should be between 55% and 85% of your VO2.
You don’t really care right now about how much is your VO2 but, by monitoring your heart rate is possible to check the ideal quantity of oxygen needed to have successful training effect.
This is called Target Heart Rate (THR).
Check your heart rate at rest (let’s say 75bpm resting heart rate for example).
Then we can use the Karvonen formula as follow:
Let’s take a 35 years old individual for our example.
220 – 35 (age) = 185
185 – 75 (resting heart rate) = 110
we multiply the result by our target rates
110 x 0.55 = 60.5 (55%)
110 x 0.85 = 93.5 (85%)
We add the resting heart rate back (75bpm)
60.5 + 75 (resting heart rate) = 135 (minimum THR)
93.5 + 75 (resting heart rate) = 168 (maximum THR)
Here you have it! This 35 years old individual should keep his heart rate between 135bpm and 168bpm in order to activate real training effect on the body and improve cardiovascular system.
Most machines feature a heart beat monitor to keep an eye on your performance. If you are working out in fresh open air you may consider investing some money in a heart rate monitor watch.
How long should you train?
Normally is recommended to train at your THR range for 20 to 60 minutes at least 3 times a week to get real results.
This is when your body limitations could end up dominating your training.
If you have been a couch potato for a while, may be a hard thing to do just to reach the minimum of 20 minutes of training.
As you are just getting started you may go with easy but steady steps.
Set your goals right now.
Put in your mind that the minimum 20 minutes will be reached in 2 weeks for example (6 workout sessions).
The first session set the target of 10 minutes and increase 2 minutes for every session day and you’ll have your first 20 minutes in 2 weeks.
This “light” training is not a weak statement about you but is necessary to create the foundations of your real training.
In few words: Train your body to be trainable.
After all, you are teaching your body to work in a more efficient way, don’t ask what is physically impossible…yet.
At the end of the second week you will be surprised that you’ve doubled your training time and you are able to sustain much more intense workouts than when you started.
Remember to drink plenty of water and wear light weight clothes, avoid fancy rubber and tight gym dresses. You must be comfortable first.