Embarking on a new fitness routine can feel intimidating. With a blank page in front of you it can be difficult to know where to start planning your routine. I know I used to struggle with so many questions! How much exercise is enough? Should I be lifting weights, or running, or do I need a bike? Then add chronic pain or illness into the mix and… well, yes, I definitely understand that it gets complicated.
Ideally, this is where Exercise Physiologists come in. If you want a well planned program that is tailored to you, seeing a professional is your best bet, especially if you are working with a chronic illness or injury, or chronic pain. However, getting along to an EP isn’t always easy to do - there aren’t that many around, and in many countries they aren’t recognised allied health professionals. Next best bet is a Physiotherapist, someone with a background in the science of the human body and an understanding of your particular struggles.
With that said, you can also plan your own routine if you keep it simple and work with what feels good for your body! You just need to pick the exercise you will do, find time in your week, and get started.
Here are a few key things you should consider when planning out your new routine.
Chat with your Doctor
Firstly, you really must chat to your Dr about starting any new fitness program. They will want to check your heart health, discuss your exercise history, and any specific things you need to think about given your unique medical history. Seriously, don’t skip this step! They can give you valuable goals and limitations to consider.
Set an intention
This might sound corny, but I find it so incredibly valuable to consider the goal you are working towards. I’m not talking a 4-6 week plan to get the ‘bikini body’ (ugh), but a long term desire that drives your decision to move more. For me, my intention is to feel vibrant. Vibrant is a word that came to over the past couple of years as it seemed like the opposite of how I feel when I’m stuck at home in pain not able to leave the couch. Now I seek exercise that helps me feel vibrant - which encompasses strong, joyful, healthy, bursting with energy. Of course I don’t always get that peak feeling but it guides my choices.
Do you want to feel strong? Happier? Peaceful? Empowered? Or perhaps it’s best to keep it grounded and practical. Would you like to be able to play with your kids without feeling breathless? Or be able to lift your shopping like it weighs nothing? Choose something simple and write it down. Now, what sort of exercise do you think could help you get there? Get creative!
Choose aerobic first
Pick something you can do for aerobic training first. This means exercise that really works your cardiovascular system, your heart and lungs, by getting the large muscles of your body moving. Keep it simple - walking, cycling, swimming, or team sports if that’s your jam.
Now, get out your calendar and find 2-3 time slots in your week when you could potentially do this for 20mins. Don’t overthink this, if getting to the gym is not going to happen plan three mornings or evenings or lunch times when you could get outside or onto an indoor bike at home to move for 20mins. Please remember this isn’t set in stone. I know some days are pain days that you can’t plan for, but this is the goal and a place to start.
Let’s add some light strength work to your plan. Pick another two time slots when you can take 10mins in your bedroom or in front of the TV to do some bodyweight exercise. I love to work in my works outs when Freya is playing, sometimes she gets involved and it does make me laugh that by 18months she could join in do squats with Mummy (or ‘swats’, too cute). You could use this 10mins to do yoga or Pilates using a YouTube video. Otherwise, you could choose from bodyweight exercises like squats, tricep dips, inclined push-ups and lunges. Here’s my suggestion for a very basic place to start:
15 squats, then rest for 30-60s
15 tricep dips using your kitchen side or a chair
10 push-ups against the wall (see this video)
20 lunges (watch this video)
Rest for a few minutes, then do that all again! Done!
If squats or lunges are too much for you at the moment, try clams instead as they can be performed lying down. Check out Instagram accounts like Actively Autoimmune or Two Minute Moves for some more great simple ideas.
Keep it simple
I might repeat this too much, but it’s important to keep things simple. We are more likely to stick to plans that feel manageable, and to create habits that stick slowly over time. If the above sounds intimidating, start with aerobic and add resistance in a few weeks time. If it doesn’t sound like enough, I’ll write about how we can increase this but you can simply make your sessions longer or add extra activities to your routine.
To summarise, aim for 20mins of aerobic exercise (eg walking or cycling) 2-3x pw, and resistance training 10mins 1-2x pw. This will give you a solid foundation to build from.
At the end of your sessions don’t forget to add some light stretching! You can enjoy a reclining hamstring stretch using a towel, stretch your quads and your calves, and give those glutes a gentle stretch too.
Over to you
Now I have two questions for you…
1. What is your biggest obstacle to exercise? 2. Can you think of three things that could help you with this?
For example mine is finding time, and I can ask my husband to watch our daughter in the morning, I can workout at lunch time, and I can do squats and push ups while watching Netflix in the evening.
Your turn! Biggest obstacle, and three ways to overcome this. I’d love to know.