The Ultimate Beginner’s Workout Guide to Rock Your Body Right
According to Mayo Clinic, a healthy adult should get at least 20 minutes of physical exercise daily.
But what does ‘exercise’ mean?
How do you know which type of workout works best for your needs? We already know that the same fitness plan can have a very different impact for everyone; we also know that each of us has different endurance levels and physical conditions that affect our performance.
Of course, the most important thing is to set a purpose. If you enjoy running, your goal could be to increase the speed or endurance for each session; in this sense, you can follow training plans used by marathon runners when they first started on this journey.
But what if you want a bit of everything, or you’re not sure what you like the most?
Our guide is going to uncover a series of basic guidelines and professional advice for the two major types of workout: strength and cardio.
Ready… set… let’s go!
Cardio: 2-3 times weekly
Performing cardio sessions (correctly!) is essential for improving all major body functions – and luckily, there are plenty ways of doing it too!
Noam Tamir, CS, founder of TS Fitness in New York City, explains that cardio improves your circulatory system, promotes muscle recovery and creates endurance. This type of sports also increases your VO2 max, which helps your body use oxygen more efficiently.
Unfortunately, I’ve met some people who overlook cardio because they think that ‘running is boring.’ Just to debunk that myth, I’ll list a few effective ways of performing cardio:
- Riding the bike
- Jumping jacks / squat jumps
- Jumping a rope
- Running the stairs
Even dancing is an excellent form of cardio – and if dancing isn’t fun (especially alone at home during lockdown), then I don’t know what is!
How to do it: According to Tamir, an exercise becomes cardiovascular when your heart rate increases past a certain point and the length of the exercise. Ideally, beginners should aim for 120-150 heartbeats per minute for 45-60 minutes plus warm-up and cool-down time.
Alternatively, you can also opt for interval training. This method involves working as hard as possible for a short period of time, take a break for recovery and repeat the process. These basic rules work for any type of cardio workout.
Strength training: 2-3 times weekly
This type of training is also essential for keeping your body functional over the years. Stronger bones and muscle tissue reduce the likelihood for severe accidents, as well as the muscle loss brought by aging.
While cardio workouts put almost all of your muscles to work, strength training means working different muscle groups for each session.
The five basic moves for strength training sessions are squat, hinge, push, pull and core work. Tamir recommends working each muscle group two to three times a week; therefore, your workout plan should include at least one exercise designed for each major muscle group:
Does this mean I have to perform 8 exercises every single session?
Absolutely not! There are many exercises meant for training several muscle groups at once. Squats, lunges, chest presses and lunges are the most common examples in that sense.
How to do it: Ideally, you should aim for 12-15 reps per set as a beginner. One session should last for 40-60 minutes plus warm-up and cool-down time. Once you feel that you’ve mastered each exercise (in terms of balance and endurance), you can increase the weighs or add an extra set of reps.
If you’re going to have three strength training sessions per week, each session should contain different types of exercises. However, you should repeat the routine every week.
Tamir recommends beginners to follow the same program for four to six weeks before increasing the weights used.
Rest days: 2 times weekly
Why did I add ‘rest days’ as a workout plan?
Because that’s exactly what they are.
Your body needs breaks to recover after each training session; it is the only way your muscles can grow, while your joints can recover from the pressure brought by exercise.
Note that this does not mean you should spend the day in bed as if you were ill. Recovery days mean spending your day as usual, just without any exercise that makes you break a sweat.
Tamir points out that mental recovery is equally important:
“It’s not just about the physical recovery—it’s also the mental. Doing something that you enjoy that’s active is great for the mind…and it assists in residual fatigue.”
How to do it: While active recovery shouldn’t leave you breathless, it should get you moving. If you already have an active routine, there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re spending 9 hours at the desk, taking time for a 30-60 minute walk can do wonders for the recovery process.
You are free to decide how you manage your rest days.
For example, Tamir says that if you’re working out daily from Monday to Friday, you can take the entire weekend off. Alternatively, you can also do one strength day, one cardio day, one rest day and repeat the cycle.
The only mention I’d like to make is that specialists do not recommend performing strength training two days in a row. Otherwise, it all depends on your lifestyle.
Creating the right schedule
Before you go, I want to talk about the importance of making a habit out of your workout sessions.
The most important thing in enjoying your workouts is to listen to your body. When are you feeling more energized, in the morning or post-lunch? Because that’s when you should place your workout sessions. If your mornings are very busy and usually need last-minute changes, you may end up self-sabotaging your fitness program.
I think it’s very useful to write down your daily routine (if you haven’t already) and figure out when you can comfortably introduce this new activity to your schedule.
Sure, it might be unpleasant at first if you’re a beginner – but that’s where your inner motivation comes in to save the day.
Whenever you don’t feel like working out, ask yourself this:
Why do I want to do this? What am I fighting for?
Having purpose is key to maximize your performance (not just in fitness, but in every other area of your life too).
Looking for more useful fitness content? Try one of our posts:
- How to Exercise While Wearing a Mask Outside (And Still Breathe!)
- What Specialists Recommend to Relieve Hip Pain and Improve Mobility
- 3 At-Home Stretches to Ease Your Knee Pain
What’s your favorite way of staying active? Share your fitness habits in the comment section and we’ll drop a piece of advice in return!