Starting a new exercise plan can be exciting, but it is easy to injure yourself in your exuberance to see results. The following tips can help you develop a plan that builds strength and conditioning without resulting in injury
Tip #1: Know the Difference Between Stretching and Warming Up
Many people confuse stretching with warming up, or flip the order in which to do them. The most common mistake is to begin an exercise routine with stretching. Unfortunately, this can lead to injury because stretching cold muscles can lead to a strain or tear.
The better option is to warm up first. Some easy ways to warm up is to walk at an increased pace, jump rope, or do jumping jacks. The goal is to use fluid muscle movements slightly over your normal activity level to start bringing up the heart rate. The time to stretch is after a 5 to 10 minute warmup. Stretch all portions of the body — legs, arms, neck, and back — even if your workout that day is focused on only one muscle group.
Tip #2: Develop a Full-Body Plan With Gradual Increases
A common beginner mistake is to start with too much and increase intensity too quickly. This is a good way to cause an injury or become burned out on your workout goals. Instead, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity or weight as your body becomes stronger.
Instead, develop a plan before you start your new routine. A common beginner routine is to focus on cardiovascular exercise three times a week and strength training twice a week. For example, you may run, swim, or bike on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then do a full-body strength routine on Tuesday and Thursday. Another method is to do a bit of cardio daily, and then to focus on a body section each day for strength. For example, Monday is leg day, Tuesday is arms, Wednesday is core, and Thursday is rest.
Tip #3: Integrate Recovery Into Your Workout Routine
Your body needs to recover. Muscle isn't actually built while you are lifting the weights; instead, it is built when you are recovering the next day and your body is repairing the stress to the muscles you used.
Don't push through pain. If a muscle group is too sore to work, especially in the beginning, take an extra rest day before moving on with your routine. Once your muscles become stronger, extra rest days won't be as necessary for recovery. This is in part because regular exercise builds up muscle resilience, but it is mainly because you will begin to understand your body's signs and won't push it so far that soreness sticks around for days.
Contact a gym or personal trainer for more help in developing a full-body exercise routine.