If you’ve never really worked out before, or at least haven’t done so with any measure of consistency, it can seem pretty daunting to start.
It’s kind of like being assigned a term paper or new work project — there are thousands of prospective fitness plans available online, tens of thousands of videos and countless people with advice. Where do you even begin?
Finding a fitness plan that works for you may be something to talk to your doctor or a personal trainer about, but there are some solid things you can bank on to not only start out strong, but to stay with it for the long haul.
We rounded up some of the most frequently asked questions fitness beginners ask and expert responses; tips that will help you navigate the noise, stay consistent and definitely find that long-term success you’ve been looking for.
1) How many times should I work out each week?
While it’s good to shoot for the stars on the number of times you exercise each week, don’t forget to land on the moon first. Aim for 3-5 workouts per week for the first 30 days you start out. Workouts should last 20-60 minutes, including both your warmup and cool-down, depending on what fitness regime you choose.
Once you start to feel good about where you’re at, you might consider adding in a couple more workouts each week.
2) When should I work out?
Take a second and think about your personal schedule and preferences. Are you more of a morning or night person? Are you always rushed to get out the door in the morning and tend to have more free time in the evening? Or are you someone who has ample time to sit and sip coffee and scroll through social media before heading out the door in the A.M. while the after-work routine feels packed?
Knowing yourself and what works best for you will give you the answer to this question. (One thing to consider, however: Studies have shown that people who exercise in the mornings tend to be more consistent and weigh less.)
3) Should I eat before or after a workout (or both)?
Eating a healthy, balanced snack 1-3 hours before you exercise, if possible, is a good idea. It should be something that includes protein, such as celery and peanut butter, and isn’t too heavy.
And yes, you should be eating after you exercise to replenish what you lost. Shakes or snacks like fruits and veggies, as well as meals packed with protein and healthy carbs are also a good idea.
4) Should I lift heavy weights? What if I don’t want to get bulky?
Trainers generally say to lift as much weight as you can to complete your sets without over-exerting yourself. If you’re a woman worried about “bulking up,” don’t be. Women’s bodies are generally not genetically predisposed to getting the kind of muscle mass most men’s bodies are — instead, lifting weights will typically lead to leaner, more toned muscles, not necessarily bigger ones.
5) How often should I take rest days?
In general, aim for 2-3 rest days per week. If you’re extremely sore, you might want to take that as a sign your body needs rest. The key is to listen to your body. If you start a workout and you’re low-energy or really struggling, that may be an indicator that the next day should be focused on recovery.
What you DON’T want to do is use a small amount of soreness as an excuse not to work out. It’s completely normal for muscles to feel a bit sore after you exercised, particularly at the beginning. You should be happy about that, because it means you’re doing what you need to, not let it get in the way of staying consistent.
However, if you’re TOO sore, that’s an indicator you pushed too hard and should take it down a notch during your next workout.
If you are concerned you are injured, consult your personal trainer or a doctor about how long you should rest.
6) Will I lose more weight if I do cardio or strength training?
Like most things in life, it’s all about balance. Cardio improves your stamina and your cardiovascular system. You also burn more calories when you’re doing cardio routines.
Strength training, however, improves tone and muscle mass, which ultimately can translate into a faster metabolism.
The short answer? Do both.
Have you tried a new fitness routine and found that something you did really worked for you? Share YOUR tip in the comments below!
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.