When you're just starting out in the world of fitness, it can be hard to find answers to your questions!
I'm semi-experienced with working out – I've been doing it for several years now, and my parents are fitness buffs who both have been into bodybuilding at some point in their lives. My dad still drinks his daily green smoothie and in his own words, "gets his swell on." Haha. So I'd be happy to do my best with any questions you have!
In the meantime, here are a few of the most common questions people ask when starting out on their fitness journey.
1. How much exercise should I be getting every week? Do I need to workout every day?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average adult should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. That's 30 minutes, 5 times a week.
Of course, that might seem like a bit much at first. That's okay! You can work up to it. Try 20 minutes, 3 times a week to start out. Once you do that for a few weeks, you're ready to up your game!
And working out more, of course, brings additional health benefits. Read more from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion here.
2. Should I warm up before working out? For how long?
It's a great idea to spend 5-15 minutes warming up before you work out, in order to maximize flexibility and prevent injuries.
But I'm not talking about stretching, or just walking on the treadmill for a few minutes. According to Men's Fitness, a proper warm up includes a series of dynamic exercises that gets your body moving on multiple planes of motion.
Your dynamic warm up might include exercises like leg swings, hip rotations, alternating lunges, high knee steps, or body weight squats. If you're not sure where to start, Nerd Fitness (a really fun and humorous fitness resource) has a great dynamic warm up you can try here.
3. How long before working out should I eat? What should I eat?
As a general rule, it's important to properly fuel your body before a workout. For best results, experts interviewed by The Daily Burn recommend a small meal featuring lean protein and complex carbs 2-3 hours before a workout, and then something simpler and easier to digest (low in fiber and high in natural sugars, like a banana) an hour or so before hitting the gym.
The less intense your workout, the less you have to worry about intense fueling up. I personally like to have something like almond butter on whole grain toast or a banana about an hour and a half before my cardio workouts, to avoid cramps. If you've eaten a meal within the past 2-3 hours before working out, you can probably skip the snack.
Make sure to have a post-workout snack featuring easy-to-digest carbs and protein to maintain your energy levels and maximize workout benefits! Examples include a sandwich on whole grain bread or a protein bar.
4. Should I work out if I'm sick?
According to Mayo Clinic, if your symptoms are "above the neck" – stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, basically anything related to the common cold – you should be okay to work out. Consider toning it down a few notches, so you can get your cardio in, but still leave your body with enough energy to heal itself.
However, if you're dealing with "below the neck" symptoms, like fever, chest congestion, hacking cough, upset stomach, or widespread muscle aches, don't exercise.
Remember, it's okay to take a day off! Listen to your body.
5. Is this pain normal?
It is totally normal to experience soreness, stiffness, and mild discomfort after exercising. Especially when you're just starting out, or pushing your body harder than usual. When you're not used to performing a certain activity, your muscles undergo more stress than usual as they adjust to the new movements. But know that it's okay – WebMD urges exercise newbies not to give up just because they're in pain 24-48 hours after working out. It's normal, and it gets better when you stick with it! Just remember – being sore is a sign that you've accomplished something. So congratulations! How do you know if your pain is not normal? Shooting, intense pain (rather than a feeling of steady soreness) could be a sign that something's wrong. If you're worried, you should definitely talk to a doctor.
If you have any other questions about starting a workout regimen, please feel free to ask! I'd be happy to help. :)