Archives for February 2012

Starting at the beginning

Recently I’ve found myself thinking a lot about people starting exercise for the very first time and trying to remember how I first started exercising. During my long training runs in preparation for the London marathon, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my life, my training, what drives me and the goals I’ve set and achieved over the years, and it has got me thinking about what it would be like for someone who isn’t naturally into keeping fit, or those where exercise isn’t second nature to them. For someone like me it’s very hard to imagine not having regular exercise in my life, so from time to time it’s good to take a step back and think about it from a beginners point of view to appreciate the difficulties they have to overcome. To do this I started by asking myself a few questions…….

 Q1. How would I feel about going to the gym for the first time if I didn’t know where to start?

 Q2. What would my fears be about exercising if I was overweight/out of shape?

 Q3. What advice would I like to be given if I was starting to exercise for the first time?

Answering these questions as if I was a beginner gave me a good idea about how a beginner might feel and it gave me an idea about how I can help others that don’t know where to start or what to do.

Here’s my conclusions: With anything in life, the unknown can be daunting and exercising for the first time is no different. We all get paranoid that people will watch and stare if we don’t know what we’re doing and they might make comments. The truth is, everyone has to start somewhere and making the first step is the hardest. Once that’s done, it gets easier each time you are willing to put the effort in. People don’t like to fail so if we look at something in a negative way and believe we can’t do it, many people won’t attempt it and therefore they can’t fail.

I think Michael Jordan’s quote sums this up quite well…..

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

– Michael Jordan

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

– Colin Powell

In life, the best athletes don’t become the best because they never fail, they become the best because they have failed at times, they learnt from their mistakes and improved on them until they became the best. Failure isn’t losing; failure is not trying in the first place!

So I believe a beginner would like a few tips that could help with the basics and give them a base level or something to build on. With that in mind I’ve come up with a few ‘do’s and don’ts’  that could help someone take the first step to a healthier life.


Do……commit to a schedule whole heartedly as results don’t happen over night. It takes time to get in shape so stick with a routine and let your body respond to it. Nothing in life is free we have to work hard for it, so don’t expect it to come to you, work hard to go and grab it.

Don’t…..make excuses and miss workouts unless it really can’t be helped. Missing workouts lead to a slippery slope of not doing them at all and lets face it, what is more important than your health? NOTHING!

Do…..take things slow. The Sistine Chapel wasn’t built in a day and neither is your fitness levels. If you’re starting from the beginning, you have to WORK your way to the end before you reach your goal. See it as the rungs of a ladder, take one step at a time! This leads us nicely into the next don’t…..

Don’t…..push it too hard too soon. Imagine your muscles as elastic bands; if an elastic band sits in a cupboard for too long without being stretched it loses its flexibility and strength, and if stretched too much straight away, it will snap. Your muscles and body are the same. They need time to adjust and get the flexibility and strength to progress step by step and pushing it too hard too soon will only lead to injuries.

Do…..set yourself goals but make them realistic. Giving yourself something to aim for is great for motivation but if it’s well out of reach and unrealistic, it can also become demoralising if you don’ t reach it. SMART(Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Time) goals are always a good start.

Don’t……set yourself one big goal. It’s always good to set short term and long term goals so that there is always something to aim for that isn’t in the distant future. Never reaching a goal can again be demoralising so small goals will keep you heading in the right direction(going back to the rungs of the ladder again!).

Do……ask for help or advice if you don’t know what you’re doing. There is no harm in asking someone who knows what they’re doing for some advice. There are a lot of people out there that are willing to help, so don’t think you are on your own.

Finally…..

Don’t…..give up! We all have good and bad days but we need to experience the bad to really enjoy the good. Exercise is a learning curve and over time it can really improve your health and life as a whole. There are many benefits to keeping fit and healthy, so remember next time you feel like giving up just how much good you are doing for your body. The fact that regular exercise can help you live a longer, healthier life should be enough to keep you wanting to make a habit of it.

So there are my tips for any beginner that is thinking about exercising for the first time. I hope they help you reach your goals and inspire you to start making your body healthier sooner rather than later.

Good luck!