Every top athlete, whether runner, cyclist, swimmer or gymnast, was once a beginner in her sport. Just like you, she started at Ground Zero, learned the basics, stumbled upon successes and mistakes, and eventually prevailed. Whether you are new to the sport or returning after a long hiatus, there are a few things you should know before you jump in. Keep this in mind as you are clearly heading towards your fitness goals.
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Gyms are great, but you don’t need one to be successful
If you don’t want to share your space with other sweaty people or are trying to save your penny, don’t worry: you can get a killer workout on without leaving your living room. All you need is your body weight, dumbbells or resistance bands and sneakers.
Don’t worry about making a body part split
Full body training is best for beginners. These programs use compound movements – those that work multiple muscle groups at the same time, such as squats, dips, pushups, and lunges – to build your body evenly and synergistically while burning a ton of calories. Here’s a plus: if you do these movements in quick succession (that is, without much rest in between) the workout also becomes cardiovascular, burning even more calories, and saving you a ton of time trudging on a treadmill.
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Do your cardio quickly and to the point
Yes, there is a place for long bouts of slow, steady cardio if you’re a marathon runner or have medical problems. If both of these don’t apply, keep your cardio under 30 minutes per session and hit it hard. Research shows that higher intensity workouts burn more total calories, improve endurance and maximum oxygen consumption, and remove fat in half the time it would take to achieve the same result with traditional cardio. Bonus: High intensity exercise also increases the production of muscle building and fat burning compounds like growth hormone, keeping you younger inside and out.
Put static stretch on last
Returning athletes will be surprised to find that static stretching, in which you accept and hold a stretch, has been replaced with dynamic stretching – in which you loosen up your limbs through active movements like swinging your legs and circling your arms. Pre-workout. Save your static stretches for later when you are warm and want to relax and lengthen your muscles.
You will be hungry
OK, you might even be starved. Don’t freak out: that’s a good thing. It means your body is changing – building muscle and losing fat – and for that it needs fuel. Feed the machine lean protein like grilled chicken and fish, complex carbohydrates like oatmeal and brown rice, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
You might gain weight
In reality, muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space. Remember that weight is only a measure of how much gravity pulls you towards the center of the earth. It does not take into account your fat percentage in relation to muscles, your height, the time of the month or a dozen other factors that can affect your body weight from day to day. A better way to measure progress is how your clothes fit. If it gets looser then you are on the right track even if you get heavier.
The “golden rule” is 80/20
We all need a candy bar or sticky plate of nachos from time to time. If you eat healthy and clean 80 percent of the time, you can be a stress-free, normal person, the other 20 percent. Taking a little pampering every now and then will make the food cleaner, easier to stick with your routine, and ultimately, you will get the results you want.