You've been thinking about it for quite some time now. You know you need to get your butt to the gym and start working out. You know you've gotten yourself out of shape and an hour or so in the gym three or four days a week sure would not hurt.
Ok, so you've finally done it. You went down to the local fitness club and spent 2 weeks pay on a one year membership. You even went to the local K-Mart and got yourself some new exercise outfits. Now you're ready to go and get in shape. But before you do, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make your time in the gym productive, enjoyable and most of all, injury free.
WARM UP FIRST: this is very important to not only get your blood flowing but to minimize the risk of injury. some good warm up methods include walking on the treadmill for 10-15 minutes starting out at a slower pace then working up to a more brisk pace halfway through. Perform 10 minutes or so of stretching exercises such as toe touches, hurdlers stretches, twisting at the waist and reaching your arms out completely in every direction. before you do any exercises that involve using weights (biceps curls for example) do one set with half (50%) of the weight you'll be using to prepare the muscles, tendons and ligaments performing the exercise to better handle the heavier weight.
START OUT EASY: when you first get to the gym and you are ready to hit the weights, select an amount of weight at first that looks almost too light but still provides some resistance for each exercise. Remember that proper form, posture and technique are far more important than how much weight you are using. Also, you must give your connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) time to strengthen in order to help prevent injury from the heavier weights you'll be using later. You can always increase the weight as you go when you can do so without compromising proper form, posture and technique.
When you first get on the treadmill, stationary bike, stair climber or elliptical machine, remember that your heart probably is not going to be in the kind of shape to go all out and for this reason you should take it at a slower pace for a while. Each week, pick up the pace and the length of time spent on these machines a little at a time. This will give your heart time to build up to faster paces and longer periods. Remember, your heart is a muscle and like any other muscle, it needs time to adjust to the stresses placed on it during exercise.
KEEP AN EXERCISE LOG: One of the best ways to monitor your workouts as well as your progress is to write out your exercise program, stick to it and write in the weights you use for each exercise, and when you're ready to increase the weight on any exercise, write it in.
On the treadmill or any other cardiovascular machine, write in your speeds and length of time spent. when your ready to make increases, write them in. in this way you not only are able to stay on a structured program (which is far more productive that having no system) but you can also keep track of the progress you are making and see how much progress you have made since you began. When you see that you're making good progress as you go, you will become more motivated to stick with it.
COOL DOWN: After you've completed your workout, take 10 minutes at a slow pace on the treadmill. This will let your body cool down a little slower and a slower cool down is easier on your heart than if you cooled down quickly. During this time, you can reflect on the workout you just performed and feel the sense of well being that exercise gives you.
Now that you know a few things that will help to make your gym experience a more productive, more enjoyable and more injury free one, you are ready to go and start working on getting the body of your dreams, the right way.