By Eddie Alvarez
Want to get into shape but don’t know how to begin?
Certified fitness instructor and trainer Myriam Charleston of Miami and partner Jeff Pierre are here to help.
We asked Charleston to start us off with 10 tips for people looking to start a fitness routine:
1. What’s the first thing you tell a client who is starting a fitness regimen?
Make sure they get clearance from their physician. The next thing is to get a fitness assessment/evaluation in order to know where you’re starting from and to set realistic fitness goals.
2. How often should a beginner work out?
A beginner should aim to work out three times a week and have a program that includes at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (walking, jogging, cycling), 30 minutes of strength training (free weights or machines), and 10 minutes of stretching (hold each stretch for 10 seconds).
3. What are the critical areas to work out?
I like to start with legs, because they are your body’s foundation, and your stomach muscles, also known as your core muscles. But remember, your body will burn more fat if you develop muscles throughout your entire body. My recommendation is to work major muscle groups (legs, back, chest) with minor ones (biceps, triceps, calves) and incorporate push/pull movements to create muscle balance. For instance, if you work chest (push) in one session, work your biceps (pull) in the same session.
4. I’m overweight. What can I do?
Have an assessment done by a fitness instructor. The assessment will give you information about your body composition and help you set realistic goals. Many people want to lose weight but what they really want to do is lose fat. Focus on body composition (your body fat percentage); the right percentage for you depends on your overall health, age and sex. A fitness instructor can personalize a body fat goal for you.
And remember, the more muscle you build, the easier it will be to burn fat. That’s why an effective weight-loss program incorporates a good strength training routine. An effective way to lose fat is to incorporate healthy eating habits with frequent, small meals (five to six per day), cardio, strength training and consistency.
5. What about diet? What kinds of food should I be eating? Can I still eat my favorite desserts?
Don’t use the word “diet.” Instead, focus on healthy eating, which means consuming healthy carbohydrates (whole wheat bread and pasta), fruits, vegetables and lean proteins (chicken or turkey breast, fish, lightly marbled red meats). Eat five or six times a day but eat small portions during each meal. Use unhealthy items in moderation, like desserts and other simple sugar/white flour items. Follow the 80/20 rule: Eat healthy meals 80 percent of the time and indulge 20 percent.
6. I’m older. Can I still work out safely?
Absolutely! As we get older, overall muscle mass tends to decrease and there is an increasing risk of bone diseases. But you can minimize those effects of aging with a consistent fitness routine. Prior to each workout, make sure you warm up with a brisk walk or light jog for 10 to 15 minutes to get the body moving and warm. And don’t forget to stretch. Incorporating flexibility, core and strength training will maintain overall body health and minimize the chance of injury.
7. I’m a woman and I don’t want big muscles.
This is a misconception I hear all the time. It is usually difficult for women to build muscle, and it usually takes a long time. Women don’t have the same amount of muscle cells that men have, on average. But for women, strength training is very important because it helps burn fat and build bone density to combat osteoporosis. Muscles also help us shape and tone our bodies, so ladies, don’t be afraid of building muscles.
8. How long will it take before I see results?
It depends on the individual. Usually, people will start to notice changes after two or three months. Remember your results will depend on how consistent you are with your strength training, your cardio and your eating habits. Consistency in those three areas is the key.
9. I don’t like going to the gym. What can I do at home?
You can purchase a few items to create a home gym: a stability ball, a mat, a few dumbbells, and resistance bands. There are also body-weight exercises you can do: squats, lunges, biceps curls, dips, crunches, pull-ups and push-ups. However, the benefit of going to a gym lies in the variety of exercises you can do. You are less likely to become bored with your fitness program if you can change up the routine. Consistency is the key to success, so keep yourself interested and change up the exercises you perform.
10. I’ve started workout routines before and lost interest. What can I do to stay motivated?
One of the most important things is find something you enjoy doing. Start with any physical activity that you enjoy doing to keep yourself motivated. Is it a sport? Is it working out with a friend?
Another option is to hire a personal trainer who can keep you motivated and can customize a workout program to meet your goals. It is important to set realistic goals and track your progress so you don’t become discouraged. And if you miss some workouts or have a weekend where you overindulged, don’t despair! Just rededicate yourself and get back to your routine.